By Jane Wilcox as told to Esther Bailey

       I tried to squelch the urge. Speaking with a coworker about spiritual things usually puts me on edge-I fear I'll say the wrong thing-and this time the risk was even greater.

       In my professional office in Phoenix, workers do not approach the top executive without a good reason, but nevertheless last year God impressed on my spirit the need to speak to Mr. Stillwell. And to make matters more uncomfortable, I had no inkling what I should say to him.

       Hesitantly, I walked toward his big office. At a distance I recognized that the young boss wasn't at his desk. What a relief! Now I can forget the whole thing, I thought.

       Back at my computer, I tried to concentrate on the detailed work demanding my full attention. However, several times Mr. Stillwell's face flashed before my mind as clearly as if it had appeared on my computer screen. What is going on with me? Have I watched too many episodes of "Touched by an Angel"?

       I had developed a good rapport with Mr. Stillwell during my tenure at the office, so my inner voice continued to argue that he would listen to me because he respected my commitment to handle company business with integrity.

       Finally, my inner voice won out, and I retraced my steps. I hoped the boss would still be gone, but he sat at his desk amid mountains of paperwork. Maybe the secretary would tell me he couldn't be disturbed, but she said, "Go right in."

        "Lord, I hope you know what I'm doing," I silently prayed as I entered the office.

What to say?

With no clue as to what I should say, I stalled for time. "Do you have a minute, Mr. Stillwell?" I asked from the door.

        "Sure." He paused, expecting me to speak, then added, "What can I do for you?"

        "I was wondering what I might do for you."

        "Beg Pardon?"

        "I was told to come and see you."

       Question marks clouded his face. Somewhat annoyed, he said, "Who sent you?"

       I think he would have dismissed me immediately had I blurted out, "God sent me." So, in spite of raging emotions, I tried to portray a casual front. "A little angel tapped me on the shoulder," I said. "I just knew I should come to see you, but I don't know why."

       Stunned, Mr. Stillwell's expression froze, but I could not interpret his reaction. Was he angry that I had invaded his privacy? At that moment I think I knew how Queen Esther felt as she waited to see if the king would extend to her his golden scepter.

Mr. Stillwell's answer

        "Won't you sit down?" he finally said. I sank into a plush chair and waited for my superior to take over the conversation. The Holy Spirit certainly wasn't prompting me with words.

        "Well-" He paused to rearrange some of the papers on his desk. Then he spoke. "For some time I have been wrestling with a problem - a family problem." He didn't go into great detail, but I learned his recent marriage, which had created a blended family, had led to some conflicts.

        "You have a heavy load," I said when he finished. "I'm really sorry."

        "My question is: Who comforts the comforter?" Mr. Stillwell continued. "I try to keep my wife happy. Always looking ahead, I try to avoid the kinds of situations that set off sparks among the children. I'm the comforter to everyone else, but who is there for me?"

       At last the Holy Spirit loosed my tongue. "That's why I'm here," I said. "God sent me to tell you he loves you. Tell God about your pain and ask him to help."

And one more thing...

       The tension in the air vanished, replaced by a sense of peace that made words unnecessary.

       Mr. Stillwell broke the silence. "Thank you. I just wish God's love would make a difference in my family."

       Because I felt much of the misery in his home resulted from poor choices, I felt obliged to introduce the tough side of God's love before I left. I told him that there are consequences that come with failing to follow God's plan. Under sudden inspiration, I added, "My pastor recently did a sermon series you might find helpful. Could I bring you a tape?"

        "Yes, please do. I'd like that."

       I knew it was time to leave. "Mr. Stillwell, when I came here, I had no idea what I would say. I just want to tell you I love you like a son and now I know how to pray for you."

       When I returned to my desk, I spotted a sermon tape I had brought to work. Apparently it had been there for weeks, but I had ignored it. The title was "Love, Tough Love!"-the very one I had in mind for my boss. It emphasized both the toughness and tenderness of God's love. I hurried back to his office.

        "Mr. Stillwell, I'm surprised I had this at work, but I think maybe it was meant for you." The rest of the day my computer practically sang to me.

The boss's request

       Two days later Mr. Stillwell called me to his office. That usually meant I would need to interrupt what I was doing to complete a rush job. This time, though, he wanted something else.

        "May I go to church with you?" he asked.

       I was astonished. Somehow I couldn't picture my boss in church, but I managed to say, "I'd be delighted."

       For three consecutive Sundays Mr. Stillwell attended my church, though we didn't sit together. One week, after a powerful sermon, the pastor invited people to come forward for prayer, and I saw my boss among the first to respond. I don't know what business he did with God, but afterward he seemed more at peace at the office. I'm convinced God's presence made the difference.

       The next week Mr. Stillwell began attending another church, closer to his home, with his wife. At work, things went back to normal where we had minimal personal contact, though occasionally I would tell him I was praying for him and he would thank me. I just continue to trust God to deal with any of his family issues.

       As I reviewed the experience later, I felt good about my role in the drama-ready to take on another challenge. Suddenly, my self-confidence shocked me.

        "Lord, forgive my pride," I prayed. "I know I accomplished nothing by myself. I recognize that only you reached Mr. Stillwell, and I give You all the praise and glory."

       So the next time the Holy Spirit prompts me to move out of my comfort zone, I will tremble with human inadequacy. Then I will step out on faith, knowing that God's incredible power will transform my weakness.

       Editor's note: Around Christmas last year, Jane gave her boss a small gift, and he ended up inviting her to his church. She went this March and says her boss seemed to be an active and well-liked person within the congregation.