Today I saw Jesus. It was most unexpected and humbled me to the core.
Early afternoon started with a somewhat traumatic stop at the tattoo/piercing parlor in Asheville, NC (another story – another time). My daughter Blake, her girlfriend, Cam and I did a little shopping and stopped for lunch. It was pleasant enough and I was practicing my best truth and grace balance.
We started the walk back to the truck. Blake and Cam were slightly in front of me. A few feet away I saw a man, seemingly homeless and tattered looking. He lit up as he saw my daughter approaching him. She said his name and embraced him warmly. He said, “I love you, “ and she loved him back. He said he had missed seeing her and wanted to know where she’d been. He assured her that he was doing great and he was pretty convincing with his big yellow grin. She made introductions – first, Cam and then mom. And, I saw it coming. He was moving in and my body tightened. Oh my word – here it comes – he’s going to hug me. And he said, “And, I love you too.” And I said it back, but I wasn’t convinced. Was he? I saw love pouring out of my daughter to this man. I stood sizing him up – observing the marks up and down his arms and legs, the shabby, mismatched clothing, his unbrushed teeth, and a goofy hat that made him look animated and adorable. His kind blue eyes sparkled as Blake spoke with him (and Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking). In that moment, I was jealous of Blake’s ability (“love is an ability” – credit Dan In Real Life) and effortlessness to engage, and I was ashamed of my fear. She opened her wallet and dropped a couple of dollars into his torn, white paper bag that held his belongings. He pulled out a tiny Victoria Secrets bag and shared a story about a “once upon a time” girlfriend. We couldn’t help but smile. Cam offered up her “to go” lunch and he gladly accepted. He looked at me and said, “Well Momma, I love her.” And then – get ready – he was coming in again. He loved me too, and I relaxed (a little) still envying my daughter’s ability to give that full on hug. We said goodbye and Blake shared her relief that he was still alive. I walked and tried to reconcile what I had just witnessed, but a street away, we met another.
This time, Cam breathed a sign of relief as we approached an elderly man, sitting in a wheelchair on the sidewalk. He was legless and wore a veteran’s cape – I guessed Vietnam. Cam told him that she was concerned that he hadn’t been at his usual spot at the “wall” lately, and he explained the amputation of his second leg to diabetes – a different kind of war. He told us that he spoke with the Lord and the Lord wasn’t ready to take him home yet. So he vowed to return to the spot he’d held for the past 12 years sitting at the “Before I Die” wall – where people chalked their hopes and dreams. This was his ministry. He spoke of Job and of his own family lineage. He smiled, shook his head and said, “I’m tired”. I stood in awe. I could feel myself smiling and I heard myself say “amen” as he relayed to us that the Lord had told him he didn’t need legs to get into heaven and that God had a brand new pair waiting for him there. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”, Job 42:5. He looked at Cam, requested a hug, and she bent down to embrace him.
And I departed again with a, “God Bless you”, but it was clear that the partaker of the blessings today was me. Because today, I saw Jesus, and it was not in a pastor, a priest, a Sunday school teacher, or even in a church greeter. I saw Jesus in two young ladies whose walk I do not understand. And the Lord reminded me once again that I have no dictation in His design. Neither despite me, nor because of me has His kingdom come, but His love for me has engaged my participation. I saw Jesus not because I was looking, but because He chose to be seen.