I was standing in line for coffee, when to my left appeared a homeless man. His stench overwhelmed a normally aromatic space. People fidgeted, and he went straight to the counter, leaned in and spoke with the manager. I overheard him ask for a cup of coffee. The manager shook her head, and the beggar turned and starred straight into my eyes. He mouthed these words, ‘they won’t give me a simple cup of Joe.’ I winked at him, smiled and said, “I got cha.” The manager shifted over and waited on me. “I’ll take two cups of coffee, please.” She began to apologize, but I stopped her. “You don’t understand, I want to give him a cup of coffee.” In that moment, Jesus stood among us. He looked at the homeless man, and wept for the injustices that had brought him to sleep on park benches. He looked at the manager and wept because He saw how sad she felt about following policy instead of doing the right thing. He looked at me, and whispered, ‘except for the grace of God, you are homeless, desperate, and a beggar.
Growing up, Christmas was a hastily scribbled list of stuff. Then in my sophomore year at college I accepted Christ, and my eyes were opened to understand the Hymns I had sung all my life. God’s arrival among men. Astonishing! Did this really happen in a dank cave among common mammals, and two refugees? It had. The inversion of gift getting, into gift giving leapt into my heart. Yet, God drove it home even further when I shared my faith for the first time. I discovered a deeper meaning to tinsel, black Friday and candy canes. It was Immanuel, come to the world for the purpose of giving me a gift of faith that would not only open my heart, but open my ears to those still in darkness.
What do you hear, when you take time to listen to our world?
When you plant yourself in the middle of broken humanity you will hear anger in a marriage lost in turmoil. You will hear broken sobs of a man who must bury his wife of 60 years. You will detect the quiver in the voice of a teenager, afraid to step into his future. Its sum is like the din of war, a clamor of unbridled restlessness, and a drone of fear. It is the cry of the lost, wounded and dying among us.
And that is God’s voice, urging us to step into our calling, without allowing it to diffuse our distinct God image.
In the movie Hacksaw Ridge, a private kneels alone on a precipice, when everyone else has retreated. He can either crawl down to safety, or stand and go back to the battle. He had vowed never to pick up a rifle to kill, so he has become a medic to save. Not knowing what to do, he cries out to God. “God,” he screams, “I can’t hear you.” Just then, from the smoke filled din of battle behind him, he hears the sounds of the dying. “Help…..medic….I need help!” In that moment, God answered him through their voices.
He always speaks through the dying. He spoke through my homeless friend, so happy to get a steaming cup. He speaks to me every time I sit across from a young person who is pouring out their angst, confusion and heartache, groping for answers in a reeling world. He speaks to you right now.
In your experience, if nothing seems to break the chains of drudgery, lethargy, or even melancholy, listen for the voices from the smoke of battle, their veiled cries above the din…”help me, someone please help me.” If you can, get in proximity to broken people, and God will speak, will lead, and will wash back upon you a rejuvenating spirit of expectation, a renewal of hope in the gospel, and a deepening of love for people, regardless of the sickness of the sin they carry.
Let your imagination run wild.
Hear the cries of a poor destitute Babe, whose parents have cajoled a kind soul into bedding. They are beggars; yet hold in their arms the answers for the world.
So are you, and so do you!