The Duke leaned against my car, and it felt kinda’ like an out of body experience for me, because he was talking about me to the two friends I had brought to the Long Beach prayer meeting. “I saw her come in, this blonde white woman and I basically thought she was a fraud. I sat back and listened to her and looked to poke holes in what she said . . .” Well, that explained the scowl and dark eyes that I had felt—he was sizing me up, making a judgment about me, even while I did the same, I guess.
What do you see? I mean—when you look at people, what do you see? It is common for us to size folks up in an instant. Are you kind in your assessment of others? ‘Funny thing is, do you realize that people make snap judgments in the same way about you?
People who live mostly on the streets are often seen en masse, rather than as individuals. They are labeled ‘the homeless’, no wonder many use pseudonyms instead of their real names. We talked about how that hurts, and I once again played the song, “He Knows Your Name.” Several sung along but one older woman sang with an expression of rapturous joy on her face. Shirley, who has few teeth, difficulty speaking and several health issues looked simply beautiful. I couldn't take my eyes off her! One of my friends cried as she looked at her. I will never forget Shirley’s face as she sang about how Jesus knows her name.
“Well, here’s the deal," I said, "it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, God knows your name, and he loves you. What does he think of you? Read it from his word and answer for yourself.’ “But to all who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children … (John 1:12).” “We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you…(1 Thess.1:4).” Who Am I? I am a child of God. God loves me and has chosen me.
“How did you get here—on the street, I mean?” I asked the homeless faces I have come to love. “Bad choices,” a guy in the back said. “What do you mean by that?” I asked. All around the room, folks supplied answers, but no real excuses, “alcohol, drugs . . . just bad choices.” I called on a guy in the back with the red hat, “want to tell me about yourself?”
“Well all right. My name is Curtis. One by one, I finally lost everything--my job, my family and then my dog.” Guys all around the room were nodding. They got it.
My heart went out to Curtis - what could I give him? Only one thing.
“You’ve told me your name, Curtis, you’ve told me your story; do you believe God is your father and he wants to answer your prayers?
“Well, I’d like to, but so far my number hasn’t come up.”
I leaned in and asked, “Well, would he recognize you as his child?”
“Well, I believe in him.”
“You aren’t a child of God just because you were born. Who leads your life, then—you or him?”
With that, I had to use my trusty chair illustration, grabbing ahold of a chair and putting it up on a nearby table: “If this chair represents your life, who sits on the throne, making the decisions, Curtis—you or God?”
“I do,” he said.
“You can change that, you know . . . would you like to?”
And with that, we bowed our heads and folks around the room prayed the sweetest prayer that God ever hears.
Oh, my dear friends, I pray that you have the opportunity to connect the hand of
a friend to the hand of God one day. Nothing matters more than that.
At the start of our meeting, the guy with the red hat was one of a number of hurting, mostly homeless faces. By the end, I had learned his name and a little about him; he was Curtis, child of God.
As I exited the building, Jackie grabbed me by the arm and said, “Christeeen, tell him there is a God—this man doesn’t believe in God!” She turned me toward a young man with a shaved head, Mexican gang tattoos and a sneer on his face as he looked at Jackie and then me. Since I was coming down the stairs, and he was at the foot of them, leaning on the rail, when I got to the bottom, we were almost nose to nose.
“Perhaps he has never felt the love of God and so he finds it hard to believe there is a God, Jackie,” I said to her, while I looked into his eyes. Then he let go with a string of expletives letting me know he was a bad dude, feared on the streets. “I wanna be respected and I am.” I took note of the weapon sticking out of his pants pocket then.
“Do you know God loves you?” I pressed in. He neither scared nor intimidated me.
“I can’t believe that, Man….Hell, my mom smokes weed, I smoke weed, we run a business, you know what I mean?” (Yes, I got it) “I’ done seven prison sentences already, I’ve been shot, I’ve been stabbed in the leg . . . you wanna tell me there’s somethin’ that’s gonna change me? I don’t believe it.” He stood for a minute, and looked around at all the people out on the sidewalk; honestly, no one much was paying attention to our exchange; even Jackie had moved away. He looked back at me.
“’You know—I tried to do it legit…a couple years ago, I had a girlfriend, we had jobs, we rented a condo, and we lost it because of …” He choked up, turned his head, and said, “I can’t be doin’ this out here.” He wiped his eyes, and said, “I gotta get my homegirl and go down and eat.” I let him go.
When I got to my car, the Duke was waiting with my two girlfriends. As I walked up, he told them about his first impressions of me. It was then I realized that while I size people up, trying to guess about them,
people size me up too—they make judgments about who I am and then
watch to see how I conduct myself. So, what do you SEE when you look
at other people? And what do they SEE when they look at you?
The bad dude came back out of the building before I got in my car, and I stepped into his path, and hugged him; turns out his name is ‘Quick’. I put the notes about who God says he is in his pocket. I asked him if he had the guts to come back next week so we could talk further. He pulled back, looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be back. I respect you.’ Hmmm . . . I’ve replayed that in my mind a number of times.
When it was time to go, I asked the Duke of Earl how he would like me to pray for him this week. “Keep it simple, Christeeen.”
“Okay, I’ll pray that you let Jesus be Lord.” And he looked at my two friends, and said, “You see what she does?” (Remember, the Duke had told me he was Jonah, running from God, and it was working for him, until I came along.) “Will I see you next week, Duke?”
“Yeah, I’ll be here.” And then that beautiful man turned around to go get some lunch.
What do you see?
I'm reminded once again - we're all broken, Jesus makes us whole!
Song: "Broken Vessels" Hillsong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxKLnySMbYM