I was driving with one of my teenage sons when we saw him. Tattered clothes, a shuffling gait, homemade cardboard sign. The temperatures were in the single digits and he clearly needed a meal. When we stopped at the red light I dug through my purse and snagged a McDonald’s card. “Roll down your window and give this to him,” I told my son.
My teen rolled down his window and held out the card. “Hey, Dude?”
The man shuffled past, staring down at his cardboard sign, reading it to himself over and over again. Was he checking the spelling? Rethinking the exact phrasing of his request for help?
“Jump out and give it to him.”
“He’s on drugs, Mom.”
He probably was, or drunk, or mentally ill. Maybe all three.
Right as I was debating jumping from behind the wheel to take the card to him myself, the light turned green.
I drove away.
Heart hurting, I instructed my son to put the McDonald’s card back in my purse. I can’t even write this without crying.
Because that is true poverty and that man, he is you and he is me. He is us.
That man needed a meal. He was asking for help. I wanted to help him. I longed to provide something that he needed. But he couldn’t look up from his sign, the very sign that asked for help, to see my offer of assistance.
Isn’t that just like us? Isn’t that just like us with God?
We get distracted by busyness, addiction, a brokenness of mind and heart, the simple whirl of circumstances around us. We get distracted by theological debates, each new horror in the news, whether to read the Bible in the KJV or NIV or maybe NASB. We get distracted by arguments and circumstances and the overwhelming waves of plain old life that try to sweep us under.
There are so many times that I am caught staring at the details with such intensity that I don’t notice God reaching out for me. He has been reaching out to an unseeing humanity since the beginning of time.
God has so much more to offer than a single hot meal.
But that doesn’t mean that I see Him.
What broke my heart was that the very sign that distracted that man, spelled out his need. Sure, my cynical self argues that maybe he really wanted drugs or alcohol. But what would his sign have said?
Need Help. War Vet. Trying To Get Home. Just Lost Job. Anything Helps. Will Work For Food. Can You Spare Some Change?
In my own feeble and broken way, I tried to respond to whatever it was that the sign tried to communicate.
But he didn’t see, because he was looking at the sign, his attempt to communicate his need, trying to make that sign just right. Trying so hard that we weren’t able to connect at all.
God reaches for you, my friend.
I know this because He reaches for me. He calls out. He leans toward me. He offers me what I am searching for. He offers me what I am so desperately trying to communicate that I need.
And sometimes I don’t see Him because I am staring at my sign.
I didn’t need to read that man’s sign to know that he needed a meal.
God doesn’t need us to communicate perfectly either.
He sees us.
He sees our need.
Sometimes even before we see it ourselves.
The question is … will we look up and see Him?
Luke 13:34–“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”