Normally I pull out the camera when one of the boys gets dressed up but not today. It wasn’t a day to celebrate. Luke was headed to the funeral of one of his friends who died in a car accident. One month after graduating from high school a party in the desert offered this teen the opportunity to drink and drive and the results were tragic.
All week long any mention of the accident left me teary-eyed. I didn’t know the young man’s mother but my heart still broke for her. I kept imagining the knock from the police at her door to break the news. The thought of a scenario like this keeps every parent on the edge of their couch until their teenager comes home. Peer pressure is a force like gravity and even the smartest most well behaved kids fall prey to it. To worry is not unreasonable.
With my heavy heart I headed off to the grocery store to get some supplies for dinner. I wanted to fix Luke’s favorite. This is the second friend from high school that he’s lost to death. I know there are life lessons to learn from these losses but anything I can do to rub out a little of the pain I want to do. He didn’t want me to go to the service with him so this was my way to show him I was there for him. Food works wonders with teenagers.
When I got to the store I noticed that a homeless man Chase and I pray for was in the parking lot. This was out of place. Normally we see him a mile up the road at the freeway overpass. He camps in the brush off the highway and panhandles at the end of the off-ramp. During the school year we see him daily and pray that somehow someway his situation would change.
He’s not a man you’d feel safe approaching. It’s not his appearance it’s his behavior. You can see the mad voices in his head shouting at him and he shouts back. It’s clear that even for the experts on our cities homeless task force he presents a great challenge. He keeps to himself though and I suppose because he doesn’t wander into town he stays off their radar somewhat. However, here he was today in a busy parking lot and you couldn’t miss him, or at least I couldn’t.
He’d been severely beaten. One eye was swollen shut like a boxer and he was so dazed and disoriented I thought he was going down for the count. He had cuts on his arms and was drenched with sweat. If his wounds didn’t drop him the 100 degree temperature would. I wanted to get him some water but knew I shouldn’t approach him so I called the police and was thankful when they said they’d send help.
My heart was still troubled. If I hadn’t had a list I wouldn’t have been able to focus enough to buy the groceries I needed. I was sad, angry, frustrated, and heartbroken all at once. Every item I put in my cart felt like a weight I was adding to the burdens of this world. Under my breath I was telling the Lord I didn’t think the world could get much worse. Every headline in the paper is a sad one. Tragedy is commonplace. Surely, this has got to be the beginning of the end because it seems like the world is spinning out of control.
With what I needed bought and bagged I was heading out of the store when my neighbor, completely unaware of my angst, called to me, “see you at yoga.” I turned to look at him and right where I stopped was a penny. As I bent down to pick it up he joked, “Remember to breathe!” He knows I have a tendency to forget that important detail in class and in life.
On cue I took a big breath and as I stood up heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me:
Take heart. The end is in sight Kären. It looks like Jesus triumphing over death on the cross. That was the beginning of the end. Don’t worry. I’ve got the world in the palm of my hand just like you have this penny. The future is not bleak like the circumstances suggest. The future is bright like it. I’ve promised that.
I took a second breath and a third and felt better. When I got to the supermarket doors one of the Starbuck’s baristas told me that the police had come and found the homeless man and were helping him. They’d arrived just in time before he passed out.
Penny in hand I was reminded the same will be true of Jesus. On that day the wounds of this world will be redeemed and every broken man and broken heart will be healed. I can count on that. Hope chases away every other emotion and God doesn’t want me to lose mine. He doesn’t want you to lose yours either. Hang on. Take heart. You might not see it in your lifetime but the end is still in sight and it looks shiny and new. God will not forsake His promise.
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years;” Isaiah 65:17-20