God reminded me today that He wants me more accessible and available to be His conduit of grace and extension of mercy to others in need, regardless of how inconvenient.
My full schedule, on a scorching Summer day, was carefully-planned with precision and focus. The reward for the exhausting battle in traffic and checkout lanes was a tasty morsel at the local fast food restaurant. I was really looking forward to going home and taking a swim in the refreshing cool lake in mermaid-like fashion.
God had a different agenda for my afternoon. I wasn’t prepared for Heaven’s unexpected intrusion on my convenience or my conscience. Initially, I wasn’t too happy about it either.
The usual alpha-jockeying for road lane dominance marked my exit from the parking lot. Upon leaving, I was startled seeing a sun-wrinkled, rough-bearded man sitting on the curb. He was clutching a dirty duffle bag and a hand-scribbled sign that announced his plea.
I tried to read the cardboard placard, but it was impossible to do so from the corner of my eye. I deliberately didn’t turn my head to make eye contact with the beggar. My conscience was briefly stabbed as guilt called my attention to selfish obsession on swimming for my own pleasure, while letting someone deeply hurting, to drown in his desperate misery.
Dutifully, though, as any pious being would (sarcasm here, against my not-so-thinly-veiled hypocrisy), I prayed for this street person. I wanted God to help him in some tangible way, for whatever he needed, but requested the assistance come from someone other than me.
I didn’t want to be inconvenienced.
Halfway, home, I couldn’t escape the haunting heart-whispers from my Creator, pestering me, “Why not YOU, Marta? Why don’t YOU, help him?”
I became a spoiled brat at that moment and demanded from God, “What about my swim in the lake before dark? I need that ‘me’ time!”
God, responded, “When have I ever been inaccessible to you, during your times of need? Never!”
Reluctantly, but in humble obedience to what I felt strongly led to do, I returned to the eatery. As I slowly drove around the building, I fought the demons of internal rationalization to not do something that was risky and inconvenient — reach out in service to someone clearly in need.
When I ended up near to where this gentleman was sitting, I noticed he was gone and remarked, “Whew! Thank You, Lord for officially relieving me of the obligation.” I sheepishly looked up to Heaven knowing fully, I was a lazy, spineless coward. I justified myself by remarking to God, “Well, at least my heart was willing.” I strongly felt God’s disappointment and knew I wasn’t absolved from accountability.
My peripheral vision saw that the man was very upset. He stormed out of the restaurant mumbling something barely intelligible, “Doesn’t anybody care? Doesn’t anyone want to give a kid a chance and feed him?” I didn’t see any child accompanying him and thought this street bum was obviously delusional.
Suddenly, a young boy appeared who looked about 10 years old. Immediately, the scrawl on the man’s sign, completely made sense. He was pan-handling for the boy, not himself.
There was no escaping God’s persistence on my conscience when He relentlessly probed to the point I had to either obey or sin. “Why not YOU, Marta? Why don’t YOU, feed my sheep?”
Cautiously, in clinging faith, I rolled my window down and asked the man, “How can I help you?” He mumbled anger borne out of hopelessness, but I insisted. “Sir, I’m going to park this car, and you’re going to tell me what I can do for you and your kid.” His demeanor towards me was stunned but humbly grateful when Heaven’s grace met tears of need.
I felt tremendously insufficient to provide the remedy needed by these two. The uncle relayed that the ten-year old and his younger brother were often left without food or transportation by parents who were severely addicted to cocaine. Over the years, the uncle, despite dilapidating disability, which prevented him from keeping a steady job, provided physical and emotional sanctuary when he could.
When asked if I could drive them to the uncle’s home, a section of town not listed in the city’s “best places to live,” my internal struggle to move past comfort and convenience screamed louder. However, there was a certainty within me that though I was learning about their needs, my responsibility to them was not yet complete.
After buying a meal for these two and the brother, I drove them home, inwardly praying that God would keep me safe, and His love prevailing would tear down walls. They were used to cruel ridicule from strangers. Mistrust abounded.
Grace given was foreign to them. Their hearts softened when mercy was demonstrated.
A full stomach oftentimes can fill an empty soul.
Their suspicion of strangers didn’t change because I purchased food for the boy and his brother to stave off belly-growling hunger. Rather, trust was reborn in them because I allowed my shield of agendas, expediency, and risk to be dumped at the foot of Christ’s cross; where selfishness always belongs.
The scruffy, smelly man in tattered clothing made a comment which reminded me that the point of my existence is not grocery shopping, or filling up my gas tank, or swimming in the lake.
It’s not about me. It’s about them; those who need a touch of compassion, of hope, and yes, Heaven-birthed unconditional love.
We held hands in a circle, standing in his living room that held little furniture, praying together for God to intervene in their entire family’s severely-dysfunctional life. Afterward, he was barely able to speak from his soul’s bleeding and heart crying:
“Ma’am, God sent you to us to remind me that not every human being doesn’t give a %#$* (curse) about people like me and my nephews. He sent you to remind us of His love. I was about to give up believing that anyone cared, including God. You have restored my faith in people, and in Him.”
I choked with tears hearing that from him as the reality of my initial self-centeredness seeped deep into my soul’s crevices.
At that tender moment, somehow the swim in the lake for MY personal enjoyment was grossly insignificant to a larger reminder of how easily within reach Christ and His hope is to all His beloved creation — through me, through you, through us.
There is no one unworthy of God’s love. No one.