From January 18.
You called and left me a voicemail at 6:30 this morning. (my world rarely exists that early). I'd wondered if you would call. I woke up and saw the voicemail from an unknown 612 number, and I figured it was probably you. The first of many confessions: I confess I dilly-dallied listening to my voicemails, because not knowing was infinitely safer than knowing that you had actually called to ask if you could come to church with me.
Eventually I listened to to your message; you said you'd be out at the usual place. And I struggled. Actually I struggled all morning not even knowing for sure what the voicemail was. Because I realized I want a safe life. I want a comfortable life. I don't want to be pushed outside my comfort zone, and you push me outside my comfort zone. When I'm at church I want to do the things that I want to do and see the people that I want to see. I resolved that if I did bring you today, I would be selfish and tell you "I'm going to help tear down today, and I'm going to visit with my friends" and the killer is, I know you would have been okay with that.
I left home later than I'd planned, and plugged in my iPhone and listened to two songs, Brand New Day and Lord of Lords, and I was crushed by their lyrics:
This is our time, this is our time
To make a new tomorrow
This is our call, this is our call
Can you hear the sound of change
Kick down doors, tear down walls, bring light to the shadows
Will you join me in the streets, living out what you believe,
Cause it's who you're meant to be
Will you love a broken world, til the people are restored
And His truth is reigning
I am Your servant
Come to bring You glory
As is fit for the work of Your hands
and I knew the answer to "what would Jesus do?" He'd be out there on the corner with you, He'd be talking to you there, He wouldn't be questioning it at all, it would have been an automatic response, but for me it is so hard. Crying from and cursing my naïve prayers in which I'd begged for a Spirit-led life, I realized my "default" action (the action I'd end up taking if I failed to make a conscious decision) was: I had to pick you up. I drove down to 46th, drove past the gas station, and you weren't there. I was later than you'd expected me, so I drove toward your new apartment, supposing maybe I'd find you walking that direction. No joy. I came back, parked, poked my nose in the Burger King, in case you'd gone inside to warm up. I couldn't find you.
I must make another confession: I felt relief. In fact I was hugely relieved. And I am so, so sorry that my response to not finding you resembled joyful peace instead of lament. You are a human being, and you deserved better. Once again I found myself praying: "Jesus, I'm sorry I'm not You." The more I read the Gospels the more it has become abundantly clear that Jesus loves and cares for the poor and the outcast. How then can I call myself a follower of Jesus if I do not follow His model?
So here we are. I can't call you back, because you don't have a phone, and you've called me from a different number each time. (actually, I did try: one number was answered by a squealing modem; another turned out to be the corner gas station, and so I asked the attendant that, if he saw you, to ask you to call me; and the third was some random dude's cell phone who'd let you borrow his phone only once, and was quite flummoxed why I was calling [understandable, sir - I readily admit it's a weird introduction to say "Hi, my name's Jeremy, and I gave a pan-handler my number and he used your phone to call me, are you still in contact with him?"]).
I've struck out. I don't have much left in the way of options for finding you. Worse, I feel like I bait-and-switch'd you; while bringing you to church with me once may have been being the "hands and feet" of Jesus for that one day, I know my behavior after that fell far short of ideal, and I'm sorry.
Despite my failure, I will allow myself at least a little bit of Grace, because of this: Monday, the day after I didn't bring you to church, I had a phone call with one of the pastors about his upcoming sermon, and he asked about you. He'd seen us together last Sunday, and he said he was moved, and challenged, and inspired. It left him asking a lot of questions about his own walk of faith. And from the comments on my Facebook wall from my previous blog posts, I know he wasn't alone. I've long believed (and experienced) that God brings people into our lives who will inspire us at exactly the right moment, often in a permanently life-altering way. Gary, whether we meet again in this life or not, you were a rock tossed into my life's stream, causing a splash, causing ripples, and permanently altering the face of the riverbed.