I nearly tripped over a homeless man today on my way to the bust stop from work. He was tucked up on one elbow, reading a book, and precariously wedged into the very small space available between sidewalk and parking garage exit. As I stepped broad to miss him our eyes met and he scowled at me. In my imbalance I had fumbled the unspoken cultural politeness of ignoring him in his living space.
I checked in with God if he had a message for this man who flipped his page angrily at me in rebuttal. I mentally sorted through the contents of my bag, if there was food or anything for him. There was half a chocolate bar, but that was for me for later, my chocolate bar. God knew his name, hadn’t forgotten him, blah blah blah. But I didn’t stop. I didn’t speak. I didn’t go back. And who would blame me, I thought. No one would blame me.
For one, it’s after work and I’m on my way to catch a bus. But two, I’m a woman and, you know, I don’t want to be unsafe, as if God has called me to safety. And three, well, I have plans for that chocolate bar.
I read the gospels over Lent which particular activity always leads to an uncomfortable stirring sensation within my too-viscous soul. And something that jumped out at me, tweaked my nostrils, and slapped me upside the head in a very three-stooges fashion was how frequently it talks about Jesus healing in response to being moved.
It’s so comfortable for me to think of Jesus as already knowing everything, no surprises, “I’m gonna heal a lame man today and I’m gonna do it like this”. It’s decidedly uncomfortable to wonder if he didn’t. Maybe he went out to preach and just happened to come across these holy prompts in their broken physical forms and healed them urged solely by a movement in his heart. How undefinable and unpredictable! No one would have blamed him if he had kept walking, would they have? No one would have blamed him. And it wasn’t like he avoided it, he went to the cities, he walked along the ways where the broken people waited, and he listened for them.
I have had Jesus in my heart for a very long time. I am becoming more like Jesus every day. I have covered the very longest of distances to get to the point where my compassion can move me to think a silent prayer on the bus.
And as I traveled home on the one-bus waiting for the massive breakdown in which I would have to yell over the screaming, “It’s me! I ignored God’s message! Kick me off the bus and save yourselves!” and return to the angry reading man and give him half of a chocolate bar, I thought, thank goodness Jesus is Jesus and not Barbara. Thank goodness Jesus is moved to do more than pray. Thank goodness he is moved to touch us, heal us, and weep with us.
This is my God. He works in me every day so that, hopefully, in another thirty years I can give away my chocolate bar.