Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor
Sometimes when she comes to work with me to work on videos or bass parts, my youngest daughter, Sheridan, gets me to take her to Subway. It’s across town from Stonepoint, and for some reason, i have this mental barrier about crossing over the railroad tracks. I don’t know if it’s a fear of one of those 5 mile long trains coming through, and getting stuck on the other side, while my sandwich is getting cold, but i seriously don’t cross to the other side when i don’t have to. I am the same way at home in Edgewood, unless i have to go to the hardware store…which is every time we do work around the house.
As you know, at Subway, you tell someone exactly how to make your sandwich. You select the bread, the meat, whether or not you want cheese, and the type of cheese, if you want it toasted or not, which veggies and dressings suit your fancy—it’s like you’re making the sandwich using someone else’s hands.
I always get the same thing—a foot long spicy Italian on Italian bread with Mozzarella cheese, toasted, with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, black olives, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, if you ever feel like dropping one off around lunchtime. They got rid of whatever dressing i used to order, so the back end is a little dicey at the moment, but it’s white and not regular mayo. I just kinda point now, ‘cause i can’t remember what it’s called.
So when i sit down to eat the thing, if i don’t like it, it’s my fault. I told them how to make it, so i can’t blame them if it’s bad. The same thing happens at Chipotle—i say what i want in my burrito, my tacos or my bowl and if it’s no good, i can’t be mad at the person behind the sneeze guard.
When we lived in Dallas, during the summer, on the way home from soccer or basketball games we’d take the kids by this place called TC Shaved Ice. It’s a little drive up stand on Garland Road in the neighborhood i grew up in, and the kids loved going there. I mean, ice and sugar—what’s not to like? They have a chalkboard menu as you drive up, with a list of the flavors on hand, and they’ll squirt whatever you want in your cup over the shaved ice.
I had my ‘go-to’ there as well. I’ve told you before i am a creature of habit. A friend knows i love Snuffer’s and asked about their chicken fried steak. He was shocked when i admitted that in 40 years, i had never ordered anything except the hamburger, fries and fried mushrooms.
TC Shaved ice? Strawberry and blackberry. Every flippin’ time.
Our aforementioned youngest child was always overwhelmed by the choices and would throw out the strangest combinations you can imagine—chocolate, lemon & wedding cake or tiger’s blood, sour cherry & pickle juice…that sort of thing. Before we got there, the rest of us would say, ‘hey, Bear— i really like this combination, why don’t you try it?’ but she was determined to go her own way.
The problem was, they always turned out awful. Like, she couldn’t finish them, and we ended up throwing most of it away, since no one else could stomach it either. But the next time, she’d confidently shun our advice and mix together some crazy combo, and everything would end up the same way.
At the sandwich shop, Chipotle, the shaved ice place, and in life, you live with the choices you make.
For a lot of us, if we look back on our lives, and see how we got where we are, at people we hurt and who hurt us along the way, oftentimes we look back and say ‘if i’d only done this’ or ‘if i hadn’t done that’ or ‘if i’d done this differently’ my life would be so much better now. That’s why some people keep so busy, to keep from thinking about those sorts of things.
In re:generation, Step Four is Inventory, where you make a searching, fearless moral inventory of yourself. It’s hard, and most participants who drop out of re:gen, do it during Inventory, since it forces them to look back on things that they really might not want to look back on.
I have several of those spots in my past, but can see where, despite my failures, God’s plan was still worked out…maybe not His ideal plan, but He still worked things together for my good, and somehow, for his glory. A horrible decision i made in 1987 caused a chain of events to take place, which meant i was still single in 1991 when Angie came walking into the print shop i was managing for a month, because the regular manager was out with meningitis—you know, that sort of thing.
Now, i honestly believe that under God’s original plan, the chain of events would have still taken place, and i’d have still been single when i met Angie, but without the horrible decision that caused so much pain and heartache in my life and other people’s. There were other things, in the weeks and months before we started dating—some that could’ve happened and didn’t, or some that did happen and shouldn’t have, where we can look back and see God’s hand at work in our lives, even though neither of us were really living for Him at the time.
But, like Sarah in the Old Testament trying to jump start God’s plan for her to have a child by saying “Hey Abraham, why don’t you get frisky with my servant girl,” (Genesis 16) when you go outside of God’s will, there are consequences that reach farther than you can imagine. In fact, in Abraham and Sarah’s extreme case, an entire nation, one that has been in constant enmity with the Jews, was born as a result of their sin of getting ahead of God.
The beauty in all this is that God can use us, even in our brokenness to do great things. At every service at Stonepoint, we have dozens of people who had made such poor choices in their lives, that society wrote them off as unredeemable. Alcoholics, drug addicts, thugs, people caught in the never ending cycle of sexual sin—some of these folks are leaders in our ministries.
And God wouldn’t have it any other way. He alone has drawn them to Himself, in their brokenness, to live for Him and be a light for others in the dark worlds they were called out of.
Scripture tells us that this was the church from the very beginning.
Colossians 3:5-7 says this: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.”
We’ve all made bad choices in life, some land us in jail, some fly under the radar. But in the end, God can still use us, and wants to do mighty things through our stories, if we will let Him chisel us, and form us into the image of His Son.
I don’t know how you like your sandwich, but let’s make good choices today, no matter where we go, and share our stories of God’s redemption with the people we meet.