My wife and I went to feed the homeless this weekend under the Marion Street bridge. We were inspired by the book Love Does by Bob Goff. Our life group decided to spend time together in service. Time to convert our faith from belief into action. Actually, I am the one working on it. It is the only way my wife Becky understands faith. What a marvelous opportunity to serve this was; well run, good hot food, plenty of really nice volunteers and 100 to 125 willing customers looking for a hot meal. I think I was the remedial help handing out oranges and bananas. I really struggled. I could not say oranges and bananas. I kept offering people apples and oranges, apples and bananas, banapples, banangorenes, I was a mess. The honored guests kept looking at me and I am sure they were thinking, “The quality of the help is really slipping.” Becky, was in the part of the line serving the really delicious looking scrambled eggs and cheese dishes. I could hear her laughter. I could see her rolling her head backwards, clapping her hands, smiling from ear to ear. She was on her game.
After the line died down, conversations stalled, the homeless were eating, most servers were watching and an interesting dynamic was taking place. There were those still on the serving side of the table, and there were those who were now seated who had been served. The serving table itself seemed to be acting as barrier to further relationship. I was just taking notice of this when I felt my left arm jerk forward, and I was pulled out to the dining area; Costco plastic tables, fold out chairs, on pavement arranged “nicely” under a bridge. Becky had grabbed my arm and said, “Come on, lets meet some folks.” All pretense of, … What to say? What to ask? How to interact disappeared when I heard the master in action. “Hey, what’s your name? I’m Becky, what brings you here? Are you staying warm? What’s your story? The first guy we talked to lit up, told us his story. He asked about ours. He thanked us for helping. He let us pray for him because he was needing surgery for melanoma and for the first time in his life, he was really scared.
I stayed with this gentleman, turns out he grew up near where I did and we actually knew some people in common. It was really nice. It is amazing what happens relationally when you know someone’s story. I was no longer the bumbling knucklehead passing out some kind of fruit that I couldn’t quite remember. I met a friend. Becky, well Becky just kept collecting stories. Grabbing a hand, making eye contact, smiling, giving the freedom to be vulnerable, to be heard, to be accepted. Laughing, crying, loving, encouraging, acting like Jesus. I could not have been more in love. My new found friend looked over at my dear wife, watched her work, looked me in the eye and said you’re a lucky man. She really loves people. She understands the importance of going beyond the serving table and sitting down with the guest.
Isn’t that what God does for us? We get caught up with how God can serve us or how we may need to serve him. It is so easy to forget that Jesus came was called Emmanuel, “God with us”. Yes, Jesus came to serve and He asks us to serve too. He wants us to be like Him. But Jesus also came simply to hang out. He came to sit at our table and hear our stories. Your story and mine. He came to laugh with us. He came to cry with us. He loves us where we’re at. He accepts us for who we are, often in spite of what we have done. He sees what we don’t really see. We are all homeless. He comes to our streets, provides our meals, dines with us and then invites us to join Him at His house. He even says He is there now preparing rooms. I don’t know about you, but for me that is, “A Reason For Joy!”