Words cannot begin to describe my absolute lack of direction.
Todd learned early on in our marriage that a quick trip to a local store would more than likely result in frustrated tears and at least two phone calls to see if he could help me figure out where I was. It’s terrible. Really. I am paralyzed without my little navigation thing talking, even when I’m going to places I go to all the time. It is one of the things that has driven me (and everyone else) nuts for as long as I can remember.
It’s like my brain literally can’t remember which exit will take me where, so I panic. Then, before you know it, I’m on a wild goose chase trying to get home, screaming at Siri, “Take me home! Take me home!” I have a feeling she wants to crawl back in her pretty box and dream of lower-maintenance owners. Sometimes she understands me and saves the day.
Today was not that day.
I was late for lunch with my friend Jess, and she only gets a certain amount of time for her lunch break so I knew punctuality was important. I get to the 440 exit and I panic because I can’t remember if I go west or east (never mind the fact that I went to school off this exit and drove it every day for years.) I decide it’s east and then immediately, but not immediately enough, I realize that actually, no. It was west. WEST. Darn.
I find the closest exit ramp (Nolensville in this case) and I’m not in what you would call a “peppy, friendly, let’s talk” mood. I see a homeless man on the side of the road with a sign that says “Need Groceries,” and for a moment I am sad for him. Not sad enough to make extended, awkward eye contact, or to roll down my window and give him encouragement. I stare straight ahead, aware of his eyes begging mine to acknowledge him. But I don’t. I just stare ahead, willing the light to shine green so I can escape this moment.
As it turns, I press the gas hard and wave to him as we get eye-to-eye. Poor man, I think. And then I look in my rearview mirror and I see the way his T-shirt is soaking wet, stuck to his back from hours of begging for someone to care.
His back...I think. Soaked through with exhaustion and loneliness…oh, his back…
And while I cannot say I heard an audible voice, I know the Lord spoke to me at this moment.
“No, Angie. That is My back…”
Yes Lord. He is the least of these and what have I done for him? What have I sacrificed? Offered? Because that is what I have done for you, Lord. And it isn’t good enough.
I felt nauseous because I knew the Lord had been prompting me to give him money. I don’t carry cash, so that seemed like a decent excuse. But not enough. I could find something. I got back on the highway and told Jess I was going to be a few minutes late. She is understandably shocked because punctuality is my gift to the world. Stop laughing.
I open my wallet and find (I have no idea how it got there) $10. And it was his, this sweet man who needs, and who knows what he needs really, but he needs. And I want to be Jesus to him so badly.
I turn and get myself back on the highway going towards Nolensville and I pray to the Lord that he will still be there. As I get closer, I see him, now sitting on a rock a good ways back from the road. I open my window and wave to him, indicating I have something for him. As he stands, he nearly falls, and I see that he has a leg that doesn’t seem to be cooperating. He labors toward me with a smile on his face and by the time he has made it to my car, I hold the money out to him. I have tears in my eyes and I tell him that the Lord Jesus had told me to give him money the first time, and that I was disobedient. I apologize and ask his forgiveness. I tell him that I’m mad at myself because more than the money, God wanted me to speak truth over him. I tell him that he wasn’t forgotten, that he was loved, and that the Lord knew him intimately. He nodded and said “God bless you” as his eyes shimmered.
For a moment, it wasn’t Angie and a man. It was the bride of Christ desiring nothing more than to bless her Father. And as he looked at me, holding the money, he said something I will never forget.
His eyes, well there was something about them.
Something more than a little familiar.
And it reassured me but I didn’t know why.
“Thank you, thank you” he breathed out “…and…I love you.”
He loves me. He loves me.
The King of all kings, the creator God, who allowed me the grace to go back.
He loves me.
I stared right back into his eyes and searched the intensity, wondering what it was the Lord was teaching me.
I whispered a few more times, “Your Father loves you. He sees you and cares for you. Don’t forget that!” He told me his name was Stoney and I told him mine.
As the car line began to move, I saw him run away from my car trying to motion to me. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing, but as I watched, I saw a Pringles can fall to the ground and something else in his hands. He stumbled in desperation, holding it out to me as an offering. I realized it was a half eaten sub sandwich and he was limping toward me again in an attempt to repay me for what I had given him.
Mercy makes you want to give back, doesn’t it? And I know, because I am the recipient of a mercy so fierce it leaves me speechless. And as much as I limp and gather, the truth is, He only requires me to love well and rejoice in the gift.
“No, friend. It’s not from me. It’s from Jesus. You keep that!” I smiled big and waved
“Thank you!” He yelled as I turned the corner.
I couldn’t do anything but cry. All of my extreme emotions turn to tears, which is another gift of mine to the world at large.
I told the Lord I was sorry about my disobedience because I knew He had told me to do something very simple but it just didn’t fit into my perfect little plan for the day. I was so frustrated with myself and honestly, ashamed. Yes, I did go back and that was the second best thing I could have done, but it wounded me.
Do we really believe that the marginalized, broken, down-and-out populations can be affected by the power of God? Who are we to say that a few kind words or even money might not be exactly what convinces them that they are provided for? I have to say, I’m one of those people who pretty much automatically assume they are going to buy booze, but the truth that God reminded me of today was this: “Your hands, your mouth, and your heart dealt him grace today. That’s all I’ve asked of you.”
I finally got to lunch, had a great time, and prayed for my new friend Stoney as I drove home.
In case you’re wondering, I got lost again on the way home. Totally different mistake, same nutcase driver.
And as I passed neighborhoods and houses and mailboxes and children, I thought to myself, “Why? Why have you given me this thorn in the flesh. I just want to know where I’m headed. To not panic when I don’t know where I am, and to have some sense of logic that could help me better understand a map.”
I was really angry at myself, but the truth is, one of the things I despise the most about myself (being directionally challenged is a nice way to say it…) brought me to a man in need of Christ today. I was so convinced I was going the wrong way that I didn’t consider that maybe the Lord had chosen it to be so.
It was the wrong way to get to lunch.
That much is true.
But the wrong way entirely? No. Not by a long shot.
I committed a new prayer to the Lord later in the day. Lord, take me wherever you want me. Urge to me interact in ways that bring You glory, and prepare my heart to receive what that interaction will teach me about You.
The truth is, I’m probably never going to be any good with a map.
But you know what?
Today, I reaped the benefit of joy that comes from a heart that wants to bless her Father. And in obedience to His calling on my life, I am sensing that it’s entirely possible that my sense of direction?
It’s getting better all the time.
Have you ever had a prompting from the Lord that was clear like this? Did you listen? What was the result?