A gray dusk provide faint privacy as I sat in my car. Loose change, headphones and computer accounted for I opened the car door.
I noticed his silhouette as I collected these things in my car, doors locked. He sat knees drawn close to his chest, his head covered by a red hoodie rested on the tips of his knees. A scrubby face kissed soiled jeans.
As I collected my writing effects I decidedly told God, “I’m not helping this man…unless You really want me to.”
After a project to clean a park crowded with homeless my heart became angry; homeless people the target of that anger.
Semi-annually Love Modesto, a collaborative project of churches and other organizations from our community, gather to serve the community in practical ways. Our small group from church chose a project so children among our group could participate.
We knew it was a homeless hangout, but we wanted to help and teach our kids to serve. How bad could it be? As we helped we had to teach our kids about hypodermic needles, explain obvious human waste, walk around sleeping bags filled with warm bodies slumbering in the middle of the day and the group who drank booze from brown bags. I regretted our choice.
“Mama, what is that?” my innocent daughter asked as she plucked a piece of trash by the head of a sleeping person. “It’s a person sleeping.” Her face showed confusion.
As anger brewed in my heart I encouraged myself with the fact that our efforts helped a friend’s church, Church in the Park. She and I met through Bible Study Fellowship when my family first moved back to California. As we served together her godly wisdom and experience influenced and encouraged my life. Through Facebook I’ve watched her church love this group of people with God’s love.
But that wasn’t enough. As I surveyed the situation my heart grew hard towards the homeless. I even suggested to my husband, “Next time let’s go mow lawns in an average neighborhood. Those people are always serving and never served or loved on.” Humph.
If you’ve read Peacequility, you know in the past the homeless occupy a tender spot in my heart. Within two hours all that vanished. “They’re ungrateful and don’t even care what we’re doing. They’ll never change so let’s leave them alone.” I’ve heard people spout this philosophy for years and my voice now joined theirs.
As if that’s what mattered, their level of gratitude.
As if that’s why we serve one another, to change each other.
My wrong motives surfaced.
I wanted something from my giving.
I wanted a feeling of goodness to wash over my heart.
As if my feelings represent a reason to serve.
My heart still hard I wanted to ignore this man. I even ensured the loose change in my pocket moved in silence. Then I heard it, the proverbial beginning, “Excuse me ma’am….” If my eyes rolled the still lifting night sky covered me; a final indiscretion veiled before daylight.
“Could you spare some change?”
I threw a tantrum in my heart. “I woke early, dragged myself out of bed before daylight to write- for You Lord. I don’t need this interruption.” I’m grateful the world cannot hear my inner dialogue with God.
Serve the least of these.
I know better than to go against God’s nudges and approached the man.
I don’t give money, but I do buy food.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” the words felt forced, like a child sharing a toy against her will.
“Oh yes, that would be nice.”
God gave me decency otherwise impossible for my heart, “Would you like to come in and order?”
“Oh no. I’m too embarrassed to go in there.”
With those words God broke my heart. I went in and ordered stunned.
This man needed help financially and physically. He needed someone willing to take his place and obtain what he could not. This is the gospel story.
You and I need someone willing to do what we cannot so we can go unashamed into the holy presence of the Lord our God. Because Jesus was willing to take our place we can go where we otherwise couldn’t- the holy presence of God.
God didn’t call us to serve and help others to feel good, service is the gospel story in the flesh and blood.
Inwardly I asked God, “Do I tell this man about You?”
No, he showed Me to you.
We’re all in need of the gospel story. I didn’t want to serve this man, but chose to follow God’s prompting. Through that homeless man God recesitated my hard heart.
Are you serving for a feeling of doing good or to live out loud the gospel?
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