Yesterday, my dog alerted me to a stranger passing by our house. He was an older man in a cut off t-shirt, a black skull cap, and a scruffy white beard covered his face. His appearance wasn’t what caught my eye. It was the huge bag of cans he was carrying on his back. I’ve lived here for years but I have never seen him before. I watched him walk to the end of my road searching the ditches and trashcans as he went. When he reached the end, he made his way back on the other side. He reminded me of the many friends that we have met along our journey...and here he was...my neighbor. I grabbed a cup of ice water and met him on the street. As I approached him, he was defensive...as if he had done something wrong. I interrupted his explanation with a smile and introduction. His demeanor changed and he immediately began conversation with me while he drank his water. We talked about weather, work, life, family, and God. He did most of the talking and was delighted that someone wanted to listen.
His name his William, he’s 58 years old, and he’s been picking up cans for 20 years...he has the warped back to prove it. Throughout the course of this journey, God has made it apparent that before I lived in a van, I only showed true compassion and love to the neighbors in my inner circle. In marshall, I would quickly pass through the ghettos, avoid the passing man or woman on the street, and overlook the hurt that was so apparent around me. At home, things weren't any different. Many people go on mission trips out of town, out of state, and across boarders all the time but for some reason there is a hesitation when it comes to being the hands and feet in our own communities. Maybe it is because the local outreaches are not as fulfilling to the participants. Maybe it is because we are too busy with our own lives at home. Most of the time I think it is because there is a discomfort in stepping out amongst people we know. What if someone sees me here talking to them? What if I know the person I’m talking to? Who am I to help anyone? What do I do or what do I say? Even Jesus said, “...Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Today God showed me that opportunities to love as Christ did are right in our front yard. The problem is that we are often too concerned with our own lives to notice or invest in the needs of others.
My encounter with William was only about 15 or 20 minutes but my conviction has lasted all day. We, as believers, often focus on loving the Lord God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind but we fail to love our neighbor as ourself. To love our neighbor as ourselves is to think about others as much as we think about ourselves, to care for others as much as we care for ourselves, to pray for others as much as we pray for ourselves...it is shifting our thoughts from “I” to “us.”
I am writing this for myself just as much (if not more) for those of you reading. Please join us in fighting to remove the blinders and tunnel vision of our flesh and see the world through spiritual eyes. Through the process, God’s glory will shine.