I will be vulnerable with this story. No one is able to be do the right thing 100% of the time, and it often seems like I fail a lot more than I succeed. No matter who you are, there are times we fail to do the right thing.
Over the past few months I have asked the Lord to soften my heart for broken and hurting people in a greater way. As I read through the gospels, I began to better understand the heart that Christ has for the people the world wants to forget and even reject. A few nights ago, I was driving home from an intramural football game with two people who live in my hall and play on my intramural team. One of them is my RA, and we have similar views when it comes to hurting people and their treatment.
Before I continue the story, here is a bit of background of the area I attend college in. The school is an area of Springfield that most people would not want to live in. There is poverty, crime, despair, and hopelessness everywhere. This area is a place Jesus would want to minister.
As we were driving through campus I looked to my left toward the street. There is an section of grass which is owned by my school that runs along the sidewalk. I noticed the trees and my eyes spotted something below one of them. As we got closer I noticed that something was actually someone. I don’t know if it was a man or a woman, but they were laying down, with their backpack, under this tree. Someone just laying there asleep, not moving.
As I saw this person laying on the ground, by that tree, my heart moved. I felt compassion. I knew that Christ was trying to work in my heart, and I began to feel the influence of Christ work in my mind. I made a solemn comment…
“There’s a person sleeping over there.”
We both looked to our left at the person. During that moment, I was troubled knowing that person would not able to sleep safely that night. Sleeping in a safe place… that is something I have never had to worry about. I have always had a house to sleep in. Yet, here was a person, just like I. But instead of returning to a warm, safe, and comfortable home and bed like I was, they were on a college campus, sleeping in the cold under a small tree.
I continued to process this situation. I was confronted with multiple thoughts. These thoughts now burden my heart as I write these words…
First, I wondered how this person might be treated and received at my school. I had suggested to to my friends that, “he should at least go inside until the library closes.”
After I said this I thought deeper about the details of my statement. I work at my school’s library and I know that people come off the street often. If he or she had come inside, its possible someone would have asked them to leave our library. Maybe not everyone would have asked this, but I am sure if any of our students came to the front desk and admitted they were “uncomfortable” they would have eventually asked them to leave. As I thought about that, I couldn’t help but think if Jesus’s heart broke at that thought. Seeing his followers, who claim to do his will, possibly throw out a man back onto the cold street.
This thought led to another thought… Public Safety.
Our campus has patrols watching over campus constantly. What would have happened the next time a patrol vehicle passed that tree? I don’t know the school’s policy, since we are considered an open campus, therefore I won’t make any assumptions of what would (or possibly did happen). However, I know many organizations, religious and secular alike, would have asked the person to move on and avoid loitering on private property.
My final thought came later, after I returned to my dorm room. I was warming up pasta I had made earlier in the evening when a question came to me, “What did that person have to eat tonight?” I sat down with my bowl of pasta and asked the question over and over… “What did that person have to eat tonight?” What happened next? Well, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything spiritual. I didn’t love. I was not like Christ.
“What did that person have to eat tonight?”
The very next thoughts that came into my head were not from Christ, but of my own fleshly insecurities. I told myself:
“It’s not safe Abram. It’s already past 11 and you can’t go out to talk to a stranger by yourself at night. What are you thinking, they probably aren’t even there anymore.”
I remember thinking these exact words, and that scares me. The most vivid aspect I remember about this entire story is the words my flesh spoke. The words that were anything but of God. I denied love I could have shared. The most vivid aspect I remember about this entire story is the words my flesh spoke. While I sat on my bed, in my warm room, on a Christian college campus, I realized I denied Christ and traded love for fear. I let my fear, my own selfishness, and my own desires deprive someone of being touched by the love of Christ.
It is the end of October and while everyone is preparing for scary movies and a night of thrills, I’m left with a different fear.
I’m scared of the chance I easily missed to bless a life. Instead of freaking out about jump scares, ghosts, and skeletons, I’m afraid of how easy it was to suppress and ignore the heart of Christ for the hurting. I continue to think back. I have replayed the night again and again. I keep feeling the pull on my heart to walk out my door, drive 30 seconds, get out of my car, and talk to the person who I will never know.
How easy it could have been to say, “Hey can I get you anything? It’s cold out here tonight.” I’m not scared of vampires, witches, and ghosts. I’m scared of my own flesh. What could have happen if I would simply listen to the tug of Christ’s heart?
What would happen if we, as Christian’s, actually cared about people enough to take care of those in our paths. For me, it was to the left of a car on a drive back from a intramural football game.
All I had to do is look up and to the left.