Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Man With Two First Names

I’m terrible with names.  Heck, I’m terrible with anything requiring memory these days, but I’m especially bad with names.  Having said that, I’ll likely remember the name, Oliver Chester, for a long time to come.
Frankly, I never should have met the man.  I owe the introductions to my beloved bride who has a soft heart and the ‘gift of hospitality’.
Last evening, after a particularly stressful day at work, I arrived home and we sat down to a quick dinner before B would have to rush out to a neighborhood Bible Study she attends on Tuesday nights.  We had just finished the blessing, when the doorbell rang.  I sighed and made a face.  I was quite prepared to ignore the intrusion and do what I do best, eat.
Brittan, normally the shy one, said, “I’ll get it,” and disappeared.  
For the next ten minutes or so, I grumbled into my plate while muffled voices wafted my direction from our front porch.  The door was open and I could tell the visitor was male.  The tone and cadence suggested the conversation was pleasant and non threatening.  So I remained in my chair and pouted.
Hunger finally overcame my patience and I was just about to get up and dispel the interloper when I heard, “Sam, we have a guest for dinner.  We need to set another place.”  You cannot begin to guess my innermost reaction.  At least I hope you can’t.
Enter Oliver Chester; single father, door to door salesman, dinner guest.
Oliver is unremarkable in appearance.  He is average height and marginally above average in weight.  He is soft spoken, enjoys laughing and wears his after shave a little too heavy.  I noticed that his finger nails could use a trim and that he loves his daughter very much.  He demonstrated a gentle spirit and was somewhat apprehensive about sharing our table.  He is a fairly new Believer in Christ and in case it needs to me mentioned, he is African American.
As his story unfolded, I was smitten afresh with the magnitude of the Grace of God.  God’s grace in Oliver’s life, and in mine.
Oliver was taught to cook, cut and sell drugs when he was seven years old.  His teacher was his own father who also advised him that school was a waste of time and that he needed to make money.
Needless to say, his slope was slippery and facing decidedly downhill.  His slide ended him in jail.  It was there that grace worked its strange magic. 
As a reward for his good behavior, our penal system allowed Oliver conjugal visits from his drug addicted girl friend.  Those visits rewarded him with a daughter, whose name I believe is, Olivia.  The drugs took the life of the girl’s mother and Oliver became a single dad.  A single dad behind bars.
Fatherhood, despite his incarceration, was Oliver’s wake up call.  There, in the bowels of the gray bar hotel,  he became a man.  And along the journey to manhood, he met Jesus.  Between the brown eyes of his baby girl and the nail scars of his Savior, Oliver’s fate was sealed.  He is a man redeemed.  He is not in search of redemption, he has arrived.
We listened has he described his sales job, which he is using to get on his feet.  His dream is to open a BBQ restaurant, “OC’s”  where he will cook up ribs slathered with his own signature sauce.  I have a sneaking suspicion his dream just might come true.  And I hope one day to have a dollop of OC bbq sauce stuck to my own chin.
After supper, my soft hearted wife looked at me doe eyed and convinced me to grossly overpay for subscriptions to two magazines we will never read so that the Chesters can chase their dreams.  Then she loaded our guest down with doggie bags of stew, rolls and diet Doctor Pepper (with cherry). I signed a copy of "IOU NO MORE" and stuck it in his hand as well.  I have no idea why, it just seemed right.
As he left, Oliver said, “It’s going to take me all evening to wipe this smile off my face.  Please remember OC and pray for the Chesters.”  I will not quickly forget.
The book of Hebrews says, “Remember to welcome strangers.  By doing so, some have entertained strangers, unawares.”  I don’t know whether or not Oliver Chester is an angel, but I’m pretty sure he has one on his shoulder.  And I’m darned certain I am married to one.
Amazing Grace.  How sweet the sound.