This week, something happened that shook the foundations. This is unusual because I live the quiet life of a dedicated introvert. I’m never attracted to big crowds, clamorous gatherings, or high-voltage social situations, even though I’m called to ministry. Yet this week, I deliberately chanced the high-wire. I walked right out of my comfort zone and on to the front line of fire.
Of course, it wasn’t on my own initiative. It was definitely a divine prodding. There I was, at 6:00 am on a Friday morning, serenely sitting down for my time with the Lord. What should I see but a well-coated figure with a backpack, drop down heavily onto one of the benches. Even from a distance, he had the look of the travelling homeless about him. Now it had been raining hard all night, thunder-storming, in fact; billowing winds, driving rain, even hail. If that poor soul had been caught out in the downpour with minimal shelter, it was no joke. I heard the Lord say clearly, unmistakably, ‘Go and take him breakfast’.
As I’ve mentioned, this kind of assertive personal interaction is not really in my wheelhouse, but I dared not hesitate. I couldn’t tell from the safety of my building, if the hooded figure was young, old, male or even female, so I approached cautiously, calling gently from several respectful feet away. A young man in his mid-to-late twenties, painfully thin, eyed me warily. He had on very good quality clothing, very dirty. There was no sign or scent of any kind of ‘high’ around him. Apparently, I didn’t look too threatening, because after handing him a hot chocolate and my bagged breakfast, we introduced ourselves (I’ll call him Samuel), and shared a few words. Still leery, he told me he was from Edmonton, just passing through Camrose. We had some other light conversation and I ended up praying for him. I left, feeling that deep joy you do when you follow the promptings of the Spirit.
Three days later, who should reappear again early in the park, but Samuel. This time, he was on a bench facing the building, which I took as an unspoken invitation. I was equipped with a more substantial offering, and he greeted me with the ghost of a smile. Apparently, he had biked his way to Hardisty (a considerable distance) and back for undisclosed personal reasons, and was on his way ‘home’. We ended up talking for an hour about highly spiritual and existential matters; the environment, evolution, entropy, and pantheism, to name just a few. My knowledge of Scripture is fairly comprehensive, but I had to pull out all the stops to answer his piercing questions and challenges. Here was an intelligent, well-educated, highly mannered and thoughtful young man. I didn’t pry into the circumstances that found him in his current situation, but his quiet dignity and conviction left me impressed. I marveled that it was just little ole me the Lord chose to bless Samuel.
Thinking about it all later, I realized, shockingly, that Samuel, so exposed to a hard life on the street, had a far more optimistic outlook than I did. Through it all, he believed in people; in their intrinsic goodness. Though I may not have expressed it, my own perspective feels far more jaded and cynical. I was the disillusioned one. I was the one with battered trust issues. Of course, I’m older, but I’ve had by far the ‘safer’ life, so what gives? It’s mighty hard, even for believers, not to become skeptical about the nature of man they see, even in the Church. Of course, nobody’s perfect, but we are looking for some semblance of new creation reality here. Where is the proper balance in the way we view life and people?
The Word says “But Jesus, for His part, did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people [and understood the superficiality and fickleness of human nature], and He did not need anyone to testify concerning man [and human nature], for He Himself knew what was in man [in their hearts—in the very core of their being].” John 2:24-25 Amp. But then it also says “Greater love has no man than this….that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Lord, what does all this mean in a practical manner? How can you love people, and minister to them, without getting your heart totally used and abused in the process? When should you be suspicious? Who can you trust, and under what conditions? We’ve all trusted people we shouldn’t have; people far more dangerous to our well-being than the displaced homeless. It seems absurdly complicated. Jesus, if even you did not entrust yourself to men, how do you love rightly? There are some very fine lines present here. I need revelation.
Maybe we see things too much through the mirror of our own soul…our own experience. You’ll find what you’re looking for, good, bad or ugly. Expectations are the mirrors of the soul, the manifestation of our internal temperature. The secret, ultimately, is abiding in the love of God. This is the only safe place in the entire equation of life. Secure in God’s concern for me personally, no matter what happens, the dangerous jungle of human interaction becomes minimized. In the secret place of His intimacy, we are protected from predators. I aspire to walk in the bold love Jesus did; not stupidly gullible, but not hard and merciless either.
Occasionally, life sends us a wake-up call. Mine came in the innocent form of Samuel. I hope I did him good; I know he did good to me.