When God Looks Like Popeye the Sailor

So I’ve been reading this book, Leaper by Geoffrey Wood. I’ve been kind of pecking my way through it much like a chicken grabs at bits of food here and there. As I sat at my desk today taking in another morsel of the book I came across a section that reminded me of an encounter I had many years ago when I was going to school at Colorado State.

I’m not sure why I bother writing these stories down. I’m not sure if anyone reads them or not, but I feel like God might be pulling me to share my “God” stories with you and with others. I’ve got lots of “God” stories—times where God has stepped into my life and done something. Sometimes it’s extraordinary. Other times it seems small. No matter what the intensity level of the exchange, God seems to remind me of these times in my life from time to time. Reading chapter 10 in Leaper reminded me of this time…

…Like I said, I was attending Colorado State. As was typical, I was at CSU’s Morgan Library working on some kind of journalism, philosophy or math homework. Now in order to set the stage for this story I have to tell you a little bit more about myself (duh, right?).

Aside from being a college student, at this stage of my life I was also a husband, employee at SolarGlass Window & Door, and involved in a leadership program at Summitview Community Church.  I had joined this program because I’ve always been drawn to do more than just go to church, say a couple prayers, and essentially “punch out.” Mitch Majeski (who used to be the church “secretary” and is now one of their pastors) encouraged me to participate in a weekly guys leadership Bible study type program. From what I can remember I was considering joining this group and that this commitment was kind of a big deal for me because only a couple years prior I had been neck deep in youth ministry at another church. The church had a nasty split which left my heart feeling a weighty combination of being burned and bruised at the same time.

Back to the library…I remember sitting or praying or maybe reading the Bible. Not sure if it was one or all of those. One way or another, I was hanging out with God and I felt compelled to call up Mitch and commit to this leadership program.

In the Morgan library there’s a “free” house phone to the right of a couple pay phones. I picked up the free phone and called Mitch to chat (this was before I owned a cell phone). About a minute into our conversation a guy stepped over to the pay phone and just stood there. I didn’t think much of it at that moment and continued talking to Mitch. I was excited to tell him about feeling God directing me back into some type of ministry.

The words I poured into the off-white glossy speaker of the phone must have sounded offensive to the guy waiting near me…or maybe I had gone over some “five minute” rule for the house phone that I knew nothing about. Either way—this guy looked about as mad as a rattle snake that had just had his tail stepped on.

I was really hoping to talk to Mitch for at least a couple more minutes, but the sense of anger and hostility I was feeling from the wanna-be-phone-call-maker really had me spooked. In all seriousness, I felt like if I didn’t get off the phone that minute that my life was in danger.

And there was something about the waiting man that just didn’t fit. Even right after this all concluded I couldn’t remember what this guy looked like or what he was wearing. Honestly, I felt like I was in the presence of evil.

Now, I’m not a super charismatic, raise my hands when I’m singing, speak in tongues kind of guy. I’m—quite honestly—a pretty boring Christian. My idea of fun on a Friday night is a couple Mountain Dews and five straight hours of undisturbed Halo 3 playtime on XBOX Live. All that to say—I’m not exaggerating when I tell you the waiting man really freaked me out. And the weird part was that I do remember him looking like an average 30-40 year old white guy (that’s about all I can remember of him).

“Uhh, Mitch…I think I better go. I think there’s someone who wants to use the phone,” I mutter through the plastic handset. I hang up the phone, and turn to the waiting man and say, “Sorry about the wait…it’s all yours.”

While I can’t recall the words that came from the waiting man I do remember they fell off his tongue like black gooey tar. My soul—literally—shuttered when he spoke. I remember reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti right after I gave my life to God and thinking about how cool it would be to see into the spiritual realm and view the battle between good and evil. After a couple quick comments from this guy I changed my mind. I’m quite happy with my current spiritual prescription (thank you very much).

My weird exchange got even weirder as I started heading for the library exit (as fast as possible!). Towards the end of my phone call I noticed another man observing what was happening between me and the waiting man. He was kind of in the corner of my eye the whole time, but I really didn’t pay him much attention because I was so focused on the demeanor and malcontent of the waiting man.

As I made my way toward the exit the observing man approached me. The  observing man also had an uncanny likeness. Unlike the waiting man, this guy was rememberable. He reminded me like a squatty Popeye. He wore a short sleeve shirt that was once size too small and showed off his plump biceps and broad chest. He was the antithesis of the waiting man. Even before he spoke I could sense light and goodness in this guy. If you could peer into this guys soul I’m sure you’d see the equivalent of a 1000 watt bulb wired and powered by his heart.

“That guy sure was grumpy, eh.” The squatty Popeye twin said. “Not to worry friend, I would have stepped in to protect you if he would have tried to come at you.”

Like that, he was gone.

It’s not like he up and vanished or anything. He just hustled off and that was it. I walked out of the library and immediately felt like I had just met that supposed angel that spends their entire life dedicated to your protection. I’m not sure if he was “mine” or not…but I can tell you I was convinced that he was sent by God.

And to be honest…I can’t tell you of anything deeper than that. I don’t know any more of the storyline than what I described to you just now. I didn’t go home and quit drinking soda, I didn’t start praying more or give more to charity or anything. And the leadership course I was talking to Mitch about…it never really went anywhere either. In fact, it kind of felt like a flop to me.

So why the heck have I just spent the last hour describing this story to you?

I’m not sure I know.

Maybe it’s because you wonder if there is such a thing as good vs. evil. Or maybe not. I have no clue why this happened in my life. I guess it doesn’t really matter why it happened so much that it did happen. God stepped into my life in the form of an awkward, fumbly, weight lifting, angelic, Popeye-looking  protector. In that brief moment in time I knew what darkness looked like and I saw its polar opposite.

I may not know what spiritual battle is or looks like. But I know it exists.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

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One Response to “When God Looks Like Popeye the Sailor”

  1. Mitch Majeski Says:

    Great to see your blog Chris! Loved your thoughts – keep on posting!

    We miss you guys!

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