Everybody has a story, sometimes we’re just in too much of a hurry to hear it. Oh Lord, give us ears to hear.
It was a cool Saturday morning. My boys each had a friend over. The natives were getting restless, so I decided to get them out for a bit. A quick stop at an estate sale, then off to get some sweet mexican bread (Pan Dulce). The boys enjoyed getting to pick out a couple of delicious breakfast treats. The shop was about a block away from our church. The woman knew little english, but we tried our best to communicate. I asked where they were from and she said Matamoros, Mexico. She asked where we were from (what, do I not look like I’m from here?!) It could be the little blonde haired children with me. I told her we go to church right down the street. She said she went there like three years ago, and I told her (in my best broken down spanglish), you should come back, you would love it. She smiled.
With that, we continued on our journey to the lovely Dean Porter Park. The boys enjoyed sitting on the pick-nick benches, eating the their bread and cookies. Well, until the bees came that is. And off the boys went to play.
There were only a small handful of families out, but one family in particular caught my eye. I quietly observed without looking like a stalker. The couple looked tired. The woman yelled often at her three small children. I could hear the rage and turmoil in her voice. My eyes met the mans. They were empty; shallow. I wonder what their story is? I watched the woman with sad eyes cover her face with her hands with a look of defeat. Yelled again, overpowering the small boy. Her voice had the power to wake sleeping birds in the neighboring tree nearby. And the small child cried. It was a cry of fear and sadness.
This is where my heart shifted. My heart is extra sensitive to kids being mistreated. Because of my own scars I bear from childhood, it is my natural instinct to rise up against the injustice of a child.
But something shifted in my vision. I saw past the empty man who showed no response to his surroundings. I looked past the woman shouting uncontrollably at her children. And I saw. I saw two broken people that looked as if the pain and suffering of this world was almost too much to bare.
In the past, I might have shaken my head as I walked by, as if to say, “You evil lady, don’t you know you’re hurting them by your overpowering shouting?!” And what would that have done? Would that one judgmental moment make her realize she needs Jesus and that her life is spiraling out of control? We both know the answer to that. She would have continued to sink down that same self-destructive path and those precious children would be no better off because of my self-righteous judgement. It’s the attitude that says, “Surely, I’ve got it all together, but you, well, you’re a mess.” Might I say that we are all a mess at times and in desperate need of a Savior?
I walked up to the table. I can only wonder what they were thinking. Surely the woman who has it all together has come to condemn. “I hope this doesn’t sound strange,” I said, “but I would love to invite ya’ll to our church.” I felt the Holy Spirit on me so strongly, that I thought my heart might burst. I felt compassion for this family instead of judgement. This family. Broken before me. I gave them the details- time, address, etc. And that I felt like God was going to do something in their family. The woman offered a polite smile. The man repeatedly thanked me. And I walked off. Even if they thought I was crazy, it’s okay. People thought Jesus was crazy.
As the woman and children got up and walked past me, the man stopped. “Tell me again where your church is?” I tore out a piece of paper and wrote the address with some more detail. The man looked at me with tears welling up in his eyes. “You see, my family and I have been separated. My wife and our children are living with her mother, but her mother won’t let me stay. Coming to the park is the only way I can spend time with my children. I have no job, no money, no car. Sometimes I sleep on these park benches. Last night I slept downtown at the shelter.” I handed him the only cash I had, which wasn’t much. He said, “Oh no, are you sure?” It was the first and only time a homeless man asked me if I was sure when offering money.
Then he asked me if I would say a blessing for him and his family. “Sir, is it alright if I pray with you?” “Oh yes, please, I would like that.” And we prayed. And at that moment, I saw it for what it was. Holy. I was once again reminded that we are standing on holy ground. We prayed. I offered hope. To me, it was just a few moments out of my life, a few dollars, and a prayer. But to him I offered hope from a God who sees; a God who loves; and a God who cares.
God saw this family for what they were. Not with eyes of judgment and distaste, but with the eyes of a loving Savior, who offers nothing short of hope to a dying and broken world.
You my friends are filled with hope. The hope of a Savior. You have the power inside of you to pour out living water to a hopeless generation. You don’t have to go far, and you don’t have to be something that you are not. It’s in you. The power of the Holy Spirit resides in you, living and breathing. The world already has judgment. It’s easy for me to judge. But God, in His infinite mercy asks us to change the way we view the sinner. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). See them for what they are- broken and desperate. They know anger, pain, loss, and judgment. My goodness, their cup is full of that.
Offer hope instead of judgement
Matthew 5:14-16- 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. Be exactly who God has called you to be- a light in a dark world. Not sure what to say to someone? Invite them to church! Offer hope to a hopeless generation. And watch God change our city, one family at a time.
Freddie, this is dedicated to you. I hope and pray I will see you at church today, because I believe God is doing something in your family. Amen.