He wore a big jacket and a sheepskin hat with ear flaps turned up. As we walked toward each other in the crosswalk, he reminded me of Wingfield in the play my fiancé and I had just attended at the local theatre.
Then, just as I passed him, a series of thoughts flitted through my head. Wingfield was still playing at the theatre. Rod Beatty, the actor in the one-man show, was still in town. That meant the man now stepping onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street was actually Rod Beattie.
I looked back, but the light had changed. I kicked myself for not being able to tell him that I loved his play and was honoured to meet him. If only I’d realized it was Beattie, instead of thinking it was just someone who looked like him.
In the Gospels, Matthew records a similar story about a great man arriving in a small town and not being recognized for who he was:
Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-56 NIV)
Sometimes, when I read that passage, I condemn the people of Nazareth for being dense and unable to see what was right in front of them. But as I reflected on that same passage after my encounter with Rod Beatty, I had a greater understanding.
Jesus’ neighbors didn’t really expect to meet the Messiah in their day-to-day lives. He was someone big, important, powerful. Not the boy they knew growing up or the dusty, travel-stained rabbi wandering through Judea with a following of fishermen and tax-collectors. Maybe they saw Him as they were crossing the street, and maybe it entered their mind that He looked like the Messiah they were waiting for, but maybe they kept walking because they weren’t expecting to see Him there.
It’s also easy for me to go through my day-to-day life, not recognizing God because I’m not expecting him. I know who Rod Beatty is. He’s a famous, popular, well-acclaimed actor whom I’ve seen on TV and on stage. He’s not someone I expect to run into on the streets of my home city.
And I know who God is too. He’s the One Who created the world, inspired the Bible, worked miracles two thousand years ago. I don’t usually expect to see Him in my life or the ordinary things around me. Yet He’s there, in the mundane as well as the extraordinary—in the stranger who did a kind deed for me, in the friend who called when I needed someone to talk to, even in the ray of sunshine that brightened my home.
I just need to keep my eyes open and be ready to see Him at work in my life.
This devotional was originally published in the March 2012 issue of the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart.