“Look at him.”
My heart sped up, skipped a beat, and swelled full – it was THE VOICE again. It is otherworldly. Not so much a voice, but an urging, a feeling that something must be done. I call it the voice because I do not have a real sense of how to explain it. It is the Holy Spirit, really.
So, there I was, walking down a street in downtown San Antonio with my dearest friend and laughing and chatting and enjoying the beauty of a good Texas August when I saw him. The guy. And I heard THE VOICE, more in my heart than in my head, softer than a whisper but louder than a shout: “Look at him.” It was the guy with too many clothes on for mid-August in Texas hill country, with fingernails dirty, and an old guitar beat up from too many nights on the streets. In the middle of the boutiques and tourists and sorority girls, he was digging through the trash looking for a bite. And we locked eyes. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew. I had clear direction: “Give him that twenty in your wallet that you were saving for a trinket. Give him a hug, all six feet of unwashed fellow. Give him a big hug from Me. And tell him I love him. I am God and I love him.”
Though our eyes had met and I saw the hurt and fear and hunger for something other than food in his eyes, I averted my gaze. I did not even skip a word in the conversation I was having. I kept walking. I spent the rest of the trip confessing to the Lord that I had not done as He had asked me to do, and I was reminded over and over and over that I missed an opportunity to love.
That day was nearly a year ago now. I cannot forget it. I learned a lesson and I have been forgiven, but I cannot forget it. The remembering means that every day becomes a wild gift of “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
This past winter, a few months after San Antonio and only a few days before Christmas, I was grocery shopping on a droll Saturday morning in my wee town and I heard it again: “Look at him.” I was tired and had too much on my mind, but I looked and sure enough, I saw a fellow about my age in the next aisle. He had a wife and three little girls in tow, and a cart full of the cheapest food money can buy. They were unwashed and worn, with tired faces holding too many creases for their ages. I watched. We met in every aisle. It was not by accident, I am convinced. I ended up just in front of them at the checkout line and I knew what I had to do. But I did not want to. I had other places for my money to go. I tried to focus on bagging my groceries, but something kept me from leaving. So I turned back to the cashier at the last minute as the young father was handing over his money and I told the cashier I would pay for their bill. Part of it. Then I was told that the machines would not split the bill in two different payment options so I handed my card over again and paid for the rest. It was much much more than I expected to give. The Lord is funny like that. I spent the next five minutes consoling a crying father and hugging his wife and wee girls. They smelled so bad. They looked so beautiful.
I made it to my car and was crying so hard I could not see to load my groceries, so I stood there, hunched over the seat. I felt a tiny tug on my coat and turned around to see the oldest girl, maybe six, holding out a lollipop to me and reaching up for another hug. I grabbed her up and wished her another merry Christmas and she smiled and ran back to her car. I cried for thirty minutes in the parking lot with my forehead on the steering wheel. They were tears of awe, not sadness. I am a sorry sinner who loves and fails. And the Lord used me anyway. All is grace.
Matthew 28:16-20 reads: “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I join the disciples, the ones who actually saw the Christ, in their doubt all too often. I do not doubt the Lord, but I doubt myself. I doubt I can be used for His glory. And that attitude leads to my playing small, to my averted gazes and closed off heart. I tend to believe someone else is better equipped, better prepared, better to serve. What nonsense. Whether I am ready or not, the Lord is ready to use me and when and where and to whom I am called to serve and love, I must go. I do not want a life littered with San Antonio moments; I want a life littered – full, end to end – of grocery store moments.
The voice whispers and I try to leap at opportunities to love. I still miss the mark. But all is grace.