Thursday, December 21, 2006

When You Hit Rock Bottom and the Bottom Falls Out

I had a wonderfully horrible experience this week. I know that’s an oxymoron, but here’s what’s happened…

I met a guy while I was pumping gas. I was heading to lunch with a friend at a restaurant across the street, so I invited him to join us. We shared lunch and conversation for about 2 hours. I learned so much about him and we shared our own life highs and lows. In the end we prayed together and said goodbye. My new friend picked up his bag, got up off the curb (where we shared lunch together) and headed back into the woods…

That’s where he lives.

You see my new friend has been homeless for about four months. He’s struggling with a lot of life issues, emotional issues and spiritual issues (aren’t we all). The really hard part is he’s a really smart guy. He has a family (broken, like many, but a family). Yet, as we head into the coldest months of the year, he chooses to live in the woods. I asked him why – I’ve become a pretty direct person. He said he’s too embarrassed and ashamed to get help. I did my best to explain how there are places close by that WANT to help (he’s been to some of them already), but he simply won’t go.

I think the really sad part is he’s made so many bad decisions in his life he feels like that’s all he will ever do – continue to make bad decisions – he told me so. The truth is, he may be right, and only he can determine if that will come to pass.

The day we met was pretty warm, but it was soon to get very cold. That evening I took him some more water and a sleeping bag and a small book that I prayed he would read and God would reveal the truth to him. I’ve seen him a couple times since then and he’s using the sleeping bag, but it just doesn’t compare to real shelter.

My heart breaks for him, but I cannot make any decisions for him.

What I’ve tried to tell him (but he doesn’t believe) is how much his life has helped me. You see, for some reason I decided to care about this guy I’d never met. Honestly, it’s not me (I explained the real me in my last post – self-centered), but I’ve recently read a book by Rick McKinley called This Beautiful Mess and Rick has helped me put into practice some of the things that until now have just been head knowledge. What I mean is - I’ve known for a long time that God cares about the poor and the widowed and the homeless. I’ve known that my heart should break for the things that break God’s heart. But knowing about things and feeling them take place in your heart are two very different things.

I cannot tell you why I decided to get to know a man I normally would have been friendly towards, but quickly moved away from – accept to say I believe God’s transforming my heart to break for the things that break His heart. I’ll never fully get there. And it is painful – this man has been on my mind almost constantly as I wrestle with what I can do for him without enabling his poor decisions. But then God never said loving people would always be easy – yet He desires for us to love anyway.

I read a quote a while back that said, “You only love Jesus as much as the one you love the least.” I also just read an article (in a pastor’s magazine) that essentially said, “We need to worry less about gaining more knowledge and learn more about how to love people.” Both of these are filled with rich truth about what it means to truly be a Christ-follower.

Where will my friend end up? I really don’t know.

Does it hurt to see him huddled under a sleeping bag in the morning after a very cold night? More than I can explain.

Can I save him? Can I fix him? No – but I can love him; I can choose to see him as God sees him – one made in His own image – truly loved.

I know God wants so much more for my friend, but He never forces us. God allows us to make our own decisions. So, if God respects his decisions, so must I.

I’m beginning to see the world differently now – I’m beginning to be willing to acknowledge all of the brokenness (the Mess), but along with that comes the realization that God wants to break into people’s lives, and reveal His love for them (through us) and when that happens, it’s Beautiful. This world truly is a Beautiful Mess.

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