I have a deep concern for a whole lot of people.
Tonight, I keep thinking of Clay. When I lived in Baton Rouge, I met a man named Clay. He was the roommate of a man that I dated.
I haven't seen Clay in almost 13 years. I can't even remember his last name. I don't know where he lives or even if he is still alive. What I do remember is his story and the deep sorrow that he carried with him.
Clay fought in Desert Storm. He was a photographer in the military. I remember his war stories and some of the scars that they had left on his life. There was a deep, deep sadness about Clay. He was married once and had a son. One day Clay was driving somewhere with his family. He was following them on his motorcycle. They were a car ahead of him. He spoke of how he watched another vehicle crash into his family's car. He literally watched them die. I'm sitting here crying thinking of Clay.
I remember him suffering from gallbladder stones one night on the bathroom floor of his apartment. He laid there for hours in excrutiating pain.
I remember finding disturbing images on his computer. I remember him talking about ending his life.
There was an immense darkness surrounding Clay and truthfully, I wish I had known how to be a light to him back then. All I can do is pray for him now and hope that if he is still here, that he finds the hope and the peace that only God can give him.
The other day I read a story about an 18 year old boy who had been locked in his room for years. He didn't see the sunlight for over 2 years because his mom and stepdad kept him locked away in his room. He wasn't allowed to see his siblings or anyone else for that matter. He was subjected to torture, mental and physical abuse, and a host of other atrocities.
They found him at a bustop. He looked a child because his growth had been stunted from lack of food. He was barely 5 foot tall at 18 years old and he weighed in at close to 100 pounds.
Want to hear something that I hope changes you..
Every day we encounter a Clay...or someone like the young man at the bus stop... They are at our jobs..They hide behind masks..A lot of the time, they don't look grim and suicidal..
They wear masks. They try to look normal because they want to look like we do... a lot of times they are the people looked down upon by a lot of Christians. They want normal lives. Everyone we meet in this has faced something tragic. Everyone..sometimes, that kind of pain and tragedy leaves a mark on someone that time can't erase.
A lot of the truly hurting people, like Clay, have foul mouths. They don't talk like we think they should. Maybe they don't vote like we think they should. Maybe they party or drink or do a lot of drugs to mask the immense pain that they are really feeling. Maybe they have a long arrest record. Maybe they make up a large portion of the prison population.
I know that with every effort and strenght that I have...there is nothing that I could do to really make a difference to people like Clay.
But I know that God working in and through me... Can... I know that when we submit ourselves to God, truly seek Him...He flows through us..He works..He gives us what we need to truly be a light of the world. God says in His Word, that He didn't come to save the righeous..He came to save the hurting, tortured, desperate, sin sick people like Clay.
God desperately wants us to step out of our comfort zone and love people like Clay. He isn't calling us to be judge and jury. Most of the time, we never get close enough to people like Clay to learn stories like his...
But people like Clay are the ones that truly need Jesus the most.
One thing I believe we are seeing today is a whole lot of merciless Christians. I"m not saying everyone..but it seems that today..we live in a culture, where justice triumphs over mercy.
But God says that it is supposed to be the other way around.
How often do "we" complain about the people being loud in the restaurant when instead we should show a little kindness and compassion.
I understand that we don't want our kids hearing certain things, but how easy would it be to kindly speak to people like human beings... instead, "we" want to involve managers. We cry for justice when God is really asking for mercy.
I look back at my own life. I think about the darkest period that I went through. It was after Andy died. I had a hole in my heart bigger than anything I had ever known. I turned to things that Christians today would cringe at. The truth is that during this time of my life, I needed to see Christ. I needed Him desperately....The last thing I needed during those days were justice seeking, self righteous, church goers.. I needed a loving hand and a gentle guide. I needed to see Christ. And, yes, some people did show him to me... my family was there for me.. a few others. ...well, I don't want to talk about me right now... I'm getting off track here.
