In April 2015, a strange guy came looking for me. My church administrator told him I was not in.
He was back the next day. The man’s name was Michael. He wore a crumpled yellow L.L. Bean jacket and black boots. He was short and pudgy, with sunken brown eyes and a receding hairline. He drove a brown Honda Accord. He asked if I was Rev. Smith. I wanted to lie and tell him I was in a government witness protection program. Instead, I confessed my true identity. We sat down on a bench in the narthex. He told me that the Lord had given him a message for me.
Can you hear the warning bells going off in my head? Over the years, I have had all kinds of urban prophets and crackpot messengers come to tell me I would win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes or that I should pray against the demon ivy that crept along the church walls. OK Michael, I thought, make my day!
The sardonic man was given three messages, he said, but he was forbidden to tell me two of them. Fine by me. The message he told me was that African Americans had suffered greatly in America and the church needed to repent from it. He asked for my forgiveness for his race’s part in the suffering of black people in America. He stuck his hand out.
My body froze. What was he doing? Why was he doing this? Did God really send him to me? Why should I accept his confession for a whole race of people who had done wrong? I didn’t know what to make of it. Little did I know that Michael had offered me a chance to release my load.
My church was struggling to survive. I felt like a failure in my ministry. I was angry at God. Michael’s extended hand to me was an invitation to let go. Let go of the church that belonged to Jesus. Let go of my self-righteousness and prideful ideas that performance was better than faithfulness.
I let go with a handshake. A slight smile rose on Michael’s face. Now, he did tell me some crazy things, but he also said my encouragement was Psalm 37:1-8. He got up and left quietly. I didn’t read the text for three days, because I was scared. Then I read, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (v. 3). And I felt God’s grace wash over me like healing balm applied by a loving Father.
My first response—and maybe yours—was that this guy was crazy. But most prophets in the Bible were called crazy for delivering messages to a skeptical people named Israel. My second response was questioning Michael’s mental state. But most prophets were accused of being out of their minds.
I needed Michael to shock me back into receiving grace by letting go and letting God be God. Thanks be to God for an obedient prophet of grace.