Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Back to Him
Not far from where we live, there's a 13 mile bike path that leads straight to the beach, and today we decided to go for a ride. With very little thought about who or what we might encounter, we packed up the bikes and set out. I never imagined that from it would stem a defining moment of clarity over what I've been enduring for the last few weeks. Laughing in the car on the way over because my son refused to remove his protective helmet, I vowed to keep him safe. "Ashton, you don't have to wear that in the car. I'm going to drive safely, I promise," I assured him, but he stubbornly refused to take it off. So, I snapped a picture and continued on towards our destination. Still laughing over Ashton's insistence to wear his helmet, I stopped to pick up several bottles of water so we didn't dehydrate in the heat. After selecting a combination of regular and vitamin waters, we resumed driving. Upon arrival, we unloaded the bikes and walked to the path. Directly in front of us was a homeless man asleep under a tree, clearly trying to stay cool from the high temperatures. Next to him lay several trash bags, a bike, some other miscellaneous items, and a loyal dog. He was dirty, disheveled, and clearly tired. For those inclined to say "yeah, or drunk," I ask that you take a long, hard look in the mirror and if you like what you see, keep looking until you find that speck in your eye because I assure you there's one there. Whether he was intoxicated or tired isn't the real issue. He lay on the ground a broken and weathered man in man's most humble state - he was absolutely beautiful and fully loved by God even if not by man. As I looked at him, I wanted to just stay near him and make sure he was left alone by passersby, and in that moment I was reminded of why I'm here; it's not to serve myself, but to serve God.
As I stood there watching him sleep, I wanted to wake him and ask how I could help, but because there's always an element of danger in these situations I let him be. I took one of our water bottles and set it against his things in hopes that it would still be cold when he woke, yet I still struggled to leave his presence. What was his name? Where had he been? Had he been walking or riding all day in the heat, carrying his every belonging at his side? When did he last eat? I thought of how easy it is for me to eat when I'm hungry and drink when I'm thirsty. My mind went back to the moment at the gas station when I mixed and matched regular water with vitamin water with little regard for cost. It was simply a necessity for my day's plans, so we bought in bulk. So many of us don't even know what it feels like to have a thirst or hunger that can't be quenched, but when we see someone who very definitely knows the pain of unsatisfied hunger and thirst, we keep moving past them because they don't smell clean and certainly don't look right. I remember clearly the days I used to be one who walked past; it's not satisfying, it's shaming.
The next time you see someone sleeping on the ground, on a bench, or in a park, don't assume he or she is a lazy drunk who wont get a job. That's not only arrogant and judgmental, but it's ignorance at it's most supreme. Think about a time in your own life when you were so hungry you actually had pain. Or, can you not remember such a time? Many from the homeless population live with this pain as a way of life, not because they choose to, but because they are forced to when we don't offer a helping hand. If a homeless man approached you tomorrow and asked you for a job, would you ask what skills he had? Would you set aside time from your day to get to know his employment background? Get to know him? Or, would you wave him away and hurry about your business? Well, your business, if you're helping only yourself, is useless. Sit down with the homeless sometime and see where they come from. You might be surprised to learn that they were once just like you. I did take the picture off to the right, not to shame this person, but to share with you the sleeping man who captured both my attention and my heart.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:7)
As my recent posts reflect, I've been going through some things that have left me uncertain over both my present and my future, but in small blocks of time over the last few days, God has shown me where I'm meant to be, and it's with Him. Though I've known that for quite some time, I was nevertheless pulling away from a relationship I've worked so hard to build. "Well, a relationship with God shouldn't be hard," you might say, but the truth is - it is hard sometimes, especially when it starts out where mine did. It has been an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but as hard as it has at times been, it is the relationship I value most in this world. God has softly been calling me back to Him from the minute I slowly began stepping away, and in just the few moments I spent in the presence of an unknown homeless man, I remembered why I chose God; it's because He first chose me (1 John 4:19). He gave me my heart for this group of people and unless I'm fully focused on God, then I'm not fully focused on them.
When you're going through life and feel pulled away from God, answer His gentle calls to bring you back. Though the last few weeks I've felt pulled away and the days certainly would have been easier had He loudly shouted to me from the Heavens, He doesn't work that way. He does, however, know how to use what you're passionate about to draw you back in because He gave you the passion. If you're feeling like He's far away, He's not. Simply look for the broken in spirit and you'll find Him there. Get your mind off of you and onto someone who needs help; it's the quickest way to get into the heart of God. Whatever you do, get back to Him as quickly as possible. If what you're doing or who your spending your time with doesn't revolve around God, then it's the wrong place to be and the wrong people with whom to spend time. Get back to Him. You'll never fall so far away that He wont welcome you back with open arms. Trust Him to love you no matter where you've been or what you've done, because He does. Trust that.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)