Faith

I Blew It But You Dont Have To

I Blew It But You Dont Have To

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With my leftovers from lunch rustling in the plastic bag at my side, we wandered the mall in D.C. I was 14 that summer, and as we continued down the long span of grass we passed various others with their dogs and frisbees, kids, joggers, and more noticeably, the homeless.

One man caught my eye with his cardboard sign and his raggedy clothes.With a little hesitation, I reached out and offered him my sandwich.

He waved his irritated hands at me and cursed. “I don’t want that (expletive)!”  I stepped back, afraid, and he said something about wanting money. My friend and I hurried away without looking back.

homeless

I decided then, that homeless people didn’t really want help–they wanted cash. I further judged that they likely wanted money for drugs or booze or cigarets. I figured if I were homeless, and someone offered me food, I’d probably take it, so maybe, their situation wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

I made these judgments as a child. Growing up as a middle class, somewhat privileged person, I admittedly knew nothing about the struggle that those who are homeless face. I didn’t know how they became that way, and my bad theology told me that people became homeless because of bad choices they had made.

Even as I write this now, I grieve my selfish and arrogant attitudes that pepper my past. I am ashamed to say that before Christ infiltrated my life, I lived mostly without any real compassion, and with the sting of criticism always on my tongue. I’t’s not a secret, my struggle with pride.

I didn’t see people, I saw problems.

By God’s grace, I am changed–wrecked by grace and given fresh eyes to see.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I recognized him as soon as I saw him standing there by the stop sign with his cardboard sign in hand. I’d seen him recently at Target, with that rope tied tightly around pants that looked 3 sizes too big and a backpack laden down with probably everything he owned. In the lane farthest from him, I felt a nudge to offer him something–money maybe? I thought about buying him lunch at the Mcdonalds across from me, but the light turned and traffic moved, and I drove on.

I blew it.

I didn’t do anything.

And days later, I still hurt over my decision to turn away. I finished my errands and went back by the stop sign, but by then he was gone.I’d missed an opportunity to serve him. I kept thinking about Jesus’s words in Matthew:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separatesthe sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

I wept as I apologized to God for ignoring the prompting I felt. I don’t know why I didn’t serve him.

I don’t know why I hesitated.

My friend Dan King recently partnered with Dillon Burroughs and Daniel Darling to write what should be THE handbook on how to be a faithful activist.

Their book, Activist Faith tackles many of the hot-button issues we hear about today, including homelessness, human trafficking,  genocide, environmentalism, immigration, abortion–and many more. Activist Faithlooks at each of this issues through the lens of scripture and offers insight into how we as Christians can and should serve from wherever we are. This book has rattled my heart in the best ways, and I am so grateful for their effort in creating such a tremendously useful resource.

From the back cover:

The Bible doesn’t call us to like or tweet about or even vote on human need and social problems. It calls us to act–to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans, and bring good news to the poor. Join the co-founders of the dynamic Activist Faith movement as they share biblical contexts, personal stories, and practical guidance for engaging twelve divisive social issues. Written for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and even those who despise religion yet love Jesus, Activist Faith will guide you toward speaking–and living–the truth in love.

 

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I shared my story about neglecting to serve that man on my facebook page and got some really great ideas from people about building “grace bags” to keep in the car, something ready made to hand out when the opportunity arises. I am determined to act quickly next time–to not miss another opportunity to live out the love of Christ.

Some items you might want to include in your grace bags:

  • toothpaste
  • toilet paper
  • deodorant
  •  travel toothbrush
  • shampoo
  • bottled water
  • comb
  • razor
  • dental floss
  • lotion
  • granola bars
  • raisins (or other nutrient rich snacks)
  • first aid kit
  • gloves/socks (during cold seasons)
  • note of encouragement
  • small denomination gift cards for local eateries

For further information on how to help the homeless in your community, my friend Alene wrote a great post for the Activist Faith website.

Whatever your situation, however busy you are, or limited your resources, there is always something you can do. You don’t have to travel out of the country to serve others. The homeless man I mentioned was less than 5 miles from my house. Had I done nothing more than gotten him a bottle of water, it would have been something, and it could have helped. I pray God gives me another chance to get it right.

Join me in becoming an activist, because of your faith.

 

Sharing this post in community with Jennifer, Ann and Emily

 

 

 

Comments

    1. Kelli, I hesitated sharing this bit of my past. It’s such an ugly heart-reveal. But I know that in sharing it, hopefully, those who know me now see somebody very different. Someone trying to give grace and embrace it too… thank you for being such a sweet friend.

      Reply
    1. I need specifics too. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed and turn away. That is one of the awesome things about this bok, Activist Faith, too. They give concrete ways to help, which is inspiring and reveals how easily we can all get involved in something.

      Reply
  1. Kris, how ironic…I had just read your post and took my kids to VBS. There, the verse for the day is this same passage in Matthew, and they are talking about neighbors being bold! I think God’s talking to me! Thanks so much for sharing…I have become too good at looking past the needs of people directly around me. Hugs!

    Reply
  2. KristinHillTaylor

    Love the idea of being prepared to help even when we don’t know when those moments will come. You’re such an encouragement with your honest, brave words.

    Reply
  3. “I didn’t see people, I saw problems.
    By God’s grace, I am changed–wrecked by grace and given fresh eyes to see.”
    I can so relate to all this, Kris! Until I started working more with the homeless, I had so many preconceived notions about them. But God is blowing all those away. I’m going to look into the book you read; sounds like it’d be good for me, too.

    Reply
  4. soulstops

    Kris, Love your heart and honesty, and because of Alene’s post a while back, I bought $5 gift cards….and you are right, we don’t know a homeless person’s story.

    Reply
  5. God is changing me too…if you have not read “same kind of different as me” ….I would really encourage you to do so….this book really impacked me…helped to give me clearer vision.. Thanks for sharing …

    Reply
  6. If I can be honest, working at a church in a strip mall, we have homeless people visit all the time, and sometimes my heart still cast judgment. I want to be changed from the inside out. It’s taken me a while, but I know that God’s heart is to touch them at their point of deepest need. As my husband has been laid off for nearly 4 years now, and we had to sell our house just to survive, I know that I am just a paycheck away from homelessness. It’s only by His grace!

    Reply
  7. Emily Wierenga

    oh friend. this is powerful and honest and true. Jesus loves your heart friend. and i’ve been thinking a lot about those verses lately too… love you. e.

    Reply
  8. Wow, Kris. This totally hit home for me. Literally not less than 10 minutes ago I was stopped at a stop light with a homeless man looking right at me. And honesty, I felt nothing but judgment toward him, no pity or compassion at all. It humbles me to have to admit that. It is difficult for me to judge when to give & when not to. This particular man was wearing Nike sneakers, holding his sign & smoking a cigarette. I have seen many homeless people with a far less arrogant attitude, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I had no love for him at all. I don’t really know how to handle situations like that, but I know that God wants me to show love to all people, not just the ones I think deserve it.

    Thank you for being honest about this kind of thing. Obviously there is still a lot of work that God must do within my heart.

    Reply

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