And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV).
God reaches down to us when we need it the most, in the most unexpected of ways.
It was a cold, windy morning in late October. Outside the tall windows of our office, trees were shedding their leaves in shades of orange, magenta, and brown. It had been a stressful week, and my mind wandered from the tasks in front of me like drops of rain on a windowpane.
“Do you ever feel inadequate?” I addressed the trees outside, seeking an answer to my state of mind. Feelings of inadequacy are something we all struggle with at some time or other in our Christian lives. Are we truly enough for God? Do we have what it takes to be a successful Christian? Are we even suited for the task we’ve been assigned as envoys of God’s final message to the world? These questions can be crippling.
Those were the thoughts and feelings occupying my mind and heart when Jim called.
Customer service representatives must have great patience to engage effectively with clients with differing listening skills. But after 15 minutes of trying to explain to Jim that the old seven-volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary set he wanted to purchase was not available, I got listless. He wasn’t getting it.
“Things” Won’t Matter
I offered Jim other alternatives and was particularly keen in recommending the first volume of the Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary, which was beautifully and insightfully written by leading Adventist scholars from around the world.
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs—what an amazing collection! But Jim kept insisting on the old but temporarily unavailable set.
I came with an offer I thought he would jump at. Perhaps Jim could purchase some of the volumes of the old version as individual books; each at $59.99. But when I proposed this, Jim suddenly became quiet. A moment later I heard him calculating out loud: $59.99 x 2 x 3 . . . When he realized he would be paying almost double the cost of the set, Jim became very quiet again. Then, as if questioning himself, he asked a profound question: “Will I be taking any of this money with me when I’m gone?”
Taken by surprise, Job 1:21 came to mind, and I heard myself replying: “ ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.’ ”
The conversation took a 180-degree turn. We were no longer buyer and seller. We were both children of God in desperate need of His grace.
When Jim asked me if I knew what was the only thing we can take to heaven, it was my turn to be quiet. I remembered a powerful statement in the writings of Ellen White: “The traits of character you cherish in life will not be changed by death or by the resurrection. You will come up from the grave with the same disposition you manifested in your home and in society.”1
A Fellow Sojourner
“Our character,” I answered almost in a whisper, and before I knew it, I was pouring my heart out to this total stranger: I spoke of my daily spiritual struggles, feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough to stand before the Lord, of lacking the quality and quantity required of me; of feeling insufficient for His purpose and unable to accomplish what I felt He was wanting me to accomplish.
When I was done, there were a few moments of silence from the other end of the line. But then Jim said, “Olga, you will never know what a tremendous help you’ve been to me today.”
Jim was opening his heart to me too, and I listened as he explained how he often looked to others and admired their perfect Christian life. “When I look at myself, I can only see insufficiencies there.”
“It is so comforting knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle,” Jim shared. “Let me tell you something. We must never believe that our eternity depends on having a perfect character. The truth is our salvation depends entirely and absolutely on Christ’s own perfect sacrifice.”
The conversation soon ended. Jim will never know how much he helped me that day. I didn’t sell him a single copy of the books I offered, but those brief moments of spiritual fellowship with a fellow sojourner basking for an instant in God’s absolute acceptance and love for me permeated the rest of my day like a lovely perfume. “If we are following Christ, His merits, imputed to us, come up before the Father as sweet odor. And the graces of our Savior’s character, implanted in our hearts, will shed around us a precious fragrance.”2
1 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 16.
2 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 174.