By Maria Fontaine
December 8, 2018
I had just said goodbye to the doctor, paid my bill, and was hurrying out of the clinic, hoping that I wasn’t keeping my ride waiting. All of a sudden the Lord stopped me abruptly! I immediately knew why. I had forgotten something!
Earlier that morning I had prayed, “Lord, please make me more aware of my surroundings when I’m out. Help me to always be looking for opportunities to encourage someone, whether by a smile, a ‘God bless you,’ a tract, or an uplifting conversation. Don’t let me go on my way like a robot, but help me to realize that there are always hurting people around me who You care about. Help me not to get so engrossed in my own affairs, but to look for whatever else You may have for me to do.”
I turned around and went back into the waiting room. There was only one person sitting there, a young man in his early 30s who was staring off into space.
Realizing that this must be the one the Lord wanted me to give these moments of attention to, but not having any specifics in mind, I walked over to him and said, “Hello. How are you?” No response. I continued, “I bet you have an amazing smile.” Again, silence. I felt I could hear his thoughts, “What’s it to you, anyway?” I persisted, “I’d love to see your smile.”
By then the guy probably thought I was completely nuts. I was old enough to be his grandmother, and maybe I was afflicted with a bit of senility. So apparently he decided to humor me by saying something, even though he wasn’t willing to smile.
“I never smile unless I’m watching comedy,” he explained, adding the names of a couple of shows.
His being willing to tell me that personal detail gave me an opening to tell him something about me. I responded, “Yes, life can be pretty tough, and it’s nice to have something to cheer us up sometimes. I found something that makes me smile. When I feel wrecked in the morning and it’s hard to even get started, I’ve been trying to make a habit of looking in the mirror first thing and forcing myself to smile.
“Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. I’ve been surprised at what a difference it makes. You actually see a happy person looking back at you. It’s the most amazing thing. You know, it’s interesting how my mood can change when I smile; it not only makes me look a lot better, but it makes me feel much better too. And then, even more surprising than that, it motivates me to smile at other people throughout the day, since I got a good start with smiling when I first got up.
“You’d be surprised how much people benefit from just a smile. It doesn’t cost you much—just a little effort to overcome lethargy. It can make a lot of difference to people, as well as making you feel that you’ve done something good for someone, which they may even want to pass on. You might want to try it.”
I ended with a “God bless you,” and surprisingly, the man responded, “God bless you, too.” So I sensed that he had received what I said.
I bid him goodbye and left the building, only to find that my ride still wasn’t there, concluding that the Lord had arranged that extra time for me to talk to this person. As I was waiting outside the clinic, the young man came out, mumbling something to me about having to turn his car around. On his way back in, I decided to repeat my point once more: “Have a good day! And keep smiling!” He actually smiled, replying, “You too!”
All of a sudden I thought, “Oh! I haven’t given him a tract.” I wondered, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Getting one from my purse, I quickly walked back into the clinic and saw I had just missed him, as he’d already gone in for his appointment.
On the way home, I told my friend my little story. I said: “If I had stopped to reason it out, I probably wouldn’t have said what I did to him. My virtually insisting that he smile was a little bit out of the norm, to say the least. Who would sit around just smiling into space when there’s not anybody to smile at and there’s not any reason to smile? What if he just had a death in his family? Or had all his front teeth extracted? I was trying to figure out what kind of witness this had been. I could have so easily done what I often do when it’s just a chance, momentary meeting. I go over to the person and offer them a tract and tell them that it was something that they might appreciate, or, ‘This is a little gift for you,’ or some such phrase. But all I had done was to tell him to smile and not left him with any message about Jesus.”
Later we asked the Lord about this encounter. Although it was such a small thing to encourage someone to smile, nevertheless I felt that it must be significant because it was an answer to my prayer earlier that morning. Besides, I had felt that same kind of spiritual excitement that I do when I have a chance to talk about Jesus.
