Epiphany at Waffle House

By Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Some years ago, I was walking around a lake in despair.  There were some compulsive things in my life that I couldn’t control.

For some time, I held hope that through prayer, reading, and resolve, I would be able to overcome the downward pull to make my way to perfection.  Yet I would find myself tripping over the same thing over and over again.

This walk around the lake was different.  When I had stumbled in the past, I always felt I had the tools to rebuild.  I would read more spiritual books.  I would study Romans 6.  I would take vacations to do nothing but pray and meditate.  Yet walking around this lake, it was the first time that I had the sense and realization that I would not be able to get beyond this on my own.  It was my taste of powerlessness.

I got in my car and went to dinner, stopping at a Waffle House.  I don’t know if he got there first or I but I sat down next to a black man and we got to talking.  He had been in the church of the science fiction writer out in Los Angeles and apparently made his way up the ranks.  Somehow (I forget the details), he made his way out and encountered the announcement of Jesus Christ and his life was changed.

I told him of my troubles being general not to give away personal information or open my heart to shame.

I don’t remember all what was said but I do remember very distinctly him looking straight at me, speaking softly with a radiant face, and saying, “Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.”

It wasn’t a detailed action plan or a manual on right living or motivation for better discipline.  Rather it was an existential experience–triggering an awareness of this One greater than myself who would one day restore me to sanity.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.

He left as I finished my dinner.  On a whim, I looked out to see him get into his car but I never saw him.  I tried to call him some time later but never found him.

Over time,  I stumbled upon a group who understood my struggles.  A brother over time helped me see where I got off course and how I could day by day, moment by moment stay in good spiritual condition.  I came to embrace the powerlessness I felt against the lure of my worst nature and trust a God who can use people in my life to enact genuine spiritual change.

The thing that devastated me as I walked around the lake so many years ago is no longer a concern.  Far from a sinless perfectionism, I find that there are many things I cannot control and over which I have no power.  Yet in those times, I see the shining face of the man at the waffle house saying gently, “Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.”

4 thoughts on “Epiphany at Waffle House

  1. I have found that there is a direct link between these two: personal productivity in life goals, and the purity to which our Lord exhorts me. Although maintaining such purity is a constant struggle, the focus on fulfilling life goals becomes an incentive to uphold that purity, which is ultimately beneficial and purposeful.
    “Only Jesus” is a helpful reminder. But there is also the element of “running the race”, as Paul counseled us; the rewards of that imposed discipline are worth the sacrifice.
    Never give up on doing what you know to be right. Thanks for sharing.

    • In my experience, some are able to achieve holiness through self-discipline alone. Others need help from the Shepherd when they are stuck.

  2. Familiar…how many times I read “I know that in my sinful flesh dwells NO good thing. I have the desire to do what is right but I cannot carry it out…” yet I kept trying to manage something that could never be managed. I met someone too…a Pastor at Saddleback church who admitted his struggle with alcohol and began a Christ-Centered 12-Step program of recovery from all hurts, hang-ups and habits. Only Jesus, the One and only True Higher Power 😊

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