A Story About a Tie
(but really much more than a tie)
I'm getting ready to speak at a spiritual retreat called "The Walk to Emmaus," which is one of the most amazing, mountaintop sorts of times that you can ever experience. Even though I went on my own Walk way back in 2000, the memories and the feelings and the growth I experienced that weekend are still with me.
Every so often, you get a chance to experience a little taste of your original time there by serving on a new Walk weekend. That's what I'll be doing in two weekends from now, when I will get to present a talk to the women going on their first Walk. And I've gotten to serve by doing other things before this--working on the refreshment team, coming up to help serve meals, things like that.
At our church, I have a group of girlfriends that have all been on the Walk and we get together to do things to help us keep our experience "fresh" for us (we call ourselves the Blessed Chicks!). One of our favorite things to do together is to make what's called "agape" on the Walks. "Agape" is actually the Greek word used in the Bible for the sort of "servant-hearted love" that we should all have for one another, but on the Walks "agape" is used to define neat little "gifts of love" that the participants receive throughout the weekend (they'll have these little gifts--bookmarks, candy, pins, all sorts of things--left for them on their bed, at their dining room table, all over).
A few weeks ago, our group decided to make some "agape" that is always used on every men's Walk they have. The men, some time during the weekend, get ties that have been decorated with the phrase "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds"; it's become a regular tradition to always have those for the guys, so we decided that we'd volunteer to be the group that would make them this time.
We went to local thrift stores and rooted through our husband's drawers, and eventually came up with the 81 ties we'd need for the guys. We gathered colored Sharpie pens and decorated all of those ties with the special words.
The ties were all sorts of shapes and colors and sizes. Some were pin-on and some were regular neck ties. There were ones that looked like they were holdovers from the 70s and ties that looked brand-new. There was one with ducks on them; another with baseballs on them; one with Santa Clauses all over it; another with a whale. Some had crazy, geometric designs, and others had calm, more executive-type designs. No two were alike.
We got them all done, had them delivered to the retreat, and that was that. We had a great time making them and knew that they would be appreciated (the guys always love them!); we had happily done our fun little service for this Walk.
But then we found out "the rest of the story." And it made what we had done all the sweeter.
One of our Blessed Chicks members, Monica, got to attend the closing time for the guys' Walk; this is a time when any of the participants can stand up in front of the entire group and share any experiences they had that really touched them.
Monica said that this one guy stood up and began talking about how he really hadn't wanted to come and was a little bit uneasy at first. He told about how he was a high school baseball coach and had played baseball all his life; the sport was the central focus of his life and his favorite activity.
Then he said something like this: "I wasn't really sure why I was here, then on Saturday we got our ties. I couldn't believe it when I looked down at mine and it had baseballs all over it. I looked around the room to see if anyone else had the same tie, and they didn't. I couldn't believe it. I was the only one out of all those guys to get the tie with baseballs on it. I started crying and realized that it was a sign that God had me here for a reason. He used that tie to talk to me."
As Monica told us the story, we all got a little teary-eyed. It helped us realize that what we had done had made a difference. And it reminded us of God's "mysterious ways."
That tie was one of the old ties I'd dug out of Gary's drawer; Gary didn't have any use for it any more, but God sure did. When I took it out and then we all decorated it, God knew who He was giving that tie to. And He knew there was a reason for it.
I don't believe in coincidences, especially when they teach us an important lesson or draw us closer to God.
I also know that when we choose to reach out and serve others, God rewards and honors those actions.