I was pulling out of the grocery store parking lot…and there he stood.
There, next to the highway, brandishing a small white sign that offered a beautiful reflection of the setting sun off of it due to its protective shipping tape coating, he waited. His bicycle was hand painted, a camouflage pattern, in which I could only guess was his personal handiwork. The bicycle pulled a trailer, which more favored a Conestoga wagon than typical bike trailer with its duct tape covering, and was painted the same signature camo pattern as the bike.
I did not take the time to read the sign. I only guessed that he was asking for money. I did happen to see it referenced a scripture. He looked as if he might be down on his luck, considering the bike and the trailer, and I hurriedly pulled to the side of the parking lot to approach him. I knew my tactic. I would offer him money and ask if I could pray with him.
I reached in my wallet and pulled out a $20, and, if I may be excruciatingly honest, patted myself on the back a little for being willing to give the man my last bit of money before pay day came again. Carrying myself high, bathed in self-righteousness, I approached him. His head was adorned with a camouflage ball cap, almost covering strikingly blue eyes. His short beard was snow white, excepting the yellow tobacco stain circling his mouth. Around his neck was a delicate silver chain which held a cross embellishing a Celtic pattern. Beneath the chain was a camouflage sweat shirt, then green shorts, followed by lace up work boots.
I approached him, smiling, and said, “Sir, can I pray for you?” as I handed him the money. He held out his hand, took the money, followed with an obligatory, “Thank you”, then looked at me. After a pause he said,
“Yes, you can pray for me, but have you ever thought that prayer might not be what I really need? Have you thought that maybe to show me love I might just need some of your time, just to talk to you?”
He offered my money back to me, thinking he had offended me. I told him to keep it. It hit me, right there, like a ton of bricks, a 2×4 upside my head. I had totally missed the point of our meeting. What was I doing? What had I been thinking? I was so engrossed in myself, and thinking that of course any homeless man would only want money that I had completely missed why the Holy Spirit prompted me to stop. I apologized and asked if I could have some of his time to talk with him. He smiled and a conversation ensued that I hope I never forget.
We talked about the Bible. He was a true student of God’s Word. He must have quoted 5 scriptures in our first dialogue, one of which was 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Yeah, that one was meant for me. 🙂
When a car pulled over to give him some money I looked at what his sign said:
Proverbs 15:16- Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
This man was not looking for a hand out. He was bringing the Gospel!
He reminded me of Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I stood in true awe of the man standing in front of me, a man I would normally pity. He was so happy. He had healing, real healing from whatever his past was. As a matter of fact we never talked about his past. I asked him how he came to know the Lord and his response was,
“The past is in the past. I was in a bad place, a place I don’t like to go back there. I’m just so glad he found me.”
He said he wanted me to listen to a song. He tried to pull it up on his MP3 player, but did not know how, saying he normally just lets is shuffle, so I pulled it up on my phone. I had the privilege to worship our Most High on the side of the highway with this precious man. His hands were raised, ever so slightly, his eyes closed, and the reverence and love on his face, oh! The picture in my head is irreplaceable. No words can adequately describe it. His sweet, sweet expression revealed a love for his Savior that so many merely wish to obtain. So many go to church for years and absolutely miss the love that God has to offer, the same love that had shown through on this man’s face. They are too wrapped up in the “riches” of the world that they miss what “The Church” is all about.
The side of the road was his mission field. Anyone who spoke to him was someone with whom to share The Way. He was bold, but at the same time gentle. I thought there would be no way he would want to be in his situation. He felt he had the better situation between the two of us, with the freedom to go from town to town, showing the Good News to people with his sign, and “preaching” to those who actually spoke to him, which, sadly, was so few.
For over two beautiful hours I had the honor of talking with Robert! I have seen him since and was not able to stop, but I fully intend on doing so again should I see him. I am so, so thankful he would be my friend, and that he would forgive me for a rocky start.
We often think the best advocates for The Gospel are behind pulpits or among stained glass, but I would have you stop to consider, with his few possessions and one little sign, this man has planted more seeds than the majority of us Christians.
Robert didn’t want what I had. He wanted to give me so much more.
My challenge to you today: reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t, the homeless, a neighbor you do not know, someone who normally wouldn’t cross your mind, and look for the ways God is offering to bless you and that person by reaching out to them!
Hebrews 13:2- Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Disclaimer: If you DO decide to have a conversation with a homeless man and go MIA for two hours (aka, you do not answer your phone) let your husband know because he will be really upset with you and worried about you if you do not. 😉