(I'm still unsure whether it is a funny story, or a sad story, or a moving story, or a deeply meaningful story. Maybe a combo deal)
Eight or nine years ago Steven and I were driving to Lenexa to have dinner with my sister at her new boyfriend's house. During the car ride, we started fighting venomously about something I can't recall. There were tears. There was yelling.
At a stoplight around Wornall and 435, Steven declared he was going to walk home, exited our little black clown car (aka Toyota Yaris) with as much righteous dignity as he could maintain, and began to stalk northward with long indignant strides. With cars honking behind, I circled the hood and jumped in the driver's seat, maintaining a markedly lesser degree of dignity - I was sobbing and sniffling and wiping snot and tears away with the back of my wrist (which is not to say Steven was the villain, just that I tend to cry more).
Steven says he was certain I would turn around and plead with him to get back in the car. I did not, not wanting to forfeit this rare invitation from my sister, and proceeded to her home, where I came up with some excuse for Steven's absence and enjoyed delicious spring rolls in relative peace, confident that Steven could indeed fend for himself out there on the streets and, furthermore, he deserved to.
Meanwhile, Steven was tromping down a side street, wending his way back home, when a gold Lincoln Towncar swung into a driveway just ahead of him.
An elderly woman with flaming-red dyed hair and three coats of mascara and pink circles of doll-blush got out of the driver's seat and came rushing up to him in tears.
"It's you!" She cried. "It has to be! You look just like him!" She seized either side of Steven's face and gazed adoringly into it.
"Ummm... Who?" Steven asked.
"JESUS!" She cried. "Oh, I just know God sent you to pray for me!" In a whirlwind of histrionics and Chanel she managed to sweep Steven into the backseat of the Lincoln, where a very large man wearing a suit and sweating profusely was fretting about the owner of the house peeking out of their curtains, wondering who it was that was parked in their driveway and accosting a vagrant. This was Joseph.
He dabbed at his face constantly with a handkerchief and regarded his wife's confidence in this divine appointment with vast indifference.
His wife, whose name, as providence would have it, was Mary, continued to prattle on about how she needed Steven / Jesus to pray for her sister, to whose funeral they were currently en route.
"Oh, you have to pray for her! God sent you, I just know it!" Mary said, ignoring the anxious gazes of the homeowners whose driveway she'd commandeered by divine right.
"Uh, okay, sure," Steven replied, and began to pray in whatever kind of new age patois he and I would have employed back then.
"Oh no, you can't pray like THAT!" interjected Mary. Steven began again, and she continued to interrupt him with such regularity that Joseph finally erupted and yelled "FOR GOD'S SAKE, MARY, LET THE MAN PRAY!"
When, after Steven resumed praying only to be interrupted by one of Mary's technical protests yet again, Steven delivered the coup de gras which finally silenced her: "Who's the one who looks like Jesus here, lady?"
Steven finally finished his heavenly petition in peace. All was not well in the Towncar, however, as Joseph reached another breaking point in his imploring of Mary to move out of the stranger's driveway.
"Oh, they don't mind, Joseph!" Mary snapped. They actually seemed to mind very much, Steven noted.
"Mary doesn't respect other people's privacy, but IIIIIIIII DO!" Joseph bellowed.
Finally, Mary offered to drive Steven home, and he had her drop him off at the top of the block because he didn't want her to know exactly where we lived. He drank a beer and tried to stay mad at me in preparation for my return but couldn't, reflecting on Mary, Joseph and the always timely, sometimes bizarre, occasionally comic providence of God.
I think about this a lot, not only because "_______ doesn't respect _____, but IIIIIIII DO!" has become one of the most frequently invoked inside jokes of our marriage, with fillings-in apropos of the situation (it's really quite versatile - try it!).
Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus is always interceding for us.
In fact, one translation says he LIVES to intercede for us. 🤯 I think he also loves to intercede for us.
Maybe he also loves to give us stories that are some absurd mix of kismet and comedy, stories that diffuse the enmity between us with their sheer grace-laced strangeness. He loves to give us people who look like Jesus but don't pray right. He loves to give us Mary with her clown-pencil eyebrows and Joseph with his clip-on tie in a Lincoln Towncar that smells like stale perfume and Vitalis and sweat and starch.
God is a joker, but He is always a kind one. Remember that. Was the joke on Mary, who thought she was getting Jesus in a disgruntled longhair who'd just had a blowout fight with his wife?
Was it on Steven, who got unwittingly yanked into this melodrama and asked to pray for a stranger on behalf of a woman who believed his appearance imbued him with divine proximity when he was simply hoping to stew in peace?
Was it on Joseph, poor Joseph, who was just hot and tired and wanted to get to the funeral already and had been putting up with Mary's breathless proclamations of God's doings for decades?
Or was it on me, who missed a dang fine story and is still a little upset about it?
God only knows.
You may not believe in providence. You may not believe that this whole shebang is being finely orchestrated by a Creator who is bringing it all to a magnificent crescendo beyond imagining. You may not believe that a Mary and a Joseph and a Steven with a V arguing about how to pray in a gold Lincoln Towncar in a stranger's driveway in a midwestern city has any relation at all to another Mary and Joseph with their baby in a stable in a middle eastern backwater nowhere-town 2,000 years ago.
You may not believe that baby grew up to be the Savior of all the others and indeed the whole world, in some mysterious way holding their very being together, so His life becomes their life.
You may not believe these things... but IIIIIIIIII DO!!! Most of the time, anyway. And I hope you'll take the even tentative steps toward trusting, or at least wondering. That's enough for a God who showers grace on us, whose faithfulness more than makes up for our faithlessness.