This morning I was up early descending the 3 flights of stairs from our apartment and heading out onto the street for an early morning walk. As I came out the front door, I looked to my left and saw Steve setting up what he slyly with a wink and smile calls his "kiosk," his normal spot to spend the day waiting for the financial kindness of strangers to fill his can.
He didn't see me, but I thought I'd catch him on the way back. For some curious reason, as I was walking to deposit garbage where we do, I remembered a conversation I'd had yesterday with Sherry, a homeless woman we've known for a year. She was standing in for Steve at his "kiosk" so he could attend to the bathroom or get something to eat. Almost immediately, as I recalled talking to her, I heard God say I should offer to "stand in" so Steve can take a break if he needed to. It seemed like a wonderful way to bless him - one I'd not thought of. He would not expect it.
Well wouldn't you know it, just as I headed up Pleasant Street retuning from my garbage run, there was Steve lighting up a used smoke 15 yards ahead of me. I greeted him and asked how he was doing. He told me he was in search of a can. Voila! That was my cue, so I asked him if he needed anyone to watch his stuff while he searched. His face lit up with a smile and asked "Really?" I said, "Yup!" He was delighted. Off he went and off I went.
I walked up to his spot in front of CVS on Main Street and immediately felt self-conscious, a sort of "What do I think I'm doing here?" I don't look homeless. Will people who are used to seeing Steve there - he's kind of a fixture- wonder what the heck I'm doing? So, I just stood sheepishly next to his stuff. God said, "Step right into where he usually stands." I hesitated liked a nimnul, inched half way in (seriously), and then the rest. Even though there was hardly anyone out and about, I still felt self-conscious. A few people were going into Brueggher's and CVS. They didn't seemed too concerned.
Really??? I don't stand out like a sore thumb?
The thing is, in this simple way I was breaking new ground personally. So much of what God has been up to in my life with him since moving up here has been about pushing me past my comfort. When I was living in CT, I never could've imagined me doing even such a simple gesture of kindness as watching a homeless man's gear for a few moments, but there I was. He's not thrown me into the deep end of the missional pool yet, but he might on of these days if I'm faithful in little things like what I did this morning, the hesitating and sheepishness notwithstanding.
Steve returned shortly and thanked me profusely. He's a kindhearted and humble man as I mentioned last month. He's one of the men I've been praying John 6:44 over. I went and got him a coffee, said goodbye, and headed out for my walk.
I was really tickled God had spoken to me and then provided immediately the opportunity to respond. I know it's a very small gesture of grace, but for me it represents progress in the direction I want to keep heading and never look back. I want to get better at obeying when God says to act in the moment, especially when it has something to do with showing forth the love of Jesus to his broken or forgotten ones.
My spirits were buoyant as I left him. I had a prayerwalk the likes of which I've not had in a while. My heart entreated the Father to open the Kingdom to Northampton. I prayed hard for everyone of imagine's people, all my family members, and the three men I'm asking the Father to draw to the Son. I was more focused and fervent than I've been in weeks. I don't know exactly, but obeying seemed to loosen something in me.
Perhaps a simple, unexpected obedience cracked open the door.