This week, I witnessed the seamless flow of God’s will. When you are obedient to His direction, sometimes it’s like watching a Rube Goldberg machine. You know, one of those convoluted contraptions that seems perform a whole lot of unnecessary tasks just to accomplish a final goal. While you watch the little marble travel down the track to gently tap the bowling ball, you don’t necessarily know its objective, but every single aspect of the pulley system, every downed-domino has a collective purpose. We may ask what the relevance of reaching out to a stranger might be. Whether or not He whispers the answer in your ear – and if he does, kudos – the most straightforward way of finding out is to simply go along with it and find out.
Last week, I was prompted to consider how I treat those less fortunate than me. Though it isn’t something I am proud of, I can admit that I don’t always see people of different socio-economic backgrounds; I tend to love the people that God puts directly in my line of vision. I mean, I guess it’s a good thing that I put forth effort to love someone, but there is a clear and definite need for more of God’s people to intentionally seek out those who are, for the most part, unseen. I don’t treat them unkindly. But when I am driving up Center Street and see the man on the corner, I tend not to make eye contact.
I once bought him a happy meal, and we exchanged pleasantries. But when the light turned green, I sped off to my warm bed and dry clothes and didn’t think too much more about the wind-beaten, sunbaked, scraggly-haired man in hand-me-downs at the corner of Center and 4th.
God put it on my heart to address my shortcoming straightforward. The Dream Center puts on a breakfast for the homeless community in the Downtown Little Rock area every Saturday morning. They serve food, offer showers, wash clothes, and spend time with the guests. I contacted the director and filled the last vacant spot on the serve team for that day.
As excited as I was to serve a community of people I’d never truly invested in, I was also terrified that my social anxiety would overtake me. I’m not very good in crowds, and to try to connect with people so different from me seemed nearly impossible. I recognized that this was a task from God with a purpose. I gritted my teeth and accepted the challenge.
I showed up running solely on coffee and the Holy Spirit. We prepped for the onslaught of guests and began to serve meals. My job was a simple one – sit down and listen. That’s how I met Mr. Dave. He complimented my hat. Thankful for an opening into a conversation, I sat down and complimented the patchwork of tattoos that covered his arms.
For the next few hours we talked about a million different things. He had the symbols for biohazard and toxic waste on his forearms. He got them because he felt pretty toxic at the time. We talked about the decisions we make to love others and pour out positivity. I got to tell him about how, when God is our source instead of people, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we will run out of love to show others. We don’t run dry when the river has no end. When I described the meaning behind my forearm tattoo, the one that says, “Consider the lilies,” (Matt 6:28), we found ourselves on the subject of anxiety and depression and how, despite our many differences, we both deal heavily with fear and social anxiety. I explained how God was my foundation in the moments that I feel overwhelmed and about ways to overcome it in the moment. We also talked about how we were both hesitant to show up today, him for a meal and me to serve.
He encouraged me the whole time, telling me how grateful that we broke through the fear. He wasn’t afraid to let me know that I was easy to talk to and that he was glad he had met me. In turn, I was thankful for someone so willing to connect with me. Though he, along with every person in the room, had the justification to be cold and angry at the world, there was not a single person who wasn’t excited for an open ear. I didn’t think I would be able to connect with anyone today. I was afraid of my innate awkwardness. But the thing is, Dave wasn’t the only person I met that morning with a warm smile and kind words. But is not that the single most beautiful aspect of God in man? The choice of joy beyond justification, beyond sense, now that is the stuff of the Holy Spirit. How encouraging is it to see so many incredible people with love in their hearts? I know their source.
I never realized just how much God serves us through our service to Him. I built a friendship with a man I never would’ve looked twice at walking down the street except to maybe avoid eye contact, and I look forward to seeing him again.
It isn’t where we’ve come from that unites us as a church but where we are going. I am thankful for a God patient enough to teach me this lesson.