Sometimes the towering Sequoias are just so huge, I can’t spot the forest to save a life.
I am whipping around the corner of Costco’s parking lot, relieved to have maneuvered my way through the infamous gas lines with relative ease. Granted, it’s but 9:50 am; the behemoth warehouse itself isn’t even open for business. But everyone knows how crazy these gas lines can be, with all those over-zealous customers fighting to fill their tanks before they rush pell-mell into the insanity of the day.
Ahem. Yes, well…
I am whipping around the corner of Costco’s parking lot. As I rapidly pull into the left-hand turn lane, my attention is captured by two unlikely contestants, each vying for my attention. Initially the tiny digital numbers on my dashboard stare me down, an unspoken reproach as my moments are ticking away. Bible study starts promptly at ten, and who doesn’t value punctuality? Simultaneously, the homeless woman sitting on the median lifts her head as my vehicle approaches. A flash of eye contact, even from 50 yards, pierces deep. She’s been noticed, and she knows it.
In an instant I am filled with Holy Spirit determination. I will not avert my eyes or my heart. As I pull alongside her, I eagerly roll down my window and soak in the image. Skin tanned leathery from weather-worn days. Skeptical eyes framed by voluminous rays, crinkled in the morning sun. Frayed cardboard sign proclaiming need. Hungry. Please help.
My stomach sinks. I don’t have a red cent to offer, not even a bit of overlooked change hidden in the ubiquitous cup holder. It’s a Peter-and-John moment, and the tune momentarily fills my heart. Such as I have, give I thee.
I smile a bit sheepishly and declare, “I don’t have even a penny to give you, but have you visited the church down the street to ask for help?”
She warms just a mite. “They don’t have a shelter available, and every other place I’ve called is full.”
I’m stymied. Although I’m aware of a list of homes that take in abused women and children, I can’t think of a single nearby shelter for homeless ladies. It’s a though I’ve had a brain sweep and all memory banks have been wiped clean.
“I’m sure they could point you in the direction of an available shelter. What’s your name?”
My gaze shifts momentarily to the rear view. I’m first in line for the left turn, and all the morning fuel seekers pile behind me, waiting for their chance to pour onto the freeway. I can feel the impatient burn of dozens of eyes, can hear numerous engines revving in anticipation of the green flash.
“Lee Ann, Jesus loves you. You are deeply loved by God.”
Those hardened eyes instantly begin to fill.
And I begin to pray, calling out life over this precious one who has strayed into lonely and treacherous terrain.
The moment is interrupted by a reminder of the tyrannous rule of chronos. Someone is honking. The light has turned, and I am holding up everyone’s schedule.
“He loves you, Lee Ann!” I fling the last words out the window, hoping they’re caught.
As I make the turn, I glance again to the dash. 9:54. I can still make it.
Twenty minutes later I’m sitting in a classroom, soaking in the amazing teaching of a mighty woman of God. I’m content. Not only did I arrive for the start of the session, but I also took the time to reach out to one of the least of these. Amazing how it all worked out. Sure, I might have been able to do more, but at least she was reminded of God’s love. I lean back and breathe deep.
In that space of self-satisfied complacency, the Holy Spirit begins to massage my soul with truth. And I’m overcome.
Beloved, have I ever instructed you that making it to Bible study on time is of greater priority than living out My love?
I have no words. Surely my weeping heart is breaking the silence around me.
Self-righteous, religious approbation melts in the fervor of His gaze.
Stop for the one. Time can stand still for the one.
Forgive me, Lord. Me, the least of all these. Forgive me.
In that quiet introspection, I resolve to go treasure hunting.
It’s now lunch time, and I am searching. But the median is empty; she’s moved on.
I’m hollow inside, hurting for her. Jesus, meet Lee Ann with your care. With your love.
And as I meander slowly home, I meditate on the grace given for the lesson.
“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” James 1:27 (The Message)
What we all find ourselves faced with- when the invisible becomes manifest to us and we allow ourselves a moment to connect- to acknowledge a soul and all its worth- against the backdrop of a world filled with so much pain and sorrow. When directed- when we do find ourselves connecting-we offer what we have- which you did- You spoke the name that changes everything- “Jesus ” Causes me to be reminded of a young man I met in a parking lot- with a sign and a backpack- I’ll write to you about that another time…..I just wanted you to know that retrospect can bring for us the sense that whatever we have done isn’t enough. When you do realize that the lifting of the one who is in control of everything- is offering the best anyone can give- and you did that- within your experience with Lee Ann. It is good that you were able to get her name.
It makes the moment seem even more real- and causes a larger sense of “Who is my Neighbor?”
Sometimes I feel like such a slow learner….It is amazing to experience His Grace within each situation that I encounter- feeling a nudge here and a stretching there. Thank you for sharing about your neighbor LeeAnn- who is so loved by God…that He sent you to Remind her of that………Love Brenda
So good, Brenda! Thanks for sharing!
I absolutely love this! yes, we are to be His hands and feet in love!