“I’m not stopping at the outlet mall,” I repeated to myself this past Friday as I headed out of town on Route 60 after visiting my parents for several days in Vero Beach.
During our visit I realized my trips to the mall were about me trying to find something to make me feel better and not because I needed clothes. God was working on my heart in regard to turning to Him to lift my spirits. He also showed me that chasing after pleasures of this world kept me from seeking to do what pleased Him.
All of this was going through my mind as I approached the outlet mall and saw the same homeless man walking down the side of the road that we’d seen the day before near my parents’ mobile home park. He had a full, wild beard and reminded me of the character, Forest Gump.
Ordinarily I would have driven past with the thought, “I’ve got to get to the outlet mall,” but with God’s help I had closed that door.
Or I would have decided, “It’s too dangerous,” or “Gee, look at that poor man. I hope someone helps him.”
A number of things contributed to me doing something different:
–being in the midst of studying the book Remembering the Forgotten God by Francis Chan and learning more about tuning into the Holy Spirit and His leading.
–having recently been to a Brandon Heath/Jars of Clay concert and hearing them sing “Give Me Your Eyes” and “The Shelter.”
–having the song “The 21st Time” going through my head lately.
Yes, I did a U-turn to reach out to this homeless man. I stood back in case he was aggressive. He wasn’t. However, he was confused and disoriented. He said he was originally from Massachusetts, and added, “You know, I’m related to the Kennedys there.”
This man looked like he hadn’t bathed in weeks with gunk in his hair and grungy clothes. But I couldn’t help thinking of the verse in the Bible that has so often haunted me:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 NIV
Although he said he wanted to walk to Orlando and asked me for directions, I encouraged him to turn around.
“Go back to that gas station and get some food,” I instructed, pointing in the direction he had come.
He gratefully took the money and little salvation card I offered and turned around. He walked away like those mountain climbers I’ve seen on TV who trudge up the mountain, low on oxygen and ready to collapse.
When I got in the car, I decided to call 911 and gave the man’s location. I suggested he needed to be taken to a hospital. The dispatcher said someone would be out to pick him up. She asked for my name and phone number, “in case we have to get in touch with you.” I gave it and drove away, grieved that I hadn’t even asked his name and feeling I should have done more.
How ironic that was: I go through most days often turning my eyes and heart from people in need, and then when I do help someone, I feel I haven’t done enough. Maybe that’s why I avoid it. I don’t want my heart to be broken over the needs of other people.
On the rest of the drive home, God assured me I couldn’t help everyone in need, but I could more open to doing something for those who came across my path–as the Holy Spirit led. He laid on my heart that if every person who claimed to know Christ did that, what a different world this would be.
Ever since my encounter with the homeless man in Vero, I’ve been more determined to let God draw that line or take it away completely. Whether or not that changes the world, I know it will change me and the way I live in it.
How about you? Are you stepping back from people in your path who need a touch, an encouraging word, a hand to help? Are you, like me, consumed with your own agenda and the petty pursuits of this world?
Will you take the challenge of going to YouTube and listening to those three songs: “The 21st Time” by Monk & Neagle, “Give Me Your Eyes,” by Brandon Heath, and “The Shelter,” by Jars of Clay? If you let the message of these songs deep into your heart, you will be changed. And so will the world around you.