I’ve been discontent this past week. Angry even.
At myself. At my church. At the Church. Disillusioned a little.
But mostly at myself. And it was eating at me to no end.
I couldn’t bear to look at myself as a Christian. Actually, I just got tired of the label “Christian.”
Comfortable and lazy. That’s what I have become. And really, many of us have become comfortable and lazy in our faith.
Recently, my heart has been breaking for the homeless and the poor. But I didn’t do anything about it. Sure, I started a sandwich patrol program where we made sandwiches on a Saturday and handed them out to the homeless. I knew that wasn’t enough, but I forced myself to settle and be content.
Comfortable and lazy.
But something stirred up in me that I couldn’t deny.
In preparation of my sermon series on discipleship, “your goal is to be like Christ” came into mind. It wasn’t loud, audible voice, but it was so clear that it couldn’t be ignored.
I pondered over it. And because I pondered, there was a struggle and tension that ensued in my heart.
How am I like Christ?
Nothing at all. And I began to ask, would Jesus look at me and call me his follower? I begin to doubt. To be a follower, I should be following Jesus. But I wasn’t.
Jesus went to the poor and needy.
I stayed afar and prayed for them in my comfort zone.
And this drove me crazy today. At my usual Starbucks. So much so, I escaped to the bathroom to just breathe and catch my thoughts.
I’m a Christian. But, so is everyone else, it seems like. People go to church once a week and call themselves Christian. People refuse to acknowledge the poor, and they call them Christians. People refused to attempt to love their enemies, let alone their neighbors, and they call themselves Christian. And I’m include myself amongst these people.
I was tired. I was tired of preaching on Sunday. Then come Monday, just sit there and prepare for the following sermon. I was tired of guiding people but guiding them with words and not actions.
I was tired of being one of those “Christians” I wrote in the paragraph above.
I was tired of not putting my money where my mouth is, tired of not practicing what I preach, tired of not following Christ.
This had to stop. Now!
Which led to a peculiar night, where I traded in 3 dollars for so much more.
Like I said, recently, my heart went out to the homeless. But I didn’t do much.
But tonight was different.
We had a Sunday School teacher’s training that I had to lead. The lesson I prepared was a rather angry, because I still angry at myself and my recent discoveries about me.
As soon as I got home, I told my wife I had to take care of something real important, I’ll try to be back in an hour or so. She tried to find out where I was going, and I told her I couldn’t tell her. At least not at that moment. With a promise that everything will be explained when I got back, she allowed me to go.
So I got in my car and drove to Chinatown. Where many homeless people reside. I parked my car. And walked to the park that we hand out sandwiches. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was even here.
I begin to wish I left my iPod and wallet at home, just in case something happened. But the fear of being mugged paled in comparison to the fear of what I felt I needed to do: strike a conversation with a stranger.
So I walked around the park for about 10 minutes. Not knowing what to do, what to say, how to say it, who to say it to… wandering. At night. By myself. In Chinatown. Circling the park.
I decided to walk up the street just to see what it felt like, looked like, smelled like to be in Chinatown at night.
Many of the homeless people were sleeping on the street. What was I supposed to do?
I’m walking, and this man looked at me and asked for 90 cents. I got out my wallet and saw that I only had 3 dollars in cash. I told him, I’ll give him $3.00, but in exchange, he has to talk to me. So he told me to sit. I did. And I talked.
His name was Reid. He was a veteran that was waiting for the government to give him money that they owe. He’s been waiting 11 months. He had a heart attack and open heart surgery, which was the main reason he was out on the street.
Then out of nowhere, without me even realizing I was saying this, I asked “Do you believe in God?”
He said, of course and I desperately asked “why?”
He couldn’t get through the day without believing in God. He said right now, life is not good, but good things will happen. And that he can wait until they do. But he never doubts God’s presence.
He asked me if I believed in God. I told him I was a pastor who is struggling with the idea of following Jesus’ teachings and actions. I told him all what I just shared with you.
He smiled. He told me not to be hard on myself, not to doubt myself. I told him it’s hard not to.
I realized that Rahel might be really worried about me. I told him that I needed to go. He thanked me for the three dollars. I thanked him for the life lesson.
“It may or may not mean much to you,” I said. “But I will be praying for you, Mr. Reid. Know that.” And he looked at me and asked, “Why don’t you pray for me before you go?”
So there I was. In Chinatown. At night. By myself. Talking to a stranger. Holding his hand. And praying for him.
I thanked him again for this life lesson. He thanked me again for the three bucks. I wanted to hug him, but I don’t think he was a hugging guy. Holding hands was enough.
I walked away. I wasn’t satisfied or proud of myself. That’s almost… inappropriate and arrogant maybe.
But I felt that I was moving forward.
I could picture God looking at me, throwing His hands in the air and say, “Finally! That idiot finally is getting it!” My wife’s sentiment was similar.
The anger has passed away. A sense of hope has emerged inside of me. This is a huge step for me. I never talk to strangers, let alone evangelize. And I didn’t even evangelize. He preached to me. He taught me!
I plan to do this next Thursday too. And the Thursday after that. And after that. I’m going to start practicing what I am preaching. Then maybe I can get those who listen to my sermons start practicing what they hear too. Change always begins with me.
As I was going home, digesting what just happened, John Wesley came to mind.
“The world is my parish” he said.
And I’m starting to understand and realize that more.