I hate missing the bus, especially when it’s cold outside. I stood shivering the other morning, wondering what God’s plan was that required me to wait an hour for the next bus. It took about half an hour for me to find out.
A man without a jacket appeared across the street, waiting to cross. I assume he came from the apartment complex. My first thought was that he was headed my way but no one ever waited for the bus with me. I’ve missed the bus before so I know there are no regulars. He stood next to me for a minute and then I asked him where his jacket was. He made a comment about how it was supposed to be warm later today. We chatted for a few minutes, and I asked if he was headed to work.
“No, I’m headed to probation,” he said.
I was in complete and utter shock. The vibe I got from him was of a well-respected young man who had his act together, save for the missing jacket.
“Oh. What… oh, well I guess it’s rude to ask. I hope it was minor.”
“Well, I sold some things at the pawn shop that turned out to be stolen. I spent a year in county. I just got out of jail yesterday. At midnight, as a matter of fact.”
He did a little bit more explaining, and I commented on his story as appropriate. I learned that he had a feeling the items were “hot.” I also found out that this was not his first time in jail.
Then I felt pressed to ask him about church, so I finally asked, “do you go to church?”
“No, I used to. I haven’t gone in awhile.
“Does your mom go to church?” He had mentioned that he was staying with his mom in those apartments across the street.
“No. My dad is a Sunday School teacher though. Church of Latter Day Saints. I guess that’s Mormon.”
“Are you Mormon?”
“No. I’m spiritual, not religious.”
And then it hit me. I’ve heard this line before. I used to say the very thing, especially when I was searching and called myself agnostic. This was before I believed in Jesus and the weight of his sacrifice. Prior to being saved, I just never got the whole Jesus thing. On paper, He was just a man to me, a man that may have lived at some point, and the bible was just a bunch of contradictions.
This is how the man in front of me was feeling. He didn’t see how Jesus could help him, like I hadn’t in the past. He mentioned how God was discussed in one of his AA meetings, and I told him that this was about his path, not those in the group. I told him that I used to feel the same way about Jesus, and how my life has changed since I’ve come to know him. We talked about a lot of things that morning, and I felt like God was using me similar to how He had when I ran into the homeless man.
It’s not easy convincing someone that Christ is the way. Just yesterday, I asked someone if they prayed and they threatened to block me. I only meant well because I don’t like to see people suffer but I too was once turned off by God and anything religious. There are still others out there that feel this way, and having been there, I am definitely understanding. Still, sometimes I forget to just back off.
We often feel our job as Christians is to save everyone, to turn others on to Christ. I don’t think that is the only way to serve Him or to help others find Jesus. We have to be compassionate. We have to listen. We have to lead by example and be loving to those that have fallen on hard times, without always jumping to faith as the answer. The first answer should always be love.
I told the person from yesterday that I was sorry, and I hope that they will continue to let me in their life. I may not be able to talk to them about Jesus but I can pray for them and ask God to watch over him.