This post is in no way about self-humility, my abilities or actions, but it is about my Jesus who is ever-present, vocal, active and more real than ever.
Monday started optimistic, cheerful and thankful. Then Wednesday crept in and I was covered by a dark cloud of unemployed sadness. What was I doing and how did I get here? I hit the streets to attempt my first day with a part time sales position I picked up. Let’s just say it didn’t go so well. It was the day before thanksgiving and people wanted to talk to me just about as much as I wanted to talk to them. To top it all off, my boots weren’t warm enough and my feet were freezing.
Annoyed, frustrated, and wallowing in self-pity, I slugged back to my car.
Then I saw them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw matted hair, dirty clothes and a pan for change. I kept walking as the cigarette smell and urge to talk to them followed me. I didn’t want to. I was cold and tired and too wrapped up in myself. Against my wishes, I knew I had to turn around.
I spent the next 20 minutes listening to the engaged couples’ story. Jail, unemployment, disability, camping tickets, warrants, more jail and here they were today. The woman took deep drags from her American Spirits and smoked it until her lips touched her finger tips. I didn’t necessarily feel sorry for them, but somewhere from within I couldn’t contain the compassion I felt.
I knew I wouldn’t give them cash, but asked if there was something the needed—food, sleeping bags, coats. The man who had stayed somewhat silent piped up quickly. “Shoes. We need shoes.” He took his hand and traced the deep cracks in his fiancé’s boots. “It will snow soon, and we cannot afford wet feet.”
My silent cursings at my crackless boots haunted me.
“Of course,” I responded humbly. I gave them the address to our church and told them to meet me and my husband there on Sunday morning. If the church’s resource center didn’t have boots, we would go get the sizes they needed.
Steve and I stood in the foyer of the church yesterday waiting for the tattered couple. “I hope they show up,” I lied. (I told you this story is NOT about me!)
Twenty minutes late I saw the unintentional dreads and mismatched clothes walk toward the church. I introduced Steve to the couple, and we met with the church receptionist who would help us find the boots. Five minutes into our conversation the man had to leave for a smoke break. Annoyance sparked in my blood.
The kind church receptionist began to share with the woman all the different resources in the city where they could find more assistance. She avoided eye-contact, “Yeah, yeah, we will check into it,” she shrugged with disinterest. The woman complained more about the $300 she needed to pay her one of her fines, and how she couldn’t afford it. She admitted she was an alcoholic, which soaked up all her extra cash. The annoyance turned to frustration. I didn’t want to help them anymore. They weren’t even trying. They didn’t really need help.
When the man returned in a cloud of stale smoke, the couple followed Steve and me into church.
I was humbled to be there with them, humbled that Jesus had put us in their life, even just for a day. But I was frustrated. How could I help someone who didn’t even want to help themselves?
I missed the first part of the sermon worrying about the second hand smoke our guests were passing along to the people in front of us, but then I tuned in, and Jesus spoke loud and clear.
“Jesus does not call us to clean up our act and then come to Him; He invites us to come to Him now, wherever we are, in whatever situation, sin, or addiction,” the pastor explained.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV
“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Luke 5:32 NLT
The pastor went on to say that true heart transformation happens when we follow Jesus, not before. The more we follow Him, the more like Him we will become. How beautiful! How good is our God that he changes us from the inside out, instead of expecting us to do it on our own. How gracious of Him that He loves us in the midst of our sin– no 5 step program to finding Jesus, no breathalyzers into His presence and no rules to seeking Him.
My world stopped for a moment as I glanced at the young couple next to me. They were holding hands and chatting in loud whispers. What differentiated us from them? Jesus loved them all the same—right where they are, for who they are. Who was I to judge their circumstance, or to lock up my love until they “fixed” their problems? I had never walked a day in their cracked boots or constructed a shelter out of cardboard.
The homeless couple got their boots, but I think I walked away with a lot more.
Thank you Jesus for dying for our sins: past, present, and future, for loving us in the midst of our struggles and transforming us into your likeness!
Wherever you are, Jesus loves you. In whatever sin you are stuck, Jesus loves you. No questions, prerequisites or disqualifications. If we follow Him, transformation will follow.