Gary was a difficult case for a small-group leader to figure out. When he started attending our military devotional group during a recent Middle East deployment, he wore a very critical demeanor. He was faithful, but his arms seemed to be always folded over his chest, and he wore an intimidating scowl. Another participant once said to him, "I think I've only ever seen you smile, like, once." Gary replied, "That was a grimace."
Still, he seemed to have a solid understanding of the gospel ... so I asked him to lead. In fact, I asked him to organize the devotional for the rest of his time in the desert, while I turned my attention to a couple of other groups that were meeting at the same time. Incredibly, he took to it like a duck to water. His devotionals were interesting, insightful and encouraging. People looked forward to them and attendance steadily grew as we filled up the back of the little coffee shop we used. God used him powerfully.
Before Gary left, he opened up to the group in an amazing confession. He said he had been angry with God over some of the things that had happened to him professionally in the recent past. Leading the devotional was exactly what he'd needed to restore his perspective and refresh his spirit. It was a display of emotion and openness that took us all by surprise, and blessed me tremendously.
Gary was not a devotional leader out of central casting. Instead, he was the example of God bringing together a need, an opportunity, and a gift in His perfect way.