In college I worked as a "security guard" for a corporation. I use that title loosely. It was more like sitting at a desk, walking through the building(s) every hour to make sure everything was as it should be, and, the most important aspect, opening doors for individuals coming in after hours. As far as college employment options fare, this was a great job that provided lots of extra time to study. There were downsides to the job though. The dreaded night shift, which seemed to never end. Watching the clock as each tick of the second hand beckoned your eyelids to follow the rhythm. Tick. Tick. Tick. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Absolute torture. The only reprieve would come in the form of the hourly rounds through the massive campus. Dark hallways held every imaginable perpetrator waiting to jump on you as you walked through. I carried no sidearm, no night stick. My only weapon? A digital wand for scanning barcodes on windows and doorframes. How else do you keep an eye on your "security guards"? I will admit there were times that I ran through those dark corners of the building. Especially that one barcode tucked in a deep corner of some mechanical room, the perfect place for a college student posing as a security guard to find a sordid end to his existence.
Passing the time became a hobby. What to do? Talk with Wayne, the maintenance guy who had done everything, had an opinion about everything, talked endlessly about everything. Ok. Stop talking to Wayne. "No, really. Wayne, I don't want to talk anymore."
Watch Fred handle the huge floor buffer. The corporation I was "guarding" was a nationally franchised cleaning company. I'm sure they do other things, but I knew that they had lots of cleaning stuff in their "history of the company" display on the wall. So, watching Fred buff the marble floors in their corporate headquarters served as a test case to see if they were any good at what they were franchising. Besides that, Fred was a very large African American guy who was hilarious. I can still picture him, casually leaning on the handle of his buffer, cord snaking across the ornate marble floors, big toothy grin, making me laugh.
Things were predictable, somewhat boring and routine, until that night. A knock on one of the main entrance doors. These doors, kept secure and armed after hours and on weekends, meant I opened them for any visitors. As the security guard, I didn't usually play the role of host or greeter. I was used to being walked past, unnoticed by corporate executives. It was part of the job and I got into the habit of holding doors and looking down at the floor.
"Well, who are you?"
A bit taken aback I answered a bit snarky: "I'm Chad Ellenburg. Who are you?"
"I'm Ruth Bell Graham." My eyes popped like horse eyes. I quickly lifted my hand to greet the wife of… Oh my word, here he comes. Billy Graham.
You think you know what you will say when you meet someone famous. What you actually say spews out like you choked on your oatmeal.
"Will you sign my Bible?" Tell me I didn't just say that. I was a Bible student and already found all sorts of theological problems with my request. He graciously reached for my NIV thin-line study bible. He scribbled something inside the front flap and passed it back. I resumed my duties at the front desk and watched them walk away. I quickly flipped open to the spot and read these words: Philippians 1:6. Billy Graham.
What does the guy who has spoken to millions of people about the love of Jesus say to a young, "wanna-be" pastor? What wisdom could he offer to an eager Bible student who wants to make a mark on the world? To someone who wonders if he has done enough for Jesus? Who fights the tendency to accomplish his spirituality on his own? Who gives in to legalistic, self-righteous attempts at accomplishing great feats for God almost daily?
What did he say to me then and what would he say to me today? After a sluggish start to this new year, with barely a thread of resolve in my heart to accomplish anything?
Just one thing.
He will do it.
Billy Graham had one thing he could be confident about that day. Jesus Christ. The One who had begun His work of life in my heart, would be the one to finish it. He had left nothing unfinished on the cross. Grace had been emptied through perfect love. Glory had erupted from the tomb. The door that could only be moved by God himself had been left open.
I realized that day that Billy Graham had been holding the door open for years. He knew that it was not his efforts. Not his strength. All he could do was point to the One who had opened it in the first place. I have to say, it's a great job… to hold the door - especially when He has permanently kicked it open.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.