What I Learned From A Homeless Twenty-Something

I’m ashamed to admit that I used to shy away from homeless people. But over the past few years, I’ve had quite a few encounters like the one I share below. I’ve come to appreciate them now because God’s either trying to get my attention or giving me an opportunity to learn something about myself that I’m otherwise unwilling to accept. In this case, I think it may have been both.

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I met Cody yesterday. As I walked into a lunch meeting at Panera Bread, I heard a soft voice calling out from behind me, “Excuse me, sir.” I turned around to see a young man in his early twenties, slowly riding a bicycle my way. His clothes were worn and he was visibly weak.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but can you help me get something to eat?” Tears began to crest the corner of his eyes as he asked.

I gladly agreed and asked him to wait out back on the patio while I ordered lunch.

When I rounded the corner with his food, he sat motionless with his head rested in his hands. I wondered if he had fallen asleep. He quickly looked up, still emotional as I placed a hearty lunch and a Pepsi in front of him.

“Are you going to be ok, Cody?” I asked.

He wept as he began to share parts of his story. His family was in Georgia and he had recently lost his job in the construction business after injuring his hand. Because he was paid under the table, the contractor couldn’t afford to report it leaving Cody out of work and without the funds to take care of his medical expenses. He was living in a tent and didn’t have the means to wash his clothes. I adamantly asked him about substance abuse and he confessed to using heroin, but proudly admitted to being six-months sober.

I had just taken forty dollars out of the ATM that I slid across the table to him. He was grateful, continually saying, “God bless you.” He was going to use the money to wash his clothes and make sure he had some food for the next couple of days. I told him that I would pray for him and walked away.

Lukewarm Living

Although I’ve been in this situation before, my heart broke for Cody. The thing that wrecks me the most is remembering the look in his eyes. It was like looking through a window into a soul that was afraid. I didn’t see a twenty-something who was down on his luck, I saw a terrified little kid. I thought about my own sons and how, as a father, I would never want them to be that scared.

On my prayer walk this morning, I wept. I couldn’t stop thinking about Cody sleeping in a tent and how insufficient my efforts felt. It was easy to give him forty dollars as I got into my SUV and drove back to my nice home and well-manicured lawn. That felt like the “Christian” thing to do.

It’s comfortable to do a few good deeds and pass along some money with a protect-me-first mindset. Or, if we’re honest, neglect others altogether while conveniently justifying our guilt. We use cliché phrases like “you reap what you sow” and “he’ll probably blow the money on drugs” to make ourselves feel better about ignoring the problem. But there’s a great danger in living for the sake of self-preservation and self-protection.

While the laundry list of do-good, pat-yourself-on-the-back, Christianese thoughts are convenient for a lukewarm lifestyle, they’re not so palatable to God. And in the long run, is that really the legacy we’d hope to leave?

Do we want to be spit out by Him or pour our lives out for Him?

Our Daily Bread

I wrestled with these thoughts, looking for resolution from God to calm my unsettled soul. In that quiet place, I remembered the Lord’s Prayer. In particular, the line that says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Those words seem antithetical to American culture and offer little help to bring clarity to my experience with Cody. But as I sat there quietly thinking on what Jesus meant, I began to feel the words. We’re so full on bread—yesterday’s bread, tomorrow’s bread, and ten-years-down-the-road bread—how could we possibly focus on what’s before us today.

Worrying about tomorrow and trying to shoulder everyone else’s burden is me trying to be God by my own strength. A daily bread mindset reminds me of God’s promise that I only need enough for the moment. While the enemy attacks me with guilt for not doing enough or burdens me with the future, God reminds me of the moment. He is enough. It’s when we learn to live in that provision that we begin to see Him in the moments.

Ironically, my encounter with Cody was part of my provision for that day. And in turn, God used me to provide some provision for Cody.

There’s Always Enough Left Over

Do you remember the little boy who’s lunch fed more than five thousand people? He didn’t have enough to feed everyone, but he brought what he had to the feet of Jesus. That the substance of miracles. It’s only when we bring what we have to Jesus and get out of the way that we’re able to see the power of God at work. When we bring our bread, we get to watch as God uses it to feed His people. He’s a God of multiplication and abundance.

Our gifts, our talents, our resources, that’s our bread. That’s God’s provision in us. When we learn to understand it, cultivate it, and use it, God works through us.

Yesterday, I had cash and the ability to buy lunch for Cody. That was my bread. And God used it to feed one of His kids. And in turn, there was some wisdom and encouragement left over. That’s my God. The God of abundance who always has enough left over.

Today, if you’re caught in a cycle of lukewarm living or wrestling with insufficiencies, remember your daily bread. What have you been given? What gifts, talents, and resources is God asking you to use? All He asks is that you bring what you have been given.

The rest is up to Him.

MH

 

If you’re looking for a challenge to deepen your daily walk with God and provide some context for you to begin living out His purposes, consider taking the 7-day RICH Life Challenge. It’s a free, 7-day devotional to help you begin living with purpose by living on purpose inspired by my book, Redefine Rich.

 

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