Monday, March 11, 2013

Lepers and Grace; A match made in Heaven

In an incredibly painful contrast, the brilliant morning sun rose into a crystal clear sky of shimmering blue shades shining its golden rays to warm the tattered, skinny shivering frame of the young man waiting for me at the door of the church. He , the latest castoff of the "churchy" crowd from another town that resides here in this town. As he stepped from the front seat of his dented, worn and barely safe to sit in jalopy, I was at once overwhelmed at the picture; the mostly dead car with its mismatched bulging and cracked tires; the stained greasy clothes he has been living in for the last few months hanging loosely over his gaunt body. The smears, of the last month’s worth of scavenged meals clearly visible down the front of the hooded sweatshirt that provided little protection against the elements. A closer look shows that the promised offer of two used tires from another former acquaintance has fallen through; another in the long list of rejections by the wonderful group of “loving” folks who have come to the end of their grace capacity.

After greetings, I realize that he left the pro-offered refuge of a warm place to sleep, have some food and coffee, for the remote isolation of the dark woods. This out of fear of those who had previously offered shelter but then withdrew their offers because of his supposed sins. Even in rejection, he still demonstrates his childlike affection towards, and desire to belong, to these who have discarded him now. A sense of family lost drives him to seek out their company, even if only for a moment, among the others who join in the professed open doors of some offering a remedy for the lost, disenfranchised, marginalized and hurt, as long as you’re not as far gone as this one is perceived to be. He is even willing to stand among those who openly mock him and his inabilities and his disabilities while they are claiming the love of Jesus, just to feel close to belonging. This one’s future resembles a civil war battlefield after an extended campaign; there are no safe places to stand. His mother lying in a bed on “life support” according to one of the town’s local “Christian” gossips; no father and a slew of uncles who are supposedly trying to kill him. He sees only a single opportunity ahead of him and that is to drive to where his mother is to say goodbye…a mere three hours ahead of his present location is as far as he can see. With less gas in his tank than most cars would burn to reach Chico, he has his sights set on Reno to say goodbye while it is possible and then see what happens from there. His desired destination includes the hospital where mom is at and then a tire store down the street to pick up a few used tires that may fit his car, for free hopefully. Never mind the fact that the current tires have little chance of making highway 70, much less the 180 miles to Reno but he has the notion, much like the pioneers that set out with a couple of oxen and a wagon to cross the United States a hundred years ago.

I am greatly disturbed by the offering he makes that I am the only person left here who he can talk to, or who will talk to him, as I know that he has never liked me since he first arrived and I held him accountable for helping his mother with the necessary tasks of procuring firewood and keeping the stove stocked, instead of his, then favorite pastime of video games. How in the world can I offer him anything when I cannot for the life of me even come up with one possible, viable solution to his plight? Why Me, is the question that I direct to heaven, as I frantically attempt to hear a Holy Spirit inspired solution or advice for the moment. I think back on all the wonderful folks that have pronounced judgment on him, as they discarded, rejected or kicked him out of their lives. Labels, like pathetic, liar, druggy and thief top the list. Even the ones fronting a remedy have shown that their remedy comes without the reality of Christ, because this one is in the “untouchable leper” category; well beyond the emotionally shallow healing they prefer for the typical patron, who in their rebellion seeks a sense of belonging and affirmation of their life choices without conviction or accountability at the big Saturday night affair. He seems to be the pariah, beyond salvation; the leper without hope; the harlot with no future.

Only by the grace of God does any solution present any hope, but it truly is so meager in regards to the need that I am afraid that it will probably only compound his future. But God provided the means and the timing with this small gift, so with a short desperate (on my part) prayer for God to miraculously supply beyond the measure of what was given and for Him to even more miraculously keep the car from failing, this child shakes my hand and with genuine gratitude expresses his appreciation and then heads off into the future. His life, without any certainty of anything but the reality of God’s love for him and each aspect of even the most minute detail of his every heartbeat, now hovers above four very deteriorated tires. I can only rest upon the sovereignty of my Heavenly Father in understanding that I was unable to do anything much in my weakness and all glory rests fully upon Jesus for what He will accomplish in this one lost lamb. I pray that the sincerity of my heart and motivation is right before my King and may His grace and mercy be multiplied way beyond any potential even dreamed of by this last chance preacher!   

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