A woman walks up to me and asks me if I could buy her and her husband a McDonalds meal. I can still hear every word she says through the music blasting through my earphones and stop. I pull out my earphones and ask her to repeat herself; she points down the street and says there’s a McDonalds right there (I rack my brain trying to remember if there is in fact one nearby) and I tell her, “Okay, let’s go.” She shakes her head, “No, you don’t understand, my husband can’t walk he needs to sit, can you please just trust us with the money? Please, we’re starving.”
I look at her for a long moment and pull out my wallet, heart weeping. “Okay.” I hand her a ten (how much do McDonalds meals run?) and ask if it’s enough; she pauses and says it’s enough for one meal and I shrug and give her another five. “Can I have a blessing?” she says as I simultaneously tell her, “God bless,” and she walks away thanking me.
“Can you please just trust me?” rings in my ears. Can you please just trust me, just trust me, just trust me. I slip into a rare, genuine prayer for the homeless stranger; “God, use that money to bless her, use that money to touch her, use that money, teach me how to be a good steward, I don’t know how, I don’t know how, I don’t know how but you do. Jesus, I trust you.”
I have no idea whether she has a husband, whether she is going to use the money for food or drugs or something else, what kind of person she is. But, I see her reach for my arm – she’s desperate. She’s suffering. She’s begging. She wants someone to believe in her and who am I to judge what kind of person she is?
Coming back from Urbana, I am almost immediately crippled by the sight of the homeless on the streets. In St. Louis, I felt invincible. Victorious. On fire for Jesus, able to do anything – yeah, we can totally change the world. In the streets of Philadelphia, I pass the poor without a second glance and look at the darkness in my own city and heart. I listen to Nate Godbolt tell us how he’s been on the streets for 15 years and that he wouldn’t go into the shelters, that the people are nasty there. I see figures writhing under dirty blankets on the sidewalk next to a steam vent in 12 degree weather and think about how much a pair of scarf and mittens would cost (too much for me to even consider giving to a stranger) and despise myself. “Nothing has changed,” I cry out to the Lord. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry, and I am still indifferent. “What do I do?”
Can you please just trust me? The woman asks me and I realize Jesus is asking me the same thing. “Believe in me. Just give and give and give to the point where people think you’re a fool because I will use you and I will honor you. People will fail you, money will fail you, dreams will fail you, but I never will.”
“My kingdom is coming,” He tells me. He touches my heart; “It is within you.”
Even though I know I’ll never have the nerve to go through with it, I toy with the idea of running up to the pastors at Renewal and demanding them to pray for me. “It’s like there’s this huge gaping wound in my chest and I’m walking around with it wide open; can you not feel it? I’m in so much pain – what exactly does Jesus want me to do??” There is so much frustration in my heart; it grows alarmingly close to anger and bitterness and I can feel it harden. I toss and turn all night, (literally?) wrestling with God; the next morning, I wake up surprisingly awake and at peace. The light filtering in from my window is duller than usual with the gloomy mist of the day but I feel light. As I go about my morning routine and start my quiet time, I feel peace press in on me from all sides and welcome it with a softening of my heart.
“What is it you want to tell me, Jesus?”
I go about the same format of prayer as the prayer ministers did in the prayer rooms at Urbana. I see railroad tracks and then a passing train. A child peeks out of the window and I watch her pass me by. I know she is entirely alone on that train and I wonder why in the world she’s on an empty train all by herself. “What is she doing?” I ask Jesus.
“Running away,” He answers and then He points to me. That’s you.
I bristle and cry; “What am I supposed to do? It hurts.”
He takes me by the shoulders and looks me in the eye. “You cannot protect yourself; you are only safe in my embrace.” Persevere. I am with you – am I not enough?
I close my eyes and watch a drop of rain continuously drip into a body of clear blue water and despair. “What in the world are you trying to tell me, Jesus?”
As I walk back home, arms filled with bouquets of my favorite flowers and the wind at my back, I am struck by another sudden wave of peace. I see the drops of rain again; I see an ocean this time and I suddenly recall a verse – Psalm 56:8.
You keep track of all my sorrows, You have collected all my tears in Your bottle, You have recorded each one in Your book.
“Every single teardrop, I will repay you back with glory. So continue hurting, my child, because I will continue blessing you.”
Pastor Dwight swipes at the tears gathering around his eyes and continues speaking.
“When you come to the gates of heaven and see all of Jesus’s glory, you will weep and wish that you had done more in those minutes you had on earth. ‘If only I could have done more for your glory.’ But, still, the Father will come and wipe away your tears and tell you, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.'”
His grace for you is an ocean.
Oh, God, I want to do more. Jesus, take away the hardness, the bitterness, the bleakness of my perspective of the world (and in my heart) and teach me to see the world through your hopeful and expectant eyes. Tell me to go and let me go. Tell me to sacrifice and let me sacrifice. Tell me to die and let me die.
In 2016 and the rest of my life and for all of eternity: Your kingdom come, your will be done.