Times are tough, so you see them everywhere. Sitting by the off ramp with a makeshift sign, holding out a dirty cup for change. Shuffling down the street with all of their worldly possessions in a shopping cart. Curled up in a cardboard box under the freeway overpass.
The broken. The rejected and dejected. The lonely. The poor. The outcasts. The forgotten.
Sometimes I barely notice them. Sometimes I pretend to barely notice. Sometimes I’m moved with compassion and I help. Sometimes I simply move on. But sometimes I see them–I mean, really see them. And sometimes I see even more …
Sometimes I see Jesus.
I had an appointment this morning that ran later than expected so I was rushing to work. I needed gas so I stopped at a gas station with a connected convenience store. While the gas was pumping, I ran into the store for a drink.
That’s when I saw her.
She was sitting in a corner to the side of the door surrounded by various plastic bags that probably contained all her earthly “treasures.” She looked ancient and frail with a face as cracked and weathered as an old leather glove.
I was walking by quickly, but we made eye contact. She looked away before I did. She wasn’t asking for money. In fact, she wasn’t asking for anything–at least not with words. She just looked away and protectively drew her plastic bags closer to her chest as if to reassure herself they were still there.
I walked into the store but my heart was still gripped by the look on her face. I wanted to do “something” so I got her something to eat. I brought out a banana and sandwich. She only had a few remaining teeth and I thought they would be easy for her to chew.
“I thought you might be hungry, so these are for you. Bless you.”
Her eyes met mine again for a brief second. She quickly nodded her head in thanks and took the bag from me. I think I may have even heard a softly mumbled, “God bless you.” I walked back toward my car, got in and drove off.
But my heart stayed behind.
“Lord, did I do the right thing? Should I go back and pray for her? Give her money? Should I have asked her what she wanted to eat so she could have had the dignity to choose? What else can I do?”
He didn’t answer. I was late for work, so I kept going.
I’ve been thinking about her ever since.
Jesus didn’t reassure me that I did the right thing. And he didn’t convict me that I should have done more. He just let me feel his heart. He let me feel his compassion for this one hurting soul–and then he let me weep with him.
It was never supposed to be this way.
Every life has value–even those who have become invisible and forgotten by polite society. But heaven never forgets. Jesus is still near the brokenhearted. He is still a defender of the weak. He is still in the business of restoring broken hearts and broken lives. And it is still true that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him (see Matt. 25:40).
I guess that means today I gave Jesus a banana and a sandwich.
It’s not enough. He didn’t say it’s not enough–I’m saying it’s not enough. Often he lets us choose our level of involvement. I want to see more. I want to feel more. I want the resources to be able to do more. Mostly, I want to share more of his heart–whatever that costs and whatever it looks like.
When I see Jesus–whether high and lifted up in all of his glory, or in the sorrowful gaze of a broken-down old woman–it messes me up. It shakes me out of the bubble of my nice tidy existence.
Yeah, I’ve got my own problems and sometimes life is hard–but it isn’t that hard. For one who desires to live radically abandoned to Jesus–how radical and how abandoned is my life really? I’m provoked to evaluate how I’m stewarding my life–my time, my treasure, and my talents. An encounter with Jesus should cause us to evaluate those things. I’m not thrilled with the results of my evaluation.
It’s not all bad, but it’s certainly isn’t all good either.
This isn’t about feeling condemned–that’s never the result of a true encounter with God–but I am feeling stirred. I’m feeling more awake and alert than I’ve been in a long time. I’m feeling greater compassion for the broken and the oppressed. I’m feeling the desire to press in more in prayer.
I’m just feeling again–period. That’s not always an easy thing, but it is a good thing. In fact, it is a very good thing.
Oh, there’s one more thing I’m feeling. I’m feeling more and more confident that there is something more I can offer. I can offer my love. I can offer my love to Jesus and to those he loves. I don’t love perfectly, but I do love sincerely.
Sometimes my weak, imperfect love ends up looking like a banana and a sandwich.
But someday I hope it will look like a whole lot more.