Saturday, May 20, 2017

He was just walking

His gait was a little off-kilter, that's what caught my eye first.

While the three buttons on his shirt that he did use were lined up correctly, the way it hung on him, almost sideways, gave the impression that he had randomly buttoned just enough to keep it on. His wavy silver hair probably would have come close to reaching his chin if it wasn't wildly bouncing upwards. And his eyes, though open, didn't really look as if they were registering anything they were seeing.

He was walking towards me on the sidewalk, but it was a busy day, a busy sidewalk downtown. He wasn't actually walking towards me. He was just walking. 

I got in my car and drove away in the opposite direction. Six blocks down the road, I turned into the parking garage where the ATM line forms and waited my turn. A few minutes later I was making my deposit.

My ATM usually takes just about anything I try to deposit, but occasionally it will refuse to take a check with a corner bent or a bill with too many wrinkles. This time, it spit a perfectly crisp $20 bill out at me. I just stuck it in my purse rather than fight with the machine.

As I put the car in drive, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye walking across the parking garage in my direction. I knew before I looked because of his gait, but I still was shocked to see the same man walking towards me again. Well, not walking towards me. It was an area of town where the homeless are prone to wander. He was just walking.

Still, seeing him in two different places so closely together stirred up a little bit of fear and I put my foot on the gas and moved away from him as quickly as possible. I wasn't a block away when I felt guilty. It was the first hot day this year and he was likely thirsty. What was I scared of?

Unfortunately, I was stuck in busy traffic that took me onto the bridge over the Illinois River and couldn't turn around.

At the bottom of the bridge I ran into the gas station. I bought a bottle of cold water and set it next to the snacks I had packed for myself in my front seat before I went back over the bridge in the hopes of finding him.

As I reached the top of the bridge, I saw him. He was walking towards me on the bridge. Well, not walking towards me. He was just on the bridge, on the sidewalk, walking. But I couldn't stop without causing a major accident... so I kept going.

A glance at the clock in my car told me the interview with a prospective employee was in 35 minutes. I hoped I had enough time to get around the block, back over the bridge, and wait for him to make it over and still get to my appointment.

Starting up the bridge for the third time in several minutes I saw him still walking. Then, he turned towards the railing and stopped, looking out over the river. My heart leaped in my chest as he leaned over the low bridge railing ever so slightly, and my mind started to race.

I went back and forth between trying to talk to him telepathically to praying to God...“Don't jump. Please don't jump. I have water and food. I'm sorry I took off earlier. God, please don't let him jump. I'm helping now. Sir, please just keep walking over the bridge.” I kept going, even when he was again out of my sight and while finding a place to park near the bottom of the bridge.

Straining my eyes the direction he was coming from, I eventually saw his head pop up over the edge of the bridge and I let out a huge sign of relief. I could tell it was him by the distinctive bob his gait gave him. Then more and more of him became clear as he drew closer.

I got out of the car, “Sir, would you like some water?”

He nodded and walked towards me. “That's a long walk over that bridge!” He said.

“Yeah, it's pretty hot today! What's your name?”

“Reese. Like the candy.”

I handed him the water along with some snacks, a card that told him Jesus loves him, and the bill that the ATM had rejected.

“These are for you. I'll be praying for you Reese.”

He looked at the bill, surprised, before expressing his gratitude and started to walk away. A few steps later he paused and said, “My last name is Stillwell, so God knows you mean me.”

“He knows!” I assured him.

Then, he did something that completely shocked me. He walked back over the bridge into the town he had just left. He hadn't just been walking, down a busy sidewalk, through a parking garage, across the bridge. He really had been walking towards me all along.I wish I had told him, “Do you need proof that God knows your name, Reese? He set you on a path to me three different times and made sure I had cash in hand to help you out. God knows you.”

If I see Reese again, I'll tell him.

In the meantime, I can tell you. God knows you too. He loves you. And when it seems like nothing is going right and all you are doing is wandering around, keep your eyes open. Because either He is putting people in your path, or turning your path towards His people. 

Either way, He is trying to help. He knows what you need. He knows your name.

I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands. 
Isaiah 49:16 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The light at the end of the tunnel

I've watched him struggle both for and against independence.
Sometimes my heart broke for him.
Sometimes I was angry at him.
Each step was so. slow. and. deliberate.
"Just do it!" I'd think. "It's not that hard."
A couple of times I even said it out loud.
And while I never doubted he could do it,
   I often knew he wasn't ready.

Then one day this spring, after a breakthrough of mythic proportions,
he looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said,
Ben changed my life long before we dated.
It's exciting to walk with him as he
changes his own. I love this guy. <3
"I'm going to be okay."
"I have a future."
"I've never believed that before."
     and my heart stopped in my chest.
I still can hardly type those words without tearing up.

All those times I was frustrated to tears,
all those times I pushed him and he shut down,
all those times I tried to talk about the future
and he said he didn't know what he wanted from life...

It wasn't indecisiveness or him being wishy washy.
It certainly wasn't about us.
     He literally did not believe he had a future.
     He couldn't see it.

When you are in a tunnel with no light at the end,
     how far do you keep walking before you just stop?
Ten years? Twenty? More?

I'm so proud of how hard he fought,
even those times I didn't know if I could much longer.
I'm so proud of how he is continuing to fight,
     to be the man he knows God created him to be,
to turn that 'head knowledge' he's been acquiring for years
about exactly what Jesus thinks of him
     into the 'heart knowledge' he needs to move forward 
with hope into the abundant future we've all been promised.

While the scale isn't always as grand, everyone struggles with this on some level. There is almost always an area of our lives where we don't have a vision for the future. Maybe it's an area of your life that you don't even know exists yet.

Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, people perish."

The lack of vision can affect someone on a large scale, or it can affect a certain aspect of their lives. A person with no vision for personal finances, will see their finances fall apart.  A person with no vision for their business, will never see it grow. A person with no vision for their relationships with their family will see those relationships start to wither away.

The enemy works overtime to keep us from having vision, from seeing the light at the end of our tunnels. It's not that the light isn't there... he can't turn it off, he can only distract us from seeing it. And of all the the things Satan is good at, distraction is at the top of the list.

When it comes to vision for our future, there are a lot of ways to keep us distracted... pain, sickness, stress, and drama are just a few. One of his favorite ways to distract us is to try to convince us we are someone different than who God says we are.
Knowing who you are in Christ is the MOST important part of keeping Satan from distracting you, because while we may be temporarily distracted from seeing the Truth, the Truth hasn't changed.

Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

When you start to feel hopeless, and you can't find the light, and you
don't know how to fight... don't just remind yourself who God says you are... remind Satan that you know who you are... So that the God of hope can fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)