My encounter with a homeless man at the age of nineteen shifted my perspective for life. God showed me His heart for people, and I’ve never been the same.
It was Easter morning, while having my quiet time with the Lord, I felt impressed to wear jeans and a white shirt; so I did.
After attending the college Sunday School class in the basement, as I climbed the stairs, I felt prompted by the Lord to sit on the back row when I reached the sanctuary; so I did.
Now I was seventeen rows behind the nearest person, so I definitely felt alone sitting so far back from other people. We stood and worshiped, then sat down.
Encounter with a Homeless Man
Just as the pastor began to preach, the back door opened slightly and a homeless man slipped into the sanctuary. He aimed toward the back pew, but jumped and acted surprised when he saw me sitting there, but he recovered quickly and slid into the pew in front of me.
I have to be honest, he smelled so bad that I had to pray for the Lord’s help so I wouldn’t throw-up my breakfast. Oh my! It was bad! But the Lord physically helped calm my nausea and gave me prayers for the man in front of me which I prayed silently.
After the sermon, when the pastor asked everyone to stand and bow their heads in prayer, the homeless man jumped out of his seat and prepared to run out of the sanctuary. I felt myself being lifted up and I found myself standing in the middle of the aisle in front of the homeless man. His eyes became as large as quarters and his mouth dropped open wide.
And I heard these words come out of my mouth, “I’m so glad you came.”
I turned sideways and the homeless man ran out of the sanctuary, unseen by anyone, except the pastor and I. This really touched my heart and I pondered it for weeks. I remember it like it was yesterday – though it was years ago.
It seemed as if the Lord was saying,
“I’m so glad you came to see Me today.”
“I’m so glad you came to My house.”
“I’m so glad you came to ME!”
God Rejoices when We Come to Him
This is the Lord’s heart towards people. He so desires all of us to come to Him! It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside or even how we smell, He just wants us to come to Him.
I don’t know this man’s story. I don’t know if he came to this church when he was young and returned to it for Easter because it held special memories for him and enabled him to venture past society’s parameters for a little while. Whatever his reason, God wanted him to know that He was glad he came.
We Can Love Others through Prayer
For many years after this, I sat in the back of the church because I was looking for what God was doing. Through the years, I would see all kinds of people slip in late: those who were tired and weary and looked as if they were carrying the cares of the world on their shoulders; sad people with tears glistening on their eyelashes throughout the sermon; individuals who looked guilty and seemed 50/50 on whether they were glad they had come to church or were ready to bolt out the back door.
Yet, the people came to His house. They came to meet with God. They came to hear His Word. They came to be loved even while resisting love through God’s people around them. Still, they came. And God saw them. And I trust that He loved on them and met them in their time of need.
Many times, the Lord would give me prayers for them while sitting there, then more prayers throughout the following week. God can meet us anywhere; it doesn’t have to be in an actual church building. Yet, He drew each one to Himself and to His house to love on them in a special way. Let us adopt God’s heart and be sensitive to Him and to people.
Lord, help us to be sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and what You are doing in the lives of those around us. We pray, You would love through us.
May those who are weary, release their burdens to You and find strength. May those who are weeping find comfort in Your loving arms.
And may those who are guilty, confess their sins, find forgiveness, healing and restoration to You and with those whom they have harmed. And may each one of us know how high, how wide, and how deep Your LOVE is for us. Amen.