I had a God-sent opportunity that turned into a Kit-failure last Tuesday morning. To be honest, I've been a little "haunted" by it since.
If you live in these parts you remember well Tuesday being the prelude day to the big snowstorm. About mid-morning, the temperature was decidedly cold and the wind was blowing a bit making it feel colder.
As is our practice, Tiger, our elderly dog, and I had trudged down the stairs from our apartment so he could relieve himself. Frankly, I was not in the best of moods being irritated by some such annoyance I don't now remember. So I wanted to get the entire deal over with quickly and head back into the building. Almost immediately outside the door and heading to the tree where Tiger does his business during the day, I was aware of someone to my left near the bench across from GoBerry's. Mind you, there are always people walking up and down the street at that time of day so I'm generally aware of them as they walk right past me so they don't stumble over Tiger as walk outside the door.
My awareness of this person felt different. As Tiger was sniffing about and taking his sweet time, I looked to my left and noticed him. He was standing alone. Right away he didn't fit the conditions. He was wearing a light cap, and a very thin, gray jacket suitable for much warmer weather. It was open. His pants where old and thin, but not dirty. This man was not unkempt at all. He had no gloves. He was holding a medium-sized cup I took to be coffee or tea given the coldness. For some reason it felt to me he might be waiting for someone.
Most importantly, his middle-aged face was mottled red, and he was visibly shivering, almost shaking. It was striking how out of place and in distress he looked - the inadequate way he was dressed and how he was acting telegraphed the need for a kind response.
Here's where I think I failed miserably:
As I turned and looked at him briefly, he caught my eye. He looked tentative as if wanting to ask me something or talk to me. As soon as I felt that, I looked away quickly. I wanted nothing to do with him. I just wanted to get back in the building. After a half-minute perhaps, I looked again briefly, and he was starting to move toward me, but uncertainly, then he turned back. He was acting like so many who are out on the streets. If they can catch your eye they will make an ask almost always for money. I know the routine well and have responded many times.
I stopped looking at him, letting him know clearly I wasn't interested in engaging. As I did so, I felt a stab of shame, but resolutely turned back toward the building with Tiger who was finished. As we headed up the stairs remorse went to work and I remembered we still had two Christmas Giveaway bags for men with gloves, warm socks, and a scarf among other things. I also thought I'd give him my jacket if he'd take it. I retrieved the bag and quickly headed back downstairs, Out the door I looked for him, but he was nowhere to be found.
I felt genuine sadness and regret. I missed an opportunity to share the love and concern of God with someone who looked clearly to be needing help. I was saddened as well by my selfishness and the insensitivity it reinforced in me.
Now perhaps you could say, "Well, maybe he was just waiting for his wife to come out of the office building,and had dashed out of the car for just a minute to meet her." Sure, that's possible, but the clear sense I had was he needed help. It was his tentativeness, and the way he moved toward me and backed off when I shut him down which said otherwise. Almost immediately as I headed back upstairs I realized God had granted me an opportunity and I just said, "No, not now." Even though I changed my mind the opportunity was gone.
It's happened a few times before out on the street. I've noticed God sometimes wants me to respond immediately when the Holy Spirit prompts. If I hesitate, the opportunity evaporates.
Clearly, I'm still in deep need of learning the radical freedom of what it means to serve at my King's pleasure. My heart is not fully surrendered, I'm afraid. Insensitivity and selfishness still exert a guerrilla lordship over parts of it. Jesus needs destroy its subverting influence. I know I"ll never be perfected on this terrestrial ball, but I desire greater loyalty to Jesus and what he loves. Tuesday was a gift revealing that in the redemptive struggle of which I'm a part sometimes the insensitivity and selfishness in me wins the moment. The greater and most comforting reality when I fail to follow obediently is that, "he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus, "(Php. 1:6) and in the daily working out of my salvation, "it is God who works in [me] to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Php. 2:12-3)
Turn my heart, O Lord,
Make it ever new.
Turn my heart, O Lord,
may I be like you.