As my girls and I finished dinner one evening - table a mess, food strewn on the floor and the baby’s ill-fitting onesie covered in spaghetti sauce - my oldest daughter looked at the clock and responsibly yelled, “Mom, I’m late for my makeup voice lesson.” Blast. I was so proud that I’d cooked dinner and we’d eaten by 5 pm. We were finally going to be ahead of schedule, do the night-time routine and go to bed early, or so I thought. Instead, we hurriedly jumped in the car, one child shoeless with me wearing day-old workout clothes, and we headed to music.
Since my daughter’s lesson was only an hour long and we were already 10 minutes late, I decided to take my other three girls to the adjacent park instead of returning home. When we descended on the playground, a dad and his young daughter were the only ones there. The father looked a bit out of his element, hands stuffed into jean pockets and hovering about three feet from his little girl’s every move. My girls immediately started playing with his girl, who was near their same ages, and soon the dad and I began making polite introductions. His daughter was five years old; mine were two, four and six. A perfect mix for an impromptu playdate.
He told me their family had just moved from Los Angeles to Houston that week and were still trying to figure out the city. Both he and his wife were engineers and had moved for their jobs. I told him how wonderful the local schools were, that there were music and gymnastics classes nearby, and then the small talk trailed off into silence. We stood watching our kids play for a while, and then he asked me the most unexpected question.
“My daughter’s been asking my wife and me about God lately. Who made the trees? Who made her? Where did we all come from? Is God real? I’m not sure what to tell her. We really don’t believe in all that.”
I turned my head to look at him blankly for a moment and thought, I’m sorry – are you talking to me? I literally had to restrain myself from looking over my shoulder to see if someone else had arrived. Then I remembered that desperate prayer I’d prayed a few weeks before and had to bite my lip to keep from smiling.
“Lord, let every conversation I have point to you … in some way, Jesus. Use me.”
This prayer wasn't from a place of holy determination but from a stark realization that I couldn’t be effective without Him. I had meant it when I prayed it, but somehow, I didn’t grasp that the answer would always be on God’s terms - in His timing. I didn’t realize that even when I wasn’t seeking a divine appointment, God would bring one to me. Ready or not, here it comes!
Yet, in truth, God had already told me through Scripture to be ready at all times, even before I’d prayed.
“Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).
But God wanted me to be fully dependent on Him before He could use me.
Everyone. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone, the Bible says. I guess by everyone, God really means everyone: the stranger at the park, the cashier at the grocery store, the client with the big account, the agnostic millennial, the gay co-worker, the Mensa mom, the ivy league dad, the disgruntled doctor, the defeated cancer patient, the closet drunk, the pessimistic professor, the Buddhist seamstress, the bag lady on the corner.
“Well,” I said, clearing my throat. (Speak, Lord, speak!) “I’m a Christian. I believe every person is made in the image of God. What your daughter is asking is what we all really want to know. We all have a God-shaped hole, as Pascal said, that can only be satisfied by God.”
Now, the fact that I could even recall who Blaise Pascal was that hectic afternoon was an act of the Holy Spirit. God must have known that an engineer’s mind would respond to a famous French mathematician. God must have known that this man who designs and plans and builds things for a living would look for the Master Designer, Planner and Builder of the world through the eyes of his little girl. The Heavenly Father knew exactly what this father's heart needed to hear.
I only needed to be willing.
When sharing about God, it really isn't about the words we use but about our willing hearts. Most days, I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast. What matters most, though, is what we feed our spirits - Holy Scripture food, guilt-free and truth-filled, to fuel our days and prepare us for the divine appointments that await us.
Willing hearts don't weaken from paralysis by analysis. Willing hearts don't wither from things they can't understand. Willing hearts don't wreck a moment by being ashamed of the gospel, because we know it's the kind of soul rebuilding that everyone needs.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
By everyone, God really means everyone.
Willing hearts beat wild to tell the Good News, because it's the purest kind of love we can give.
"Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have." This is less about apologetics and more about our Anchor. When we are anchored to Love, we'll walk out the love of the living God. And isn’t that how we are to be known - by our love (John 13:35)?
We don't have to be Bible scholars to let the Holy Spirit flow through us. God has poured out his Spirit on people much less educated than we as a society are today. Remember the men of Galilee at Pentecost? (Acts 2:7). People were amazed, not because they were so qualified but exactly because they weren't.
We just need to be willing.
"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so you are in my hand declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 18:6).
The very thing that makes our weak hearts willing is the Word of God, His divine breath penned on pages to comfort and compel and create new life within us . We must break and bless and consume this Holy Scripture food to fuel our souls for the day's most unexpected assignments.
Pascal’s exact quote more eloquently says, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
That’s what I was trying to say to the engineer dad.
“I used to go to church when I was a kid, but it was all about rules. Do this. Don’t do that. I hated it,” he said, reminiscing and wincing at the same time.
“I would too,” I said.
He looked at me, surprised.
“Christianity – real Christianity – isn’t about rules or religion. It’s about a relationship with the living God. Jesus made a way for us to have that relationship, because every one of us has made a mistake," I said. We’re all sinners in need of saving and we can’t come before a holy God without a mediator. Only Jesus, who is perfect, can save us.”
Somehow, it was so much easier to share the gospel when I hadn't planned on sharing it.
I didn't have time to build up anxiety or fear or plan out perfect words. We're all engineers in some way, designing, planning and building - either for God or against Him, either with Him or without Him. Fear builds walls and obstacles and excuses. Faith transforms hearts of stone into living stones to be used in building up God’s kingdom (Ezekiel 11:19, I Peter 2:5).
All I needed to be was willing, ready in my heart to give an answer for the hope that I have. Willing is all any of us – every one of us – needs to be as we abide in Jesus.
The man shook his head, listening and considering, like what I was saying was somehow familiar yet strangely new and intriguing.
We continued watching our girls play until it was time to pick up my oldest girl from music. As I was leaving, I invited this new friend and his family to visit my church. I assured the engineer dad that the best thing he could do for his daughter was to answer her questions with an honest look at the best blueprint around - the Bible - and the cornerstone, the most solid foundation of all - Jesus.
“Maybe we will give your church a try,” he said, and then we parted ways.
I don’t know if he and his family ever visited my church or another church or if he’s reading the Bible or a Blaise Pascal biography right now.
But I do know that day in the park was a divine appointment.
I do know the Holy Spirit had gone before us and was hovering over the empty and formless places in that man's heart, waiting for the perfect time to till the soil of his soul, to level out old beliefs and baggage and lay a firm foundation for the new creation this engineer dad will become once in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I know that, somehow, seeds of truth were planted like beams of steel that will not bend or return void (Isaiah 55:11)
I know that the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
I'll admit, it’s not typical for me to chit chat with dads at playgrounds; but as the leader of his home, God clearly wanted this conversation to be with him. It was a necessary step in this man's faith journey and in mine.
As I loaded my daughters in the car, I noticed for the first time that my toddler’s spaghetti-stained onesie read on the back, “Proclaim victory in Jesus!”. My husband had dressed her for bed the night before and pulled out the first thing from her pajama drawer. Had we not been in such a hurry that day, I would certainly have changed her outfit into something “more presentable”. Yet, I’m quite sure that too-tight onesie is the very reason the father of that little girl thought to ask me about God.
Truly, nothing is too trivial for the Master Planner to use. He is in every detail, every blade of grass, every gust of wind, every drop of rain and every “chance” encounter. He’s designed all of creation to reveal Himself to us, how He’s planned and built this world so that we can share Him with others.
We often make the mistake of thinking our life has great purpose because of what we’re doing. The truth is, it’s not about what we’re doing but for Whom we are doing it.
Abide in Jesus, the Greatest Engineer there is, and know that He will lead you to His will, by His perfect plan, as long as you are willing.