He was just walking around downtown Sunday, looking for someone to bum a cigarette from.
He happened to walk by the church, was invited in and stumbled upon our two snacks and a drink surprise on Easter.
Something hit me when he walked by. I don’t know what. Maybe it was that he was young and reminded me of my students. Maybe it was that he looked a little lost and a lot hungry. Definitely it was that God nudge that I sometimes ignore.
I didn’t ignore the nudge.
He was 20. Went to a local high school. Straight A student freshman and sophomore years. Barely passing after that.
I didn’t know for sure that he was homeless until a young person from the church stopped to talk to him, said he knew him from when HE was homeless. I asked if I could pray with him. Talked about God meets us where we are not where we think we should be. How he uses us in all our brokenness (THANK GOODNESS!).
The boy left church service a few minutes in. I thought he’d skipped out, but he found me after to let me know he’d gotten sick but didn’t leave. He heard the whole message.
I gave him a hug and we talked about dancing because at the end of service a DJ played dub step and the kid was a self-taught dancer. Then I told him I hoped to see him next week and walked away.
And ever since he’s been on my mind–especially with the rain and cold.
I kind of feel like crying when I think about him. I mean I talked with him, prayed with him, gave him a hug, but then I walked away and went on about life, and he went back to the streets. It’s not enough. But I don’t know what enough is. How many others like him and the other young man from the church are out there? How can we be okay with kids living on the streets? How can we NOT be okay with it?
I know homelessness is a huge issue, far bigger than my limited past understands. When I naively said something about it being so sad and usually a substance abuse issue, my niece who’s been there said “You’d be surprised,” and I realized I really have no clue and all my suppositions are pointless.
I know an answer. One. God.
And that answer is the only way I can come to terms with the fact that I left church Sunday with that boy walking one way and me headed off to lunch with friends. But even that feels like a cop-out, an easy answer for the teacher who’s building a house and complains that the old house gets hot in the summer but who’s never been hungry or alone or so lost that walking around bumming cigarettes off strangers is the norm. For the Christian who’s all fine and good saying “Be the Jesus to those who don’t know HIm” but then only does so in thimblesfull of hugs and prayers and maybe a donation every once in a while.
The last six weeks I’ve been listening to Colonial preacher JIm Botts about being a Roof Wrecker and for the last year and a half I’ve listened to One Life minister Ronnie Whitfield about the church being Jesus to the lost, out in the community, NOT a building. It’s changed me. Made me see how little I do, how much more God asks from us, how many are searching for something to fill a void and I feel so tiny and so limited by myself.
There’s a great Nooma video about Jesus asking the disciples to take his yoke and what that really means and how it’s still what God asks from us today. I NEVER felt guilty about my lack there until now.
I’m not sure what the answers are. I’ll let you know what I find out.