I don’t know his name. He has been at the downtown prayer meeting (in Long Beach) a number of times, and usually sits front and center, with his red skateboard on the table in front of him. He is a handsome man, Hispanic I would guess. He sports a grown-out mohawk, a spiked wristlet and a black shirt with skulls on it—all of it telegraphing ‘don’t mess with me.’ Usually his eyes are a little glazed over, but not this time. As soon as he sat down on Friday, he began intently reading from a little book of John he held with both hands.
There were more folks than usual as we started our prayer time, with the Scripture focus on ‘loving well.’ I opened our time with the story about the little girl who worked and saved to buy some dime-store pearls, and finally she got them . . . ‘And each night when her daddy tucked her in bed, he asked, ‘Do you love me?’ She assured him she did, and he said, ‘then give me your pearls…’ But the little girl just couldn’t part with her treasure. It went on quite a while, until one night the teary-eyed little girl offered up her plastic pearls to her daddy—and then, he reached into his pocket and brought out a velvet case which contained a beautiful string of genuine pearls, and gave them to his precious daughter. Well, my friends loved that story, and it made the point of how
God loves us enough to give us the best,
if we but give him what is in our hand.
As we unpacked LOVE, we came to the agreement that in order to love, we had to tap into a source far greater than ourselves. I told them that I picture an urn-like container within myself—my fount of love, (or my capacity), which I need God to fill with his love, so that I may in turn, LOVE. I looked from one face to another and asked them, ‘How do I get God’s love within’? Would you believe it—Mohawk stood up, and said, ‘It’s right here…right here in the third chapter, listen…’ and he stood up, squared his shoulders and addressed everyone like a fine Southern preacher. ‘For God so loved the world that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…’ he read from John’s gospel. I actually took a seat, and listened to him read and then comment.
I stood up and animatedly said, ‘Okay! Now what? What do I do once I have decided I believe?’ I noticed I had the rapt attention of a handsome couple—he tatted up with Mexican gang symbols—‘Wouldn’t you want that love if it was available?’ He nodded, as did several others around the room. I began to coax first one and then another to see if they would provide the answer for their friends—‘So what do we do now? - - - It is really quite simple, actually . . . we form our words into a prayer to God.’
And just as we were about to do that, a clatter broke out on the far side of the room. A young woman with dread-lock type braids down to her waist came into the room in a fury, scolding the poor guy who was with her. Pastor Fred went over to ‘sh’ them, and she became more belligerent, actually threatening Fred . . . but soon, several showed them to the door, and I tried to pick up where we left off—but not before saying, ‘Do you see? That is how the enemy works—just as you are about to make a move for God, he distracts you! I could not have planned or executed any better illustration than what you just witnessed—except it wasn’t just an illustration, unfortunately. Just as many of you were ready to pray to recognize Jesus as your leader, that poor hate-filled woman began to spew! Oh let us learn from that, because that is just exactly how Satan does things. He muddies the water of our lives, he creates static that interferes with the voice of God in our daily lives…… Now, where were we?’
They reminded me, and I said, ‘who would like to pray that prayer?’ I tell you, the presence of God in that room was palpable. The gang dude, Richard, and his girlfriend** raised their hands, as did quite a few others around the room. I led them in a prayer: ‘Jesus, I believe that you love me, though I can’t really comprehend it. I believe you are the Son of God, and that you died for my sins. Please be my Leader, forgive and cleanse me, I pray. I want to be in Heaven with you someday. In Your Name, Amen.’
And applause broke out through the whole room. . .
and in Heaven.
When our time together was finished, Mohawk came up to me. ‘What would he have to say?’ I wondered. He gestured to a demure looking woman standing at his elbow, and she said something in Spanish. He looked at me and translated for her. ‘When I see you here each week and you are talking, I want to ask you questions, but I don’t know how to say it in English, is it okay next time, if someone translates for me?’
‘Oh yes, of course.’
‘I have a Spanish Bible right here with me,’ Mohawk repeated in English to me, and she pulled it out of her bag. ‘May I have this paper?’ She held up the hot-pink notes I had distributed with the day’s Bible lesson . . . ‘I want to look up the verses in Corinthians and John.’
‘Oh yes, of course…’ I hugged her. ‘What’s your name?’ She told me ‘Wilhelmina’. I hugged her again, and turned to him, and asked his name.
Immediately, his smile was gone and his guard came up, and he said, ‘you don’t need to know my name.’ ‘Well, I know, but I would like to call you by name—my name is Christine…’ He kinda just slid away.
‘What is with the name thing on the street?’ I ask myself again. I know that having street names offers some false impression of protection, but it is strange just the same. I know Hydro, Duke of Earl, Café, pronounced coff-ay, Enhancer ... but Mohawk offered me neither—a street name nor his given name.
I thought about it on the way home--honestly, I loved the 45-minute ride home to think and process and I thought about Exodus 33.12, ‘God knows your name,’ and was strangely comforted by that. Then I remembered a song, ‘I have a Maker . . . He formed my heart. Before even time began, my life was in hands. He knows my name, he knows my every thought, he sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call I have a father . . . he calls me his own . . . he'll never leave me--no matter where I go.’
I am so thankful that God knows each of their names, just as he knows yours . . .
That he knows all about them, and loves them anyway . . . just like he does you and me. I am so glad that my Father in Heaven knows, sees, hears and loves. Yes, he knows Mohawk’s name, and he loves him.
That song? He knows my name, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bj-rlGcj8M
Whatever you are going through, God knows.
He thinks about and prays for you by name. Now that is incredible.