On this street that we live on we hear the rumors,
the whisperings of the ones who carry danger with them everywhere they go.
It’s said quietly and hushed,
Avoid them, at all costs. Stay away if you see him (or her) coming.
Tony, he drives home in our car that is blue in a territory that is clearly marked red and he drives towards this one man as the sun is setting in the late haze of a summer evening; while the setting sun is blinding the other man’s eyes who hesitates because he can’t see clearly who is driving.
I was standing on the front porch spray painting desks when I watch his hand reach under his shirt into the back waistband of his jeans…while he begins to walk slowly towards the car my husband is in.
Tony, calm and sure, reaches his hand out of the rolled down window and calls out his name, says hi as though it’s no big deal and diffuses a tense situation.
But it confirmed in my heart that truth we had been told,
This man is dangerous. Stay away.
October passed in a whirlwind of days of anniversary, ocean, birthday, and visiting. We come home from the beach and I turn and prepare for 2 weeks of company and finally tackle the leaves that are building a fortress on our front steps.
There is that pile of dirt, stubborn and resilient that I can’t quite get to budge out of the corner of the third step up and I’m more focused on that then I am on the street behind me. Barney, our dog, makes an odd sound as Tony steps out onto the porch and I turn and look toward the sidewalk and pause.
He is slowly approaching us on the other side of the fence, his eyes locked on mine while he asks if our dog will bite.
I don’t know how to answer…mostly because I don’t know how Barney will react. But I don’t know why he’s asking and so I say so,
I don’t really know.
I turn to look at Tony because I know we are to avoid this man, and he whispers quietly, urgently,
Get. In. The. House.
Not fully comprehending, I tried to finish up what I was doing, not wanting to look panicked or make the wrong move when I realize this man has lifted up the gate latch and is walking up the front walk towards us. As Tony steps around me, whispering again for me to get in the house, I quietly slipped in through the front door and sat down and began to pray.
There is always the possibility, no matter how small, when we have a member of a gang come by and sit on our porch with us, that an opposing gang could drive by and open fire. For the most part, I have come to peace with this. And while I know how foolish this may sound to those around us, I firmly believe God has His hand on us and He will protect us. After all, as I was told before, we are bulletproof until God calls us home.
But there was something in the air that afternoon that had me shaken, and I didn’t know what it was. So I prayed. And then I was able to listen.
I’m not sure how much alcohol this man had consumed, but it was enough to slur his words and open up his heart.
I have heard brokenness before – I’ve felt deep brokenness in my own life before, but I have never, in all my life, heard such all-consuming hopelessness in the voice of another.
Alcohol was making his mind wander, but Tony kept drawing him back to Jesus in the most tender and gentle of ways.
I’m too far gone.
I can never come back.
When he called Tony “good”, Tony would quickly and confidently say,
No. I am a horrible man without Jesus. He makes me good. Without Him I would do horrible things.
I sat there as I listened to his words and thought of the apostle Paul – murderer, persecutor, cruel…
No one is ever too far gone when Jesus enters a life.
He stayed and listened while Tony presented the gospel to him and he didn’t say much, but as soon as Tony started to read the words of Romans 6:23, he got up, shook Tony’s hand and wandered away.
I felt torn over the next few days. He had shared much with my husband and I wrestled between the fear of, what happens if he thinks he said too much and tries to hurt Tony?, and He heard the gospel, please Jesus, let the seeds planted take root.
I’m grateful for the prayers of those around us, who were aware and prayed for peace and protection because the fear I felt lifted and my prayers for him have become stronger.
But it begs me to ask the question of myself,
Why are we here?
And by here, I mean here, in this house, in this neighbourhood.
I keep hearing the cliches, the prettied up sayings,
Just Free-fall into Faith.
Jump and the Lord will catch you.
And I get it, because I believe that the sentiment behind these sayings is true – but am I doing it?
Am I trusting the Lord so much that I will share the truth and beauty of the gospel with those around me, no matter what I have heard of them?
Now, I know that there is wisdom in listening to the counsel of those that Christ has placed in my life to guide me and who know this area and gang culture better than I do…
I almost allowed fear of man to close my mind to the possibility of the salvation of another.
And that’s why I have to ask myself,
Why am I here?
Do I believe that the most difficult child in my classroom can be redeemed, or will I just roll my eyes and pray their 20 minutes in tutoring will pass quickly,
or will I come near and pray that the Holy Spirit will make Himself known to this restless child who experiences more horror at home than I will ever know, grateful that I can used by God in this moment?
Why are you where you are?
Have you thought of this?
I guess this isn’t the normal blog post, because there isn’t a neatly wrapped up bow in the end. We haven’t seen this man since that windy afternoon last month. I don’t know if or what he remembers, I don’t know if he is still alive or not.
That little one in my tutoring room is still just as disruptive, still refuses to listen and sit still.
But my heart is changing as I ask for new eyes to see.
And may you come to know deeply why Jesus has placed you in this place where you sit, and may He open your eyes to the deep need around you and strengthen you to act.