"Would You give me an opportunity to love someone today?"
Those were the words I spoke that morning.
I had been absorbed by the chapter of the Book I was reading, and one line in particular held my attention.
"Whatever you've done for the least of these........."
As I read and re-read those words; simple, yet powerful they were, they began to take root in my heart.
And so, I petitioned,
"Would You give me an opportunity?"
Just a few hours later while running errands, I see a young man, crouched and alone, in an alcove in an exterior building wall. My heart skips a beat, and I know....... I know that the words I had whispered that very morning have been heard. They have been heard, and they have been answered. He is a pitiful and wretched sight, this young man. With his hat pulled low over his eyes, and a hoodie pulled over that, it seems he wants to appear invisible. To most, I think, he would have been invisible. But, not to me. Not today.
Still, I hesitate for a moment......
I am so very unsure of what I should do, nor do I have any idea of what I should say. But, I am confident of one thing....... this is the opportunity that I prayed for this morning. And so, I approach him. Tentatively. Nervously. Obediently.
I say hello to him and apprehensively, he looks at me. I ask him if he is okay, but his response is inaudible. I try again, and ask if there is something that I could do to help him out. His words though, are incoherent and he turns away from me. But, I don't plan on giving up that easy, and so I ask him when was the last time he has eaten, and if he is hungry. He tells me that it has been a while, and so I offer to buy him something to eat. He looks at me for a second before he replies.
"Would you eat with me?"
I was not expecting to hear such a request and I am briefly taken off guard. He wants to know if I will eat with him. His body wreaks of sweat and alcohol and from the way he looks at me, I suspect he has been using drugs. He sits in a dark, dirty hole in the wall and I have to admit.....I am very uncomfortable here.
Would I eat with him?
I look in him right in the eye, and I see hunger. For food, yes, but also, for something more. Here sits this young man, just a boy really, who is lonely, desolate and ignored. He is overlooked. Perhaps, most likely even, by his own doing, but, does it matter? My heart breaks, and I am undone.
"Would you eat with me?"
"Yes." I reply.
"Yes, I will eat with you."
So, I walk into the little restaurant just inside the building where he sits, and purchase two sandwiches and two bowls of soup. And I confess, while I wait, a part of me wonders if he will still be there when I return. He is though, and so I ask him if he'd like to eat on the grassy area just opposite where he sits. He refuses and informs me that he does not like to be seen. I tell him that's okay and ask him to skooch over so I can sit beside him. He does, and so I settle in next to him, and we eat together.
He tells me his name and that he is 21 years old. While we eat, he begins to share bits and pieces of his story with me. He explains how he ended up on the street. Things have been difficult for him and I can hear despair in his voice as he speaks. I listen intently to everything he feels safe enough to share with me. And my heart breaks a little more. He looks at me again and asks me why I am there. I tell him that it is because I believe he is worth it. He discloses to me then that he has been in prison and I know he is surprised when I tell him that doesn't matter. He pulls a meth needle from his backpack and looks right at me.
"This is all I know," he offers.
We sit in silence for a spell and he offers me a drink from his liquor bottle. I decline. Then I look right at him.
"Look," I say.
"I know that you are in a difficult place right now, but this does not have to be the end of your story. This is just a chapter in your book. There is more for you. You don't have to stay here."
And, I speak emphatically and tell him that if he wants to move forward from the chapter he is in right now, that I would walk with him; that my husband and I would be a support to him and assist him in getting the help he needs. And he is baffled by my words.
"Why? Why would you do that for me? Why are you even here, sitting in this filthy hole with me?"
I chuckle a little when he tells me I will need to burn my clothing afterwards, but, I tell him it is because he is valuable. His eyes grow wide at my words and I look him right in the eye again.
"I want you to know something. This morning, I asked God for an opportunity to love someone, and He sent me to you."
And this boy begins to weep.
He asks me, "Do you ask God that every morning?"
"No," I reply. "But, I did today."
He wipes his hand across his tear-streaked face.
"That's funny," he says. "Because just before you came here I was thinking, I just want someone to love me."
And in that moment, I realized that I did. I loved this boy. I loved him in a way that made absolutely no sense to me. I had only just met him; had spoken to him in fact, for less than 20 minutes. How could I honestly love someone I did not even know?
But this is what I have come to understand since meeting this boy. When I asked the Lord that morning, for an opportunity to love someone, what I had really been expecting was to receive a chance to perform something more along the lines of a random act of kindness. He chose instead, to answer my prayer by literally giving me an opportunity to love someone. He opened my heart, and poured within it, a Christ-like love for this 21 year old boy.
Because you see, the Father has been seeking this boy out. Long before I would meet him; long before this boy was born even, God knew the day would come when he would need a tangible expression of love. And, for some strange, beautiful, ridiculous reason, He decided to use me. Because my heart was open, and because I was willing to walk the path He would lay before me, He elected to use me. He chose me, in spite of all of my flaws and imperfections, to be His hands extended. He designated me, to talk with this boy, and to eat with this boy, and ultimately, to love this boy. But truly, the love I felt for this boy, was in actuality, just an extension of Jesus' love for him. How honored I am to be the one to give it.
Here though, is the best part. I am the one who had been blessed. I know this boy believes that he is the one receiving a beautiful gift, but, he is wrong. Because of him, I am the one receiving the greatest gift of all........ an opportunity to love, and to minister to Jesus himself.
Is there any thing better?
"I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.
Because, whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored,
that was me—you did it to me."
You should know.... this is not an ordinary occurrence for me. I don't generally hand out my number to strangers. For goodness sake, I don't normally eat in a dingy hole in the wall with meth users, but this whole encounter is beyond the ordinary for me. The thing is..... I want it to be.