Intersections and Bright Orange Vests

20 05 2010

May 20, 2010

I wanted to ignore him.  I always ignore them.  Well, not always – but I mainly ignore them.  Sometimes I have a heart for them, or maybe the Spirit touches me and gives me a heart.

I’m usually like the tin-man, heartless; but not the good kind of heartless.  I feel emotions, just not for them.  

Wicked, I know.  

I feel emotions when I want to.  Today, I just happened to want to…but only after much coercion and a red light.

I was at the intersection where 147 South enters onto Swift Avenue. Speeding and nearly tailgating the car in front of me I was a little too determined to make the yellow light.  I was determined because I knew someone was there.  I could see the bright orange vest.  A beggar.  A homeless person.  Just the person I wanted nothing to do with on my way to Mad Hatters and my twelve dollar lunch. 

But the person in front of me was a law abider.  Instead of speeding through the yellow light they slowed down to a stop in front of a beaming red light.  I was all but beaming.  Looking at my cell phone pretending to look at a text or take a call, I could see the gentleman looking at me.  He was older.  One of the oldest ones I’ve seen.  Usually there’s a white guy there who looks to be in his mid-thirties.  And in the opinions of others I’ve heard, could work and get a job but uses begging as a business. 

Sitting on a white plastic container, what looks like one of those buckets that contain cat litter, he looked at me.  I could feel his eyes.  They were hoping.  And I was hoping for a green light. 

But then God did it.  God placed a heart in me.  And tugged at it.  And I could do nothing but look at the older gentleman. 

And he looked at me.

And I smiled and my coldness tried one last attempt at ignoring him but didn’t win.

I reached in my change compartment and pulled out a bill.  Rolling down my window with one hand I motioned to the gentleman with the other…this time hoping the light would remain red.

 

________________________________________________________________________

God loves me and counts me as valuable in His church.  Even when I am cold.  He loves me because I encounter this painful transformation of frigidity to warmth.  I am the fertile ground for love.  But I am cold.  And God doesn’t pretend that He doesn’t see that.  God doesn’t pretend that I am not, but God works with me.  And loves me into loving with Him. 

My intersection experience spoke to me of the intersection of humanness and godliness.  How God loved His kids even when His kids didn’t love each other.  And still don’t. 

A few weeks in Bible study at my church we were going over a passage in Mark (I don’t remember if it was chapter eight or chapter nine…it doesn’t matter) where Jesus encounters and engages someone that most people normally would not have. As a church we started talking about how bad that was and how we should show love to people on the margins.

That’s nice and all but no one every does that fully.  Even when we can see it and touch it and identify it as necessary in our lives as Christians, we simply don’t do it.  Because it’s a little too hard and asking for a little too much.  We’re not monks, you know.    

Then we started talking through some more stuff and completely skipped over this huge thing that was happening in this scriptural story.  Jesus teaches amidst their social mistake and helps that ostracized person re-enter into society.  The people contributed to the person’s ailment by isolating them but Jesus heals that person in the midst of everyone and in that teaches all of them something new: love whose borders are bigger than their minds or traditions can handle. 

And that’s not even what we skipped over.  What blew me away is that in all of this, the person who got it wrong and always had been getting it wrong are never disowned.  Their critical mistakes are not even counted against them.  They are never not God’s children; they are never not the church. They don’t lose their rights and privileges as God’s people.  They never have their title revoked. 

They are simply taught new love and new life.  People who suck, are stupid, mess up, are too anal, are crappy, are sneaky, are mean, are greedy, are rubber-neckers, are overdoing this religious thing are still the church.  God loves them amidst their (let’s simplify the previous list into) humanity.  Even though they mess up, Jesus allows them to remain God’s children, the church, affiliated with Him.  It’s not about the mistakes or the cold-heartedness.  It’s about God and Jesus transcending even our demonic-ness.

That opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of God’s love.  (Or if I may clarify) God’s love doesn’t have dimensions but our reception and understanding of God’s love does.  God loves us even when we ignore the person with health and social issues.  God loves us even when think that person is going to buy alcohol or drugs with our money.  God blesses our stingy pockets of love but generously critical and hard hearts.  God loves us: the hard-hearted, because amidst our (love) ailments , He stops to be with us and love us in the midst of our hating others until we become more loving.  Until we become a little more like Jesus and a little less like ourselves.  He allows us our own John 9 experience so that He can get the glory and we can re-witness and others witness for the first time that God doesn’t stop.  

Love doesn’t stop. 

Unless it’s at an intersection with a red light and people wearing orange vests.

 

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