He was wearing a denim coat with the white, fluffy stuff lining the inside. It looked warm. He had a baseball cap with the logo of a trucking company on the front.
"You have classes or something on Wednesday nights?" he asked when he came into the office.
"Yes we do. Actually, we start with a small meal at 5:30 if you want dinner too," I offered.
"Hmmmm," he said, "I will check with my wife and see what she wants to do. We are here to meet our daughter. She said that this was the church that she attends and we could meet her here tonight."
Then he told me her name. I didn't recognize it. He described her for me, but still I couldn't place her.
"Well," I said, "Why don't you just come at dinner time and watch for her."
"We'll do that, " he said.
At 5:30 I was in the fellowship hall as people began to pour in. We had spaghetti and salad and garlic bread. The man I had met earlier arrived with his wife about 5:45 and walked around the room looking for their daughter. They found a seat at the far end of the room and continued to watch the entry doors.
Around 6:15 he came over to where I sat and paced back and forth between me and the serving counter gazing toward the glass doors at the main entrance to the South end of the church.
"Most of the time, people who are coming have arrived by now," I said softly.
"Mmmmhhhm," he responded with a nodding head, as he bit his lip.
Then he continued, "We came over from Poulsbo today."
"Are you sure it was our church?"
"Yep. This was the name she gave us," big pause, "But the police may have kicked them out. Her and her boyfriend were living in a tent she told us...probably in that patch of forest across the street. You see..." another big pause, "She is bi-polar. We rarely know where she is living. Been on the streets for a while now. Struggles with drugs. But she said she would meet us here."
"I'm sorry," I said, "Why don't you get some dinner, it's pretty good stuff."
He reached into his pockets, "What is the cost?"
"Don't worry about it."
"No, it's okay, we brought some money we were planning to give to her."
"Next time," I said, and he put the money back into his pocket.
He picked up two plates of spaghetti and walked back to the table where his wife was sitting.
About ten minutes later, I went over to their table.
"I have to go now. I have a bible study group I lead in just a few minutes. You are welcome to stay as long as you like." They nodded. I could see tears in the woman's eyes.
"Can I pray for you?"
"Please," she said.
The man reached up, removed the ball cap and placed it over his chest. Their faces bent over the table as I prayed for peace of mind and heart in regards to someone I knew was dearly loved, but had never met.
A day later I was thinking on this meeting with the Mom and Dad. I remembered the nervous anticipation I saw in the Father. I remembered the somber discouragement that shown on their faces when their daughter did not show up. I have the sense that this scenario had played out before; perhaps several times.
In those moments, I think that I saw the heart of God. I think that He prepares for meetings with us over and over again that we never show up for. He waits for us in the quiet of the morning before we look at our messages on facebook, email or phone. He calls to us at the end of the day when our head hits the pillow, wanting for a moment between us and him that will allow for peace to cover our hearts before we close our eyes. And for those who have left him alone for years, He still waits for us patiently, each and every time we set an appointment and then break it.
His faithfulness is fortunately never dependent upon ours. His heart swallows up all of our inconsistencies with certain, unwavering love that will not stop reaching out to us in all of our wilderness wanderings.
Grace and peace,