It was Labour Day, the last day for summer fun, for so many, and we had a lot of fun! We gathered for our normal “Study and Prayer” we finished up our look at the Armour of God. Then we began to peel, and chop and cook. Oh and we laughed and chatted about trivial things and important things. The organic nature of the conversation often opens up some really important issues.
We worked until about 1 and took a break after eating some left over hot dogs from the Neighbourhood Celebration of the Saturday before. We re-gathered at 4 to butter buns, cook the pasta, eat ourselves (after our first monthly meal we discovered that reed gets cranky if he doesn’t eat) and we prayed.
Part of our prayer was that we would meet Jesus in the people that we served, even (or especially in) those who were not always grateful or nice. Our prayers were answered that evening! As I stood to share a “Word From Our Sponsor” and ask God’s blessing on our time and the meal, I was loudly interrupted by J. It was obvious that he was not on his medications. He was agitated and a bit belligerent. Now J. was not my first heckler so we managed that quite smoothly but I was immediately reminded of our prayer. “Here is the beginning of your answer.” was the thought in my head.
Later J. wanted a private chat with me (anyone within 40 feet would have heard his side of our ‘private’ chat. He rambled aimlessly through the conversation, at one point crying and at another shouting. He of course made little sense and so I had no real reply for him but to ask if I could pray for him. He loudly refused but I prayed silently anyway (must be my rebellious streak). Later I saw him asking for extra groceries. Our volunteer very graciously tried to help him. He became more and more demanding and rude but she kept on trying to meet his request.
Finally when the evening was over and the last table and chair were put away and the floor swept and mopped, we loaded up the car to head back to the chapel to wash the pots and silverware. J. came and asked for a ride. I know he has a bad leg so I offered him a lift. On the way he asked for $8 to buy some smokes. I make it a rule not to give out money 1) because I seldom have any, and 2) because I want to be a friend not a banker to folks. J. seemed to take this in stride which I appreciated because by this point I was tired (physically and of his antics). He asked if we’d could let him off by Tim’s where he could readily panhandle for the cash he needed. I pulled up outside Tim’s and said something like “Here we are” but the most recent tirade continued so I added “You better get out now.” This set him completely off. The F-bomb came in to play in a way that would make a sailor blush. He did get out and slammed the door all the while questioning my parents’ marriage and continuing the blue blue language.
I thought, “Be careful, what you pray for!” I then started to debrief the evening. How was Jesus present through J.? How did I encounter Jesus in these circumstances? How was I able to be Jesus to J.? When Jesus spoke about the least of these surely he was thinking of tormented souls like J. In his pain and suffering J. is a walking billboard for this fallen world that Jesus loves and came to rescue.
At the end of the day I remember that the job of Saviour has already been filled. It is not mine to fix people but it is mine to see people and to serve people and to love people. Some folks are loveable and so are easy to serve in a human way. J. reminded me though that that is a superficial love relying mostly on warm feeling but Christ-like love loves the tormented and angry. I wonder “When Jesus looks at me does he see someone like J.?” I suspect that on some levels he does, after all we humans are much more the same than we are different!
I do want to be careful what I pray for but I am happy we prayed as we did on Monday and I am glad God heard and answered.