I recently had the opportunity to take my daughter and her sweet friend to a Lauren Daigle concert. It was her birthday present; you know ‘experiences and not stuff’ and all of that really awesome sounding parenting paraphernalia. I like to pretend that I’m totally rocking this whole anti-materialistic parenting technique thing, you know?
So of course…I bought her and her friend stuff. I mean, what’s a concert without a tee shirt or six to memorialize the moment? It would be a crying shame for our kids to grow up and not have that tell-tale drawer full of concert shirts that no longer fit because somewhere between puberty and their thirties (err…forties?) they ate way too many pizzas and Christmas cookies…and Valentines cookies…and okay, cookies just for the sake of cookies. I mean, seriously dough, I mean though!
Then there was the celebratory birthday dinner beforehand, the gasoline for the drive, the cost of the tickets, and the $5 bottles of water that they sell at the concert because it’s 900 degrees in there with thousands of sweaty bodies pressed together in a confined space and you are not allowed to bring in your own. I am convinced it’s a legal form of highway robbery. Brilliant…but still robbery.
To say the least, the total cost of the cheap night was not cheap. In fact, it was probably enough to feed an entire third world village for a month. Let that sink in.
And of course there were thousands of people there who had obviously paid some varying degree of cash for the evening as well – presumably the majority of which were followers of Christ in some capacity since it was a ‘Christian’ concert.
Now, I am absolutely not judging the expenditure of money. We are all given blessings (all good things come from above) and God most certainly wants us to enjoy our lives abundantly. As long as we are also following the other Biblical callings of extreme generosity, radical love, faithful tithing, and consistently caring for our neighbors, then it’s all good, go have a great time every now and then! Those things are totally between you and the man upstairs. Only the two of you know where layeth your heart! No, I’m simply setting up the stage for what happened later in the night.
So anyway, during the concert, a guest speaker took the stage, as is common in Christian concerts, and spoke about a little word called ‘hope’.
“How many people believe in hope?!” he asked with overflowing enthusiasm. Every hand shot up in the air without hesitation. “How many people believe that a little bit of hope can change the world?” he continued. Again, every hand shot up, He was on a roll. “How many people want to offer the hope of Christ to the lost?!” he boomed. Hands, hands, and more hands. Preeeeeach, brother!
The air was filled with the static electricity of Christian enthusiasm and roiling over with the delicious desire to go forth and do good and mighty works in the name of Christ Jesus, our savior, King of the world, savior to all, friend to the sinner, road map to the lost, creator of the heaven and earth! WE ARE THE LIGHT UNTO THE WORLD!!! Man, it felt like we were going to pour out of that building like an army of saints on a mission to seek out the lost. Woohoooooo!
Until we weren’t. How quickly our eyes are covered and blinded by scales. Whether they are constructed of skepticism, busyness, fear, dislike, greed, judgement, faithlessness, discompassion, stereotypes, or a million other dark deposits corroding our hearts, these scales completely blind us to His great and unconditional love for all people (and our command to do the same). Our actions, quite simply, are in great discontinuity with our declarations of faith. We are walking, talking, Jesus-stalking contradictions, and the world sees us loud and clear. They call us hypocrites…because we are. Big time. I mean, I know no one is righteous, not one, but sometimes it feels like we could do just a little bit better, you know?
As I exited the building amongst a massive throng of several thousand human beings – human beings who just waved their hands wildly in the air in a grand proclamation of their love affair with hope and their desire to spread it to every last lost soul in every corner of the planet – we encountered a man.
There’s always a man.
This man was not like the rest of the crowd. He wasn’t dressed to the nines, wearing golden crosses around his neck, or gripping bags full of $50 tee-shirts. No…he was, for all intensive purposes, the crippled man laid upon the mat at the temple gates called ‘Beautiful’. Yet, there was nothing beautiful about what I witnessed there. No, he wasn’t lying on a mat or actually crippled that I could see; but the throngs of people – Jesus loving people – treated him with the same disregard and distaste that the Jews treated that man so long ago. Complete and total disregard.
He stood on the sidewalk outside the venue holding a cardboard sign that said simply, “Hungry. Please help.” His clothes were ragged and his face sported the blank expression that comes from a life of dejection and brokenness. He stood there staring at the throngs of people with their shiny crosses humming songs about Jesus, some of which walked right by without a glance and others who went out of their way to give him a wide berth…walking the far edge of the sidewalk and averting their eyes just to avoid having to acknowledge him. They didn’t want to see him. He was an eyesore, an inconvenience, a problem, an avoidance.
He was an invisible man.
I felt my blood boiloing hot in my veins. I was absolutely horrified! Believe me, I’m not anything special. I make a lot of mistakes. A lot. But come on, folks! Here was a whole throng of Jesus loving, hand waving, hope believing, money spending people who have [presumably] received the precious gift of salvation – who had less than an hour before proclaimed their deepest desire to do whatever it takes to reach every lost soul for the kingdom of God – walking right past this one, the lost lamb, like he was completely invisible to them. Or worse, worthless to them. But don’t you know that he’s everything to God?
