I knew when I walked passed his hunched over frame that I would have to go back. I pushed my daughter’s stroller ahead and into the grocery store. Lord, you’re prompting me to interact with that homeless man aren’t you? You want me to pray? With Ari with me?
I’d just listened to Lysa TerKeurst speak on an Impact and Influence summit. She had said that one of the greatest gifts she could give her children was to teach them that their family was not brought together just to drive a minivan, live in a house with a white picket fence, and develop a comfortable life. They were on assignment to make this world a better place.
Lysa mentioned it was one thing to teach her kids they should love other people and another to invite them into a situation to love other people.
My daughter is a little over a year old. She doesn’t fully understand what it means to love people and, yet, that’s my wrong thinking. The only way she’ll get it is if we live it. Every day. Even if she doesn’t remember. Even if she doesn’t have a clue. One day, she will.
We finished up in the store and I stepped back outside. We were fast approaching the gentleman, and I wasn’t sure what I would do.
Before I figured it out, he spoke. “Can you give me some food?”
“I didn’t buy any food—just diapers,” I said. “But, I can go get you some.”
“I’m hungry. I get angry when I get too hungry and I kill people,” he said.
I knew in my spirit that he was harmless, and I was in a safe environment with lots of people around.
But, God didn’t call me to live safely. I thought about Ari’s safety, I wondered what kind of mother people might think me to be, and then I submitted to the Protector.
The only weapon he had was a crinkled brown statue at his side. His blood shot eyes fit the stereotype.
“Can you get me a hot dog with cheese?” he asked.
I looked towards the 7-11 nearby.
“Two of them. I’m a big guy,” he said.
“You wait here, and I’ll be back,” I promised.
I walked to the gas station. “We’re going to give these hot dogs to the homeless man I said to Ari as I squirted the nacho cheese on top.”
With cheese. A specialized meal for him, I thought.
Only when I handed over the hot dogs did I see the wet streak down his khaki pants. My heart broke for the loss of dignity he must feel.
Ari started to cry. He talked loud and he looked scary. He was an older gentleman, with graying, disheveled hair, unsightly teeth, and a patched blue jacket.
I unstrapped her from her stroller and held her on my hip—at a distance.
“Kids do that. They’re afraid,” he said.
I knew she was afraid. But, I could teach her to surrender to that fear or to step into the presence of Perfect Love.
“You wanna sit with me while I eat my hot dogs?” he questioned.
“I’ll stand here, thank you. She is scared.”
I could teach Ari vigilance and love. It’s possible to maintain physical distance without maintaining a distance of heart.
“You have no idea what it’s like to be so smart. I’m intelligent,” his voice broke. “You don’t know how hard it is to be so smart,” he said again, pain escaping with each word. He was about to break down, but he held it down.
I started to pray for him, but he interrupted. He just wanted to talk, wanted someone to listen.
He didn’t want my pity or my prayers—just a friend.
“Well, you could’ve gotten me a soda,” he said.
“Can you go in the store and get me a beer?”
“No I cannot,” I said.
“I guess you are a Christian,” he responded.
He hadn’t eaten in two days.
There’s a whole host of things that can cause a person to choose a drink over sustenance.
Cause the drink is all they know that can sustain a level of comfortable oblivion.
And, I may not choose a drink to sustain a level of comfort, of oblivion. But, don’t I choose from a whole host of things? The white picket fence, the minivan…
I won’t be an enabler, but I will submit to the Authority who gives me the means to be able to do something—my piece of the something. And, I’ll pray for the next person whose been given a different piece to be able to do something more.
And, I’ll get upset with the one who says I shouldn’t give a man a meal, because it’s not helpful or enough—it’s not sustainable help, or reform, or transformation. Because, this is the piece I carry.
The piece I carry so that when the one who can offer sustainable help and transformation comes, my person isn’t starving to death, because I didn’t do my part.
And, if I’ve been given an invitation to love like Christ, an invitation by the Holy Spirit, how can I not extend that invitation to my daughter?
How can I not invite her into a situation to love other people, to dangerously love other people when she’s called to?
“You don’t have to pray for me. God prays for me,” he said.
“You’re right. He does pray for you,” I replied.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” –Romans 8:26-27