How long had Amber been kneeling next the sheet of plywood? She set her paint brush across the top of the can and made an groaning sound as she stood. She rubbed first her knees, then her lower back. Finally, finished.
The 4’x8’ sign she just finished lay flat on a piece of canvas waiting to dry and be hung by the stage crew. Thousands of empty chairs faced her below the stage where she stood, by sunset they’d all be full. Dear God, I pray all this honors You… She continued to pray silently, imagining the place filled with people seeking God and preachers and singers being used to share His love and save lives. She prayed for them all.
One of the stage crew was walking backwards as he helped carry a large speaker across the stage. He didn’t see her and bumped her out of her reverie. She stepped back to keep her balance and set her foot right on top of her freshly painted sign which read:
JESUS LOVES YOU
The background was painted white; the blue letters were inside a big red heart. Her foot slid on the wet paint across the center of the heart smearing the words so they couldn’t be read.
The man carrying the speaker had at first blurted out, “Whoa, watch out!” But then saw the sign and said, “Oops…” he made a small chuckle, “sorry.”
When the other stage hand carrying the speaker saw tears welling up in her eyes he said over his shoulder as they continued to walk, “Don’t worry about it, we didn’t really need that extra filler piece anyway, just go ahead and go and I’ll get rid of it for you.”
She just stared at the sign, now blurry for two reasons; her foot, of course, and the tears that wouldn’t stop pouring from her eyes. God, isn’t there anything I can do? She sat cross legged in front of the sign and put her elbows on her knees. I can’t sing. She buried her face in the palms of her hands. I get so nervous in front of people I’d never, ever be able to preach or teach. I’m not very pretty and my body’s not that great. I just thought maybe—she sniffed, lifted a shoulder and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her tee-shirt—maybe, I could do just this one thing. But even that didn’t work, maybe I don’t—she starred at the smeared word MATTER.
Nevertheless, she reached for a brush and started again. She prayed for forgiveness because her mind kept wishing a hernia on those two stage crew. An hour later she stood and stretched and once more looked at the sign. Finally finished, again. She looked out at the empty chairs, up to the sky and back to the sign, God, it’s all yours, do what you want with it.
She half expected the sign to be thrown out or not be used because maybe the paint wouldn’t be dry. But, to her surprise when she looked up on stage, there it was. It was way off to the right side, above a set of drums, hanging in the background. Just like me hanging in the background not making a difference.
It’d been a week since the big event. Her sign was long since forgotten, probably thrown in a dumpster. Big name speakers and famous singers graced the stage and the alter call evidenced a move of God that made it all worthwhile. She felt good. In her small way she, via her sign, shared the stage and perhaps helped be a part of what God did that night. And for her, that was enough.
But then it came. An e-mail from the event coordinator, she almost deleted it because she didn’t recognize the name.
I received your e-mail address from your pastor. I hope you don’t mind that he gave it to me.
We haven’t met but I want to thank you for the sign you made to grace the stage during our event last week. You may have thought it trivial, but once you read the letter we received I think you’ll realize that nothing done in God’s service is trivial.
I’ve scanned a copy of this letter for you to read:
To whom it may concern,
I attended your religious service in the park last week. I wasn’t really sure why I went but I live in the neighborhood and the noise and lights drew me.
The only thing I was sure of that night was that it was to be my last night.
I can’t go in to all the reasons why my life had come to that point but I had planned to take my life after I left your service, I already had a note written and a perfect plan. My mind was made and nothing was going to change it. Nothing changed as I sat and listened to every word of every song. Nothing changed when I listened to the fervent words of the preachers and the emotional prayers of the pray-ers. I left still intent of doing what I had planned. Not one thing I heard mattered. That was just it, nothing mattered. I didn’t, what was said didn’t. So I wanted out.
Except, when it came time to pull the trigger I closed my eyes and saw this stupid sign. It was a sign that didn’t matter. It was hidden off on the right side, out of the lights. But I couldn’t get it out of my head.
JESUS LOVES YOU
I can’t explain it but that sign saved my life. Thanks.