One of my most recent and moving spiritual encounters with God was much different than previous settings where I had experienced God intensely. I was not surrounded by thousands of people at a conference, nor was I in solitude at a personal prayer retreat. It happened in a men’s restroom at a movie theater.
I realize this is not a typical place for a mountaintop experience. In fact, some of you may be offended at the thought of having a holy moment in a men’s room, but please go there with me.
My wife and I had just attended the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s the true life struggle of Bart Millard (singer for the band Mercy Me) growing up with an abusive father (played by Dennis Quaid). The band’s most known song, which is the namesake for the movie, was inspired through the transformation of Bart’s dysfunctional relationship with his father.
When the movie had finished, I joined the line of men headed to the restroom after having sat for two hours. There was a line of men forming at the door. As I inched my way into the room I could hear someone singing passionately the words to the song from the movie. “I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side…”
The sound seemed to be coming from one of the stalls around the corner. The person singing was so discordant and out of tune that it hurt my ears, even with the little experience I have had with music. At first I thought it was someone making fun of Christians after seeing the film because their rendition of the song seemed so disrespectful.
After about thirty seconds of this noise, it actually became comical. Men don’t make eye contact in the men’s room usually. But I turned and looked at the guy in line on my right. He had a big smirk on his face as he looked at me. Then I turned to the guy on my left who was behind me in line. He was laughing pretty hard. All the men in the room started smiling and laughing.
It was about that time the stall door opened. Out walked a middle-school-aged boy with down’s syndrome. He had headphones on that ran to a device in his coat pocket. He was oblivious to the reaction of the men in the room, let alone knowing that he was the cause of it.
As the boy walked over to the sink to wash his hands, he kept singing at full volume. Immediately the emotion of the whole room changed. I turned to the man on my right and noticed his eyes were tearing up. I quickly looked away and saw the man on my left pulling out a tissue to wipe his eyes. I lost it and I had no tissue. I was sobbing like a little lost boy in front of other weeping grown men in a public restroom.
After washing his hands, the boy looked up and saw a man smiling at him, who also was crying. The moment the boy looked at him he stopped his horrible singing and smiled back at him with a big grin. Obviously it was his father. The man put his arm around the boy and the two walked out together.
I don’t know what everyone else was thinking, but I can pretty much guess their thoughts were similar to mine. There was a father who, in spite of the challenges of raising a down’s syndrome child, was extremely proud of his son’s unashamed and sincere love for God. It made me ashamed of my first judgement of the young man’s singing ability.
It also challenged me with the perspective of another father, our Father in Heaven. God above was more proud of that boy than the boy’s earthly father. God, help me, and your other sons down here to make you proud. Help us all to be unashamed and sincere in our love for you.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”Romans 1:16
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”Mark 8:38