Here is what the Lord said:
This man had a link with Me when he was a young teen, but his life has had a lot of issues that have just piled up and weighed him down till he no longer feels like there’s any motivation to try anymore.
There isn’t much that gives him any measurable happiness outside of distractions. That’s why he said he only smiles when he watches comedy. He only finds a touch of light and fun when he leaves his life behind and hides in the world of make-believe. It’s his only break from the drudgery of a life that isn’t going anywhere. So why smile? There’s nothing to smile about.
He hasn’t found answers in religion, and he no longer cares about it. That’s why I didn’t show you to talk specifically about Me or give him a tract. What you said was what I knew he needed. He’s not desperate and longing for hope. Even if he were, right now he wouldn’t try to seek it in churches and religion. What you said was exactly what would break his routine, grab his attention, and open a door to get his mind off himself and his malaise.
The subject of smiling in the way you were presenting it was something he hadn’t ever thought of. It was absurd to have this elderly woman walk up and say something so unusual. When you got his attention with that comment about his smile and that maybe he should try to use it, it reminded him of something his grandmother had often said when he was a child. She’d comment on his smile and how if he used it, it could unlock many doors and hearts.
As he watched you walk away, in the same moment he saw a reflection of himself in the window and it made him smile, remembering what you had told him about the mirror. As he did, something inside him started to change. That’s why he went out to turn his car around, although it wasn’t at all necessary. He wanted to see if you might still be there and say something more to him. You didn’t disappoint him, even though you thought what you were saying was really pushing your point. You had been the first person in a long while who had reached into his heart and switched on a light.
Sometimes a witness comes in the form of a sermon or a tract or some profound revelation. But more times than you would imagine, it comes in an unexpected way, because that is what someone needs. Sometimes it begins with a word or a look or something that you wouldn’t necessarily consider a significant witness, but it creates a spiritual connection nevertheless. This is what happened between you and this man. It was one stage in a process that will eventually lead to him finding his way to Me.
Sometimes similar situations happen several times with the same person; sometimes it’s a series of encounters with different people. However, each encounter includes someone who stands out from the rest and captures their attention, such as what you did by encouraging him to smile, or perhaps it could be something like the sparkle in someone’s eyes.
I will provide more of these interactions for him, until his curiosity is so strong that he will be ready to receive a direct witness. Then he’ll realize that this is what these encounters have in common. This was a piece of the puzzle, a step in his journey.
If you had started talking about how much he needed Jesus and given him a tract, that wouldn’t have worked for him. He already has the connection with Me; it’s just buried at the moment. That encounter wasn’t unimportant at all. It was vital! So many of My followers don’t even realize when they’ve been an almost-unwitting witness simply because they were letting Me lead the way.
There are many people who require a “sign” of sorts in the form of something that stands out to them and attracts their attention. It may not seem significant to the person saying it, but it accomplishes its purpose because it’s accompanied by My Spirit shining through. The words were just the initial bait that got him to look at you and listen. As he did, he saw something that reminded him of happier times.
Now it’s in My hands to line up the next step for him. I also chose you to fulfill this task because I know you’ll pray for him, and those prayers will play a big part in him changing. I’m very patient, because these things have to come through his own freewill choices. My aim is to work with each person in the way they need it most. In his case, he needs a more gradual approach.
Trust Me that no matter what I inspire you to give, it’s somehow integral to the bigger picture of drawing that person into My arms in ways that you may not fully grasp. Make it a habit to be open to Me, and I will show you what to do. Then leave the rest to Me to sort out. I’m the coordinator, the director, arranging what will help My children in the way they need it most. I have the overview of every heart and know what will gently guide each one to what they need. So whatever I inspire you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment, trust Me that it’s a part of the process that will help those I bring you into contact with. Sometimes the things that seem the most unlikely to help someone can be what they need to help them take the next step.
P. S. Now, when I smile in the mirror in the morning, it reminds me to pray for this man that he will learn to smile too, and that he will find true joy in Jesus.