by Max Lucado
I’m writing to say thanks. I wish I could thank you personally, but I don’t know where you are. I wish I could call you, but I don’t know your name. If I knew your appearance, I’d look for you, but your face is fuzzy in my memory. But I’ll never forget what you did.
There you were, leaning against your pickup in the West Texas oil field. An engineer of some sort. A supervisor on the job. Your khakis and clean shirt set you apart from us roustabouts. In the oil field pecking order, we were at the bottom. You were the boss. We were the workers. You read the blueprints. We dug the ditches. You inspected the pipe. We laid it. You ate with the bosses in the shed. We ate with each other in the shade.
Except that day.
I remember wondering why you did it.
We weren’t much to look at. What wasn’t sweaty was oily. Faces burnt from the sun; skin black from the grease. Didn’t bother me, though. I was there only for the summer. A high-school boy earning good money laying pipe.
We weren’t much to listen to, either. Our language was sandpaper coarse. After lunch, we’d light the cigarettes and begin the jokes. Someone always had a deck of cards with lacy-clad girls on the back. For thirty minutes in the heat of the day, the oil patch became Las Vegas—replete with foul language, dirty stories, blackjack, and barstools that doubled as lunch pails.
In the middle of such a game, you approached us. I thought you had a job for us that couldn’t wait another few minutes. Like the others, I groaned when I saw you coming.
You were nervous. You shifted your weight from one leg to the other as you began to speak.
“Uh, fellows,” you started.
We turned and looked up at you.
“I, uh, I just wanted, uh, to invite … ”
You were way out of your comfort zone. I had no idea what you might be about to say, but I knew that it had nothing to do with work.
“I just wanted to tell you that, uh, our church is having a service tonight and, uh … ”
“What?” I couldn’t believe it. “He’s talking church? Out here? With us?”
“I wanted to invite any of you to come along.”
Silence. Screaming silence.
Several guys stared at the dirt. A few shot glances at the others. Snickers rose just inches from the surface.
“Well, that’s it. Uh, if any of you want to go … uh, let me know.”
After you turned and left, we turned and laughed. We called you “reverend,” “preacher,” and “the pope.” We poked fun at each other, daring one another to go. You became the butt of the day’s jokes.
I’m sure you knew that. I’m sure you went back to your truck knowing the only good you’d done was to make a good fool out of yourself. If that’s what you thought, then you were wrong.
That’s the reason for this letter.
Some five years later, a college sophomore was struggling with a decision. He had drifted from the faith given to him by his parents. He wanted to come back. He wanted to come home. But the price was high. His friends might laugh. His habits would have to change. His reputation would have to be overcome.
Could he do it? Did he have the courage?
That’s when I thought of you. As I sat in my dorm room late one night, looking for the guts to do what I knew was right, I thought of you.
I thought of how your love for God had been greater than your love for your reputation.
I thought of how your obedience had been greater than your common sense.
I remembered how you had cared more about making disciples than about making a good first impression. And when I thought of you, your memory became my motivation.
So I came home.
I’ve told your story dozens of times to thousands of people. Each time the reaction is the same: The audience becomes a sea of smiles, and heads bob in understanding. Some smile because they think of the “clean-shirted engineers” in their lives. They remember the neighbor who brought the cake, the aunt who wrote the letter, the teacher who listened …
Others smile because they have done what you did. And they, too, wonder if their “lunchtime loyalty” was worth the effort.
You wondered that. What you did that day wasn’t much. And I’m sure you walked away that day thinking that your efforts had been wasted.
So I’m writing to say thanks. Thanks for the example. Thanks for the courage. Thanks for giving your lunch to God. He did something with it; it became the John 6:35 for me.
P.S. If by some remarkable coincidence you read this and remember that day, please give me a call. I owe you lunch.
From In the Eye of the Storm
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1997) Max Lucado