I think all I'm really trying to say here is that it is time that we desperately seek Christ. He says that if we remain in Him then we will bear fruit... It hurts when I see people like Clay..looking like a dead branch because of what the world has handed him... He needs some of our fruit. He needs life.. He needs to taste the goodness of God and we are the ones that are called to show him what all that is about.
The other day I kept wondering why Jesus cursed the fig tree. I never really understood that story.. until a few days ago... the tree wasn't bearing any fruit. Hungry and desperate people passed it every single day and it stood there in self righteous mockery. It was dry. It was taunting. It was like a self professed Christian that stood there proclaiming Christ but couldn't deliver the goods to the hungry people.
So Jesus got angry and he told it to die. It withered up.
That story makes perfect sense to me now.
Are we the dry fig tree? Proclaiming Christ but not really offering something solid to back our words?
The other day I was in Wal Mart... I saw a girl having a seizure on the floor. People were loosely scattered around..fearfully watching to see what was going to happen next.
After her seizure was over, she sat in a chair near the register. Her familiy was huddled around her.
My son beckoned me,.."mama, go and pray for her." I knew that there was wisdom in his words.
I walked over to the mama and I asked if there was something that I could do..She said, "Pray."
So I lovingly placed my hands on the girl and I prayed. I think we were all crying by the time the prayer had ended. The momma, the girl, me... Want to hear something amazing? If I had would've judged the girl by her physical appearance..I might have thought she was addicted to drugs. She looked dirty, scarred up, tattooed. She looked like she had seen some hard days..but as I was praying for her, God put the words in my heart to speak to her..and they came out like honey. I called her a daughter of the Most High..created for a purpose. I think I said she was, "His Child." Why? Because we are all family. And our mission in life isn't to harm the people around us with our criticism and judgment, our shouts for justice..Our mission is to be the hand and the voice of Mercy.
A few years ago, the thought of praying for someone in the middle of walmart would've been the furthest thing from my mind. A few years ago, I would've been content to just zip on by and mutter a quick prayer out the door... But I know that is calling me...calling us..to a deeper place.
I know that He wants to use us to truly reach out to those who need Him.
Hears another fact.. People like Clay..or the lady in walmart...or the boy at the bus station..may never step foot inside the doors our churches. They are dismayed by the Christ that we portray. They have seen too many fig trees promising but not delivering the goods. They have seen a cry for justice, when we should've handed them a nice warm bowl of mercy.
They probably see "our" facebook posts calling people who vote a certain way "unchristian.." It's true..there are a LOT of unchristian people in the world.... But who is really taking the time to hand out the fruit?
One thing that God has put it on my heart to do...and if you want to be a part of this then I think I will literally do cartwheels and risk breaking an arm, is going to visit people in my neighborhood.
I want to Be the Church. I want to tell people that no matter who they are, or what they have done, or who they are attracted to even... I want to tell them that God loves them in a great and merciful way.
I want to tell them that He has come to set them free and that they are called to Freedom...not freedom to fall back into a sinful lifestyle, BUT TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE.
Does anyone want to join me in this endeavor..this bold, radical, move of being the Church?
Anywho, I love you guys and I hope if nothing else, you seek God...remain in Him and bear some fruit!
On a final note, I know that a lot of people in prisons have done some horrific things, but a lot of people there have stories and hidden lives. We don't see that side of them.. All we see are the charges brought against them. God's law is different than man's law. Man's law seeks justice...but God's law, above all else, cries out for mercy.
We are called to be there for people in prison. Write letters to them offering them hope and simply being an ear to listen. . Find out how you can get involved. Recall the story about the sheep and the goats..
The Sheep and the Goats31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
The truth is that if I had contined down the path that I was on after Andy's death, in all of my hurt, anger, and desperation.. I did a few things that I normally wouldn't have done. and I could've very well ended up in a jail somewhere.
and that is my dirty little secret.
One more thought.. brief but important....sometimes, love isn't imposing our views or pushing our religion on someone...sometimes, it is simply just handing someone a big, nice warm bowl of something..