The Newspaper Man
By Ross McBride and Laura Michael
You could always tell when the newspaper man had been in. It was the smell of stale-smoke-and-alcohol that just lingered for a while after he left. I’d got the part time job in the newsagents just around the corner when I was about twelve, and after a while, you got to know the regulars and what they would come in for. Twenty-odd years on, their faces are fuzzy – except this one. Every week, one man would come in to buy the local newspaper. I can still hear his shuffle as he came into the shop, and me and the other boys laughing and making fun of him after he would leave, sometimes before – the neighbourhood drunk.
At twelve years old, I knew about God, but never thought about giving my life to Him, let alone serving Him. I have no idea if the newspaper man had thought about God, but it was pretty obvious he was trapped in an addiction that was destroying his life and reputation. Through physical eyes, things seemed rather bleak had you walked into the shop on a day he was in. Look at it with spiritual eyes though, and you see something entirely different.
It’s hard to work out exactly where every person’s story begins, because God has been working relationships and friendships together for decades to bring about our birth and the family we will be a part of. My Dad played football to a reasonably high level in England, but had his career cut short by injury and returned home to Ireland. Mum’s family after moving around the world with the Army settled in England for a time before they left to come home to Ireland. Long story short, this eventually led to Mum and Dad crossing paths, marrying and having three children, one of whom was me; just an ordinary family with ordinary lives.
In 1982 however, came the turning point, when my grandmother came to faith in Christ. She was the first in our family and stumbled into the local Pentecostal church, to which she faithfully took all of her grandchildren. Through years of granny’s prayers, all of the grandchildren came to faith as teenagers and are still serving the Lord today.
After coming to faith, I had a desire to serve God in full-time ministry, and applied to a training college that conveniently closed three days before I was due to start. That same year, I was also turned down for Bible College! Through some extra studies however, the College finally gave in and agreed to train me, after which I entered ministry as a youth pastor and was stationed in a local church.
After a few years serving in that church I had one of the most incredible moments of my ministry. A gentleman and others from his family got saved and after a period of time was brought onto the leadership team. It was the newspaper man. The man who used to seem hopeless was now a respected leader of the local church, upright and transformed. Ten years before we had stood in the same place, me a young boy with little thought of Christ, him an adult caught in addiction. Ten years later, we stood yet again in the same place, this time serving God together.
As I look back now, I wonder what God was thinking as He looked down into the shop on those days when the newspaper man came in. He was probably laughing at the irony of the moment, but I also imagine Him remembering telling Ananias to go and pray for Saul the persecutor of the church, saying, ‘he is a chosen vessel of mine.’ Truly divine moments that were beyond my short-sighted youth.
I know now with absolute certainty that God has worked out our destinies. We can trace back over the decades and see where He has moved people and situations to bring us to the very point where we are right now. I often wonder if things prior to my life hadn’t happened the way in which they did, if my father had never got injured, my mum had never moved back to Ireland, what would have happened, where would I be now?
Providence, a word that is hard to explain, but take a moment to trace the steps of your life and your parents and you will very quickly see that God has always been in the detail, working in the little moments, orchestrating every facet for His sovereign plan. Every situation we walk into we look at with physical eyes, but the truth is, there is an alternative spiritual reality that God sees.
So pay attention to those you brush shoulders with, who you serve in the shop, who you laugh and make fun of, who you think are a hopeless case. Look at them with spiritual eyes – you might just see something more.