When I think back to some of the events leading up to my salvation and how I came to faith, I’m still amazed by what God did. My gratitude is inexpressible. Every Christian is blessed beyond measure to be His child.
Below is a story of one of the events that took place before I was a Christian. It’s about a remarkable “coincidence”. This coincidence was special when it happened and looking back on it, I still marvel. It’s a sweet memory. I consider it a gift from God. Because of it, I get to look back and see an expression of God’s goodness towards me even before I was saved, and see what might have been a display of endearing humor from Him.
I shared this story seven years ago. I love it and I love telling it, so here it is again. Enjoy!
The Day “Jesus” Walked Through the Door
The Art Studio
This story takes place in the mid-1980s. It involves a conversation and an incident that I experienced at work. Back then I worked at an art studio part time and attended college full time. The art studio sold art supplies, oil paintings, and prints. It also offered ready-made picture frames and custom framing. My co-workers and I waited on customers in the front of the building and assembled framing orders in the work area in the back.
Usually there were at least two employees on duty. One of us would manage the front while the other worked in the back. If things got busy up front, a button could be pushed to notify the other employee that their assistance was needed up front. Pushing the button set off an obnoxious buzzer in the back. It definitely got your attention.
There were times when both employees worked on framing orders in the back. For those moments, the front door was rigged with a screeching doorbell alarm, so we could know if a customer came in. It was loud and easily heard in the back. On the day in question, I was working in the back; and my friend David was working the front.
As I worked framing a picture, I chatted with my friend Christine who had stopped by for a visit. It was nice to have company because the work area was in a warehouse, and it got lonely back there.
At some point the conversation turned to God. Christine knew I didn’t believe in Him, and she was kindly questioning me about it. She and her mother often talked to me about God. Her mother also worked at the art studio and that was how I met Christine. They took my need for salvation seriously. Her mother would tell me that their whole church was praying for me. Back then it puzzled me why they cared so much, but now I get it.
Christine’s questions centered on my lack of faith in God’s existence. She had heard me tell of many “coincidences” in my life that in her mind indicated that God was demonstrating His existence to me. She noticed that they didn’t bring me to faith. My skepticism, that I mentioned in a previous post, was not easily slayed.
As we talked, I recounted some of the coincidences. When I was done Christine looked at me and asked, “WHAT is it going to take for you to believe in God? Does Jesus need to walk through the front door?”
Right after she said that, the doorbell alarm that indicates that a customer is opening the front door and entering the art studio went off. Again, it was a loud, screeching alarm. We both jumped a little and then froze with amused, surprised looks on our faces. After a few seconds we began to breathe again and laughed about the perfectly timed door opening. Shortly after, the buzzer went off indicating that David needed my help with the newly arrived customer. We were still laughing and talking about the “coincidence” when I excused myself and headed to the front.
In the front I was met by a man who appeared to be in his sixties. He was holding a large, plain, thin board. He said he needed a frame for his picture. He turned the board around. It was not plain on the other side.
On the other side was a mounted print of an Old Masters styled oil painting of Jesus. Yup. Jesus! I stood face to face with an representation of the Son of God. He had just “walked” in the front door! Though it wasn’t actually Jesus in the flesh, I was stunned. What were the chances that this picture of Jesus would come in the front door right after Christine asked her question? The odds were not lost on me.
Though I was shaken, I managed to locate one of our metal yardsticks and knelt down to measure the picture. As I did, my mind was racing. Who was this man and why did he bring this picture here now? I stood up and told him that the picture was just under the standard, ready-made frame size of 24×36 inches. I mean just under. It was not going to fit because it was an eighth of an inch too short in both directions. It would require a custom frame.
He quickly decided what he would do. He didn’t want to go the custom frame route and left the art studio. That was it. He was gone. I headed back to Christine and told her that she was not going to believe what just happened. You can image her delight as I shared the details. When I was done she asked, “Do you believe in God NOW?” I thought about it and said, no.
Why not you might ask? From a personal perspective, I don’t know. It was amazing and shocking, but I remained in disbelief. It wasn’t because I was completely opposed to the idea. There was a part of me that was seeking God even though I didn’t believe He existed. From a biblical perspective, I would say that God had something else in mind for me. The moment of my salvation was not to be that afternoon. That would come later.
When I look back on that day I do so with great affection. I know my sovereign Lord was at work. I don’t believe in coincidences in the sense that things happen by chance. All things are in His hands. I’m not sure why He did it, but I love to tell the story. I like to say that the fact that the picture was just a little bit too small is like a metaphor for how close I was to salvation – so close to the way of salvation – but not there yet.
I also think about how I knelt down before the picture of Jesus to measure it. There I was, the atheistic skeptic, kneeling down before a picture of my future Lord and Savior. (NO idolatry meant here.) A position that is used to show humility and worship meant nothing of the sort at the time, but it certainly would some day. There’s some amusing irony there that makes me feel loved and so thankful for the change God wrought in me.
The Gift of True Faith
As much as I enjoy remembering what happened at work that day and during some of the other coincidences that I experienced, I’m glad that I didn’t simply adopt a belief because of them. My faith does not rest on something that could be written off as a coincidence. My faith is not made sure by me.
Instead, in His perfect timing, God opened my heart to believe. I have no doubt that He did something. Because of that I have something a lot more solid. I called out to Him and He answered. He gave me eyes to see something that I could not see with my physical eyes because it could not stand right in front of me. He showed me my need for a Savior and made it abundantly clear that Jesus died for me. He removed all doubt in my heart that He existed and turned this skeptic into a very grateful believer. Coincidences make for great stories and can be remarkable, but true faith is of the Lord.
Since the night God opened my heart, I have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior. I rejoiced greatly then and I am still rejoicing today. I praise God for all He has done and look forward with the hope of eternal life. I pray you have that same hope.