December 7, 2012

Invited

As a canvassing leader I often tell my students to "expect the unexpected." You never know what you'll find behind each door. Sometimes you meet the jaw-dropping divine appointment, other times you meet a "hairy eyeball" (as one colorful office worker in Virginia aptly described to me one day after donating for two books and encouraging me to keep going no matter what reception I might get.)

And then other times you run into something completely different.

Like tonight.

Mark called in on the radio,
"Uh, Mobile One? I just knocked on a door and the man was lying on the floor curled over his stomach. He said he was in a lot of pain, didn't have no donation and wanted me to leave. I asked him if he was having a heart attack or a stroke and he said no. I told him I could call an ambulance and he said he didn't need it. What should I do?"

What should we do indeed? There wasn't a section about this in the canvassing leader training book.

I drove immediately to the house and knocked softly on the door. "Sir? Are you ok?"

There was no answer. Mark and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, opened the screen and went in. What did we have to lose?

The man tried to raise himself up off a thin mattress. "Who are you? What are you doing in here? I'm gonna hurt you!!"

"Sir, we're just worried about you. Are you ok?"

"I'm FINE! Get out of here. Why would you worry about me? I'm going to be just fine."

His words were harsh, but his eyes betrayed his heart. He wanted to trust that we really cared.

A little kind questioning revealed that he had fallen at work and broken several ribs. He had been lying on the floor for two days in excruciating pain. His house had no electricity or water. The only light and warmth came from a fire that he somehow had managed to keep burning. His other source of warmth was a reeking liquid in the bottom of a glass bottle on the floor near his hand.

We offered a ride to the hospital, but again he declined. "They'll just tell me to go home and get better," he said. We saw his point, and agreed.

But what could we do?

For a moment, I felt as though I had suddenly been shoved into the frustrating position God deals with continually. I wanted to give this man everything. If only I could pay the electric bill and get the lights on, throw the glass bottle away, clear the filthy clutter and get him into a nice soft bed with clean, white sheets. If I could just wash his dirty face, vacuum the floor, and fill the refrigerator with good things... If only he would let us do something.

"I'm fine," he kept insisting. "You all don't need to be here. You don't need to do nothing for me."

"Yes we do!" The words sprang out of our mouths in unison.
"It's our duty." Mark said.
"You're our brother," I added. "We can't leave a brother lying on the floor in pain and do nothing."

He began to relax.

My radio was buzzing with activity. Canvassers needed me on three different streets. I left to meet the most pressing of their emergencies.

20 minutes later I returned with bottled water, a bag of ice, and a white paper bag with a red McDonalds logo on it.

This time when I knocked on the screen, Russ hollered "Come in, sweet girl! You're welcome. You're always welcome."

He and Mark were partway through the story of Mark's testimony. LA gang member turned missionary, Mark was able to connect and relate with Russ on many points.

I handed him my simple, humble offering and his eyes filled with tears. "You didn't have to do that. I tell you guys, thank you for coming. Just to know someone cares..." His voice trailed off, leaving the meaning of his words hanging in the air.

He gripped our hands as we prayed, and welcomed our parting hugs.
"Anytime ya'll are down this way, my door is always open. I don't never lock my door. If your team ever needs a place to stay, you can always stay here."

We smiled, and again my eye took in the filthy floor, the ragged couch, the overwhelming stench of alcohol, the lack of electricity and running water. I was grateful that I could come back to a neat, disinfected facility. I had a new appreciation for my sleeping bag and the clean carpet over the concrete I lay it on.

But in the same moment, once again I peered through the eyes of God.

He would have stayed.

Russ' invitation warmed my heart, but it would have thrilled His. He would have stayed and vacuumed and changed the ice pack and led Russ to a better life.

I understand Christmas better now. And I think I understand a little better what my Lord chooses when He comes into my heart. The stench of my selfishness, and the clutter of my headstrong will must make Him long to clean me up.

I'm glad He comes, and I'm glad He cleans.

I pray that when Russ invited us he invited Him too.

3 comments:

  1. This is beautiful...

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  2. Can't get this out of my mind. I just can't feel comfortable, when there's people like that out there... Each one worth more than heaven to Him.
    Thanks for sharing all these experiences...

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  3. Beth, I just wanted to say that it's been a while since I've been able to catch up with blogs, but I spent some moments scrolling through yours last night. . . I was so blessed. Thank you for sharing through writing. I really needed that.

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