That Time I Met a Presidentby Bret Mavrich
You might have heard already, but I met President Clinton the other day. And it made me think about God, and holy visitations, and stuff like that. And what’s funny to me is that last week was shaping up to be a pretty spectacular week even without a chance meeting with an American President.
First, we launched the Life Church School of Supernatural Ministry over the weekend. The school had been a dream in the hearts of the staff for years, and then labor of love for the last six months or so as we geared up for the launch. As we got closer and closer to orientation, the excitement was palpable. There’s a proverb that says “a desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,” and this was that.
Secondly, Dennis Cramer was in town. Dennis Cramer has an unusual prophetic gift and has a habit of activating people into their calling. It’s amazing to see, both in a service and then in the weeks and months afterwards as his ministry bears fruit in the lives of the people he touches. He comes into Life Church about once a year and it’s definitely a high point in the calendar. Everyone looks forward to it.
And lastly, I “pressed play” on a project I’ve been working on for months and months. It’s a website that offers online training for missionaries. I don’t know why last week felt like the right time to launch —maybe it was the fragrance of Pumpkin Spice Latte’s in the air— but I did, and afterwards was feeling the vulnerable exhilaration that comes from actually taking a creative project out of your head and releasing it into the wild for other people to see.
So everything told, a pretty epic week was winding down when I went to Starbucks with my wife and two friends on Friday afternoon. It was hot outside, but too crowded to find a seat inside, and so we squinted and sweated and sipped our coffee by the curb on beautiful afternoon. And that’s when the SUV’s rolled up, at least four of them in a single-file caravan. Men in sunglasses stepped out. This is highly unusual, I thought. Maybe I should film this on my phone, I thought. So I did.
The full version of the video is more than a minute long, and we had plenty of time to speculate on who might emerge from the SUV. Trump, I joked (no, couldn’t be). I braced myself for the disappointment of some unrecognizable billionaire, someone rich but not famous(what a let down that would be). Someone casually guessed that it might be Clinton. Not a chance, I thought.
But there was another thought line running through my mind. There’s this passage in the New Testament that I love, a little cluster of verses that many scholars think must have been a hymn (a song!) about Jesus that the early Church used to sing. But the language is a little funny, and there’s this hard-to-translate phrase about how Jesus was “in the form of God” but then “emptied himself” of that to take on his human identity. And it kind of sounds like, on first read, that Jesus somehow wasn’t God while he walked the earth. But it actually isn’t saying that at all.
The “form of God” is referring to all of the indicators that would give the outward appearance that Jesus was, in fact, God. So when people in Jesus day met him, they saw a person who was, in all outward appearances, a carpenter’s son. But that’s because Jesus had decided that he wouldn’t let his face shine like the sun (except for that one time) to make a first impression, and that he wouldn’t use his thunder-voice to get people to listen to his teaching, and that he would walk everywhere instead of riding in his whirlwind-chariot. Any of that might have made his ministry easier, to showcase who he really was so that people would respect him. But the breathtaking humility of Jesus is that he chose to lay that aside and kind of disguise himself instead for the sake of love.
And it bears mentioning that celebrities and presidents don’t typically behave like that, like Jesus I mean. President’s don’t empty themselves of the form of presidents; they wear expensive suits, and they’re attended by secret service members, and they drive around in armored caravans. All of this is bringing me to a point, and that is that when I pulled my phone out to record the grand entrance of some unknown celebrity walking into Starbucks, I was conscious that the reason I was doing that was because I was seeing the form of someone important: the security guys in sunglasses and earpieces, the expensive-looking vehicles with tinted windows. All of it screamed, “someone important has arrived!”
And then President Clinton jumped out of the SUV! And instead of bee-lining for his latte, he promptly came over and talked with us! Unbelievable. He was jovial, and personable, asking about our recent trip to Brazil, and commenting on how much he liked my wrist watch. We got the distinct impression that he liked us, and to be honest, it reminded me of how Jesus might of acted around people even after he had acquired celebrity status, bring thronged in every town he went to, so badly he sometimes didn’t have time to eat. Because try as you may, you can’t hide a king forever. Sooner or later he surfaces to get a latte, or raise someone from the dead, and the gig is up. And then you see what he’s really made of, because humility is neither cast off, nor put on, as easily as a crown.
Later that evening, I was at our Friday night worship and prayer meeting. We prayed fervently for revival in our city, and of course I pondered my chance encounter with a President. I felt a little like Ezekiel, sitting by the Chebar canal, when out of nowhere, the whirlwind chariot of God bursts in upon his otherwise normal day. He goes from hum drum to a firestorm of glory, and a commissioning that came straight from the lips of God himself. But it happened without warning, and an otherwise common day turned into an unforgettable experience.
I thought of that because it reminded me that no matter how he comes — in a blaze of glory, or girded in a servant’s towel— he transforms the ordinary into the holy. No president can do that.
And then, in the middle of a prayer, He came, and we weren’t thinking of anything else.