I have a large gallon-sized baggie in the car. The kids brought it home from church a couple weeks ago. It is filled with hand sanitizer, snacks, personal hygiene items, and a Bible verse. We prayed concerning the baggie asking God to allow this simple gesture of giving to bless someone. We've been carrying it around for over a week now in the hopes of finding someone who may be in need.
I'm going to be quite honest for a moment. Don't pass judgement. Thoughts that run through my head might be familiar thoughts that run through the minds of many Americans.
Before we had the baggie in the car, it seemed daily we were coming in contact with homeless people, or maybe they're just people with signs trying to look very pitiful. To be quite honest they kind of annoy me.
One guy who sits at the post office is probably in his 20's. He holds a sign that reads something like, "My wife and child are in a motel please help." He actually used the word "Motel." Motel just sounds bad. Motel makes me think of dirty and gross. It makes me think bed bugs and cockroaches. Hotel sounds like a much nicer place. Hotel sounds like crisp, white sheets and continental breakfast. I wish he said his wife and child were in a hotel. I wouldn't feel so bad for them. I really wanted to go up to him and say, "Join the military, be a man and get a job." I wondered if he really did have a wife and child in a motel. Okay, maybe I'm heartless, but I'm being honest. He looks workable. When I see him, I'm dropping off packages of items I've sold on ebay. I don't make a ton of money, but I do what I can to help our family out. I'd pick weeds or clean toilets if it would help our family out.
Then there's the guy by the gas station who holds the sign, "I WANT BEERS." That's honest. I'm not giving him any money. We heard a representative from The Lighthouse Mission speak a few years back about people with signs wanting money. He cautioned us not to give them money as the money given might buy them their last drink. He also told us there was help if they truly desired it, but they'd have to get cleaned up.
There's another lady at the post office who has her young child in the stroller. She just says, "Peeese. Peeeeeeeeeese." I feel for her and her little one.
There's another guy at the post office I kind of like. He's always looking for plastic and glass bottles to return for the deposit. He's always got a smile on his face. I overheard him talking with another guy one day. They were talking about tough times. Yes, we are in tough times. We gave him food.
Then there are the people we see in front of grocery stores collecting money for the homeless. I don't really like that they sit in front of the grocery store. To be honest, I'm not sure about the motives. We've seen them collect money, then put it in their own pocket.
In front of one of the major shopping areas in our town there is a guy who stands in the median and then comes up close to your window. Pressure. I feel like he invades my space.
So at what point do I look them in the eye, show compassion and give. A huge part of me is reminded of the gypsies we encountered in Italy. Okay, I was told they were gypsies, but can't confirm. All I know is there was trickery, deception and theft going on. We were told to beware. In public places they would offer to sell you a magazine and the next thing you realize, you've been robbed.
I just finished reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. A couple things stand out. The book is about living a Christian faith that is sacrificial, loving, giving, different. He calls Christians out from living lukewarm lives just giving God your leftovers into a faith that is surrendered. He challenges Christians who think they're living a healthy faith and compares them to the Laodiceans, "who thought they had everything until Christ told them they were poor and wretched. They were all about declaring, 'Look, we are healthy, have good families, or we go to church every week.' Obviously, it's not what you advertise that counts; it's what you are really made of."
He continues, "God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love." Furthermore Chan states, "True love requires sacrifice. And our love is shown by how we live our lives; "Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (p. 119 Crazy Love)
I love. I love the orphans. I love kids. I love to give to organizations that help kids who are impoverished, destitute or who need support. I love Childcare Worldwide. They're a great organization that genuinely helps children survive and thrive. I like giving to Childcare. I'd sacrifice for Childcare Worldwide and orphans.
But am I willing to sacrifice for people who annoy me? Do my actions show Christ's love? My compassion meter doesn't go off when I see those mentioned earlier. I'm being honest. It's honesty Wednesday. Are those folks just looking to take advantage? I don't know.
I think back to one Thanksgiving when our small group collected and gave a large Rubbermaid bin full of food and household items. We were all so excited collecting items for a family in need. I had visions of a family that would be blessed and grateful to receive a healthy Thanksgiving meal. (Maybe I've watched A Christmas Carol one too many times). I was in charge of delivering the goods. The address I was given was to a room in a Motel. Yes, it was a dirty, gross motel. I knocked on the door. One person answered. I introduced myself and told them I was from the church. I glanced around the room and there were people laying on the bed. The room was stuffy and stinky. Fresh air was greatly needed. I smiled and told them I'd return, but might need some help. They all just laid there. I went to the car and carried the bin inside. Still they all just laid on the bed watching me. I dropped off the remainder of the items and left. No thank you. No nothing. I drove away thinking, "These folks took advantage of giving."
Later, when discussing the matter with others at church the consensus was, "Yes, they may have taken advantage, but we have NO IDEA how Jesus will use this time to bring about His Glory." God may have used this as a seed to bring those folks closer to him. Maybe they had no hope to even get off that bed or no joy to smile and greet someone. We don't know their circumstances, but I need to trust that some good came from it.
So now the challenge for me is from page 118 of Crazy Love, "How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ--the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own family with whom I can't seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed?" I'd like to add the person I come in contact with in the median or in front of the post office holding a sign wanting something.
Strangely enough, since we've had the baggie, we haven't run into anyone. I've got the eagle eye out wondering who might need to be blessed with a baggie of hygiene items and snacks and we haven't seen anyone.
Lastly, I'll share this quote from Crazy Love,
"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."Where would you be if you went out of your area of comfort and sacrificed, waiting for God to come through?