Advent has a bit of a surprise element to it, like all of salvation history. People knew a Savior would come, that the God who saves would save. But no one would have that that it was God Himself that would walk among us, not only taking our nature but ascending it with Him into heaven. And it all began with a child in a womb.
Johnny Cash seems to have had an encounter with the surprising God.
I found the episode in a book given to me by a California friend, former Fort Dodge St. Edmond student and neighbor, Steven Booth, called ‘CASH…The Autobiography of Johnny Cash.’
Written by my favorite country singer at age 65, it is a fascinating retrospective into the private life of a very public person. Johnny did not sugar-coat his addictions and bad behavior that resulted in jail-times, fractured relationships with family and friends, busted up hotel rooms, and loss of income.
But in the end, he repented, sought forgiveness, and gained a restored personal walk with his Lord.
One of my favorite anecdotes in the book reminds me of Matthew 18:4: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The story needs no extra commentary from me, but it does beg one question.
What are the odds?
Eight million people. Thousands of churches. Johnny and June Carter Cash with no special plans. And then this, in his own words:
I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on The First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn’t noticed before because its entrance does not look like a church’s. We saw from the sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, “JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!”
As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that’s when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. “I told you so!” he kept saying to his parents. “I told you he was coming!”
The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him and worship with him. And that’s what I did. Being next to him was a pleasure. He was so happy.
When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. The were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That’s why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that ‘particular’ Christian church because that’s where he knew I was going to walk in the door.
The darkness closes in this time of year. But how little we know of what God’s plans for us might be.