One time, decades ago, back in the Jim Crow days, an elderly black man had to travel, away from his home town, in order to conduct some business. That business took longer than expected, and it came about that he had to stay over the weekend.
As he was a devout and pious man, he wanted very much to worship the Lord, but he had something of a dilemma. He was on foot, and all the black churches were much too far away. There was a church just up the road from where he was, but he was pretty sure that it was a white church, and intent on staying that way.
He was not wrong in this assumption, but as Sunday approached, his need to worship grew stronger and stronger. Finally, about 8 am Sunday morning, he realized he couldn’t say no and decided he was going to give it a try. He braced himself for some awkwardness, but years of this kind of thing had more or less thickened his skin.
He walked up the road to the church, silently praying, and initially is appeared that his prayers were ineffectual. As he mounted the front steps, a deacon stepped into his path, and silently shook his head. Rather than have a confrontation, he turned around and went back down the steps. As he was walking away, he noticed that there was a side door, and so he walked over there. Somebody must have seen him cutting across the lawn, and he was met at that door by a different deacon, who silently shook his head.
“Third time’s the charm,” he said to himself, as he walked around to the other side of the church. But they were on to him by this point, and he was met by three deacons, the two he had already met, and a new one, all of them shaking their heads.
As he was walking back to his place, he raised his head to Heaven, and said, “Lord, I am so sorry. For some reason I had a real burden this morning to worship You. I am so sorry . . .”
And then a voice spoke from Heaven. “Child, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ve been trying to get into that church for years.”