In that moment, I thought to myself, “Lord, forgive us, for we know not what we do.” It wasn’t the blind man on the steps of the temple who was actually blind; it was us! Those of us who walked right by him day after day after day after day, claiming to follow the Lord while refusing to actually do it. And then we patted ourselves on the back for our pretty religiosity and good deeds. Oh, what a good boy/girl, am I. The scales are so securely placed over our eyes, that we cannot see Him standing there waiting for us to respond to His word! “Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).” While the blind man ‘saw’ (i.e., recognized) Jesus immediately for who He was, we walked right by Him lying on those steps every single day for decades. And we still do! Because he, that invisible man, is Jesus.
“Can’t you see him standing there!?” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. “Didn’t you just spend two hours worshiping the maker of the universe…the creator of this man, proclaiming your desire to share hope to all the lost?!?”
How can we do that and then walk right past him? I cannot comprehend it.
Where are you, Christians, when there’s real work to be done? It’s way freaking easier to wave our clean, manicured, Jesus-loving hands in the air and talk about hope than to take the dirty, filthy, germ-ridden hand of the man in front of us and offer him some, isn’t it? I guess the idea of traveling 3000 miles to enjoy a nice Safari followed by obligatory selfies of ourselves with starving African babies is way more Christian kitschy than acknowledging the broken man standing right outside our front door. Because that second thing…it’s really inconvenient, and following Jesus is supposed to be pretty and planned not ugly and inconvenient, right?
But it all gives me great pause. I have to stop and wonder…who then are we really trying to glorify with our ‘good works?’ Him or us?
“Mom…,” my daughter exclaimed, her eyes darting to the man on the sidewalk. My children have wide-open eyes and beautiful hearts for the lost. She didn’t want to run from him; she wanted to run to him
“I see him, baby,” I answered simply.
I was a single woman out there by myself near midnight in the dark with two teen-aged girls, one of which wasn’t legally mine (though I’ll take her any day of the week and twice on most days). Standing on the sidewalk across from of us was a dirty, broken, potentially dangerous or perhaps even mentally ill man (many of the homeless are). I had an important responsibility to those girls. So I did the only sensible thing…at least, the only thing that made sense to me in the moment – the thing that compels me and won’t let me rest. I loved him. And in so doing I gave those two little girls an important lesson in love. You see, my responsibility to those girls was to protect them, yes, but not to shield them from the darkness of the world. They are the next generation. They are the hope of our future. How will they ever understand the radical love of the cross if we never demonstrate it for them. How will the scales fall from their eyes if we do not first shed ours?
For God did not give us spirits of timidity but of power and love! If our God is for us, who can come against us?
As the polluted river of lost compassion and wasted opportunity flowed around us like the sludge it was, I dragged those two girls across the current, upsetting the flow of things. Then I stood in front of the man with the sign and I asked him my favorite question in the world, “What’s your name?” A name is such an important thing. The world can take everything tangible from you, but it cannot take that. To address an invisible man by his name is to give him identity. To see him.
“Eduardo,” he answered, barely audible above the cheerful chatter of the chronically blind filtering past us. It’s like we had been absorbed by and become part of his weird bubble. Simply by being in the proximity of his brokenness, we too became instantly invisible by association. It was a strange experience.
“Can we pray for you?” I asked him.
I wrapped my arms around this man – this dirty, disheveled, invisible man and gave him a big hug. He laid his head on my shoulder and I spoke close to his ear so he could hear. I looked down to see four little hands laying on his arms – my beautiful, beautiful girls – their clean, pretty, delicate little fingers a stark contrast to his brokenness. And yet, not so very different…because they were all loved equally by a very, very big God.
And we prayed. Me, two girls, and a broken man.
Afterward, I handed him all the cash I had in my purse, told him God loved him, and gave him one last hug hug. My girls – my beautiful, beautiful girls – hugged his neck too.
Because that’s what Jesus does, my friends.
I would like to say that the crowd of gungho, Christ following, Jesus loving, hope wielding people saw us – three girls and a dirty man – standing there in a moment of impromptu prayer and stopped to join in. They didn’t. I’d like to report that the scales fell away from the eyes of the masses in that moment and they saw him. But they didn’t. He was still invisible to them. But we saw him. If only for a moment, he was not invisible anymore.
As we walked away, the crowds continued to part around him like a stone in the flow of a river in a hurry to get to the ocean, the invisible lost man, like he was no more than a mongrel dog who had wandered into their path. No, I take that back. I guarantee more people would have stopped for the dog. That’s just the sad truth. We didn’t see another person glance his way. Not one. Not another dollar was handed to him as we got in our car and left. I don’t understand that.
In a sea of thousands of Christ followers, hope was completely drowned out by the roar of our own hypocrisy.
While we were busy talking and cheering about opportunities to love the lost, we overlooked the one God placed smack dab in the middle of us. While we were willing to drop several hundred dollars on concert tickets and tee shirts, we were not willing to give two bucks to a hungry man. While we were busy singing songs about how much we love Jesus, we missed Him standing in our midst.
The invisible man.
And that, friends, breaks me. Lord, open our blinded eyes and soften our wretched hearts of stone. Let the scales fall away, and give us eyes to see them before it’s too late.
“May your choices reflect your hope, not your fears.” -Nelson Mandela
Beautifully, brokenly yours,