The Lesson Richard Taught Me
Richard is a man, who lives in a sewage ditch under a road, just north of Houston. His name might not actually be Richard, but that’s what he told me, and I had no reason not to believe him. Until yesterday. I met him on Saturday. Our period of trust lasted all of 20 hours.
Saturday afternoon, while I was with my family, we met Richard. He walked up to us, and as soon as my mom had the chance to ask him if he needed anything, he said “I really want to go to church tomorrow, on Easter.” We weren’t very close to our home or our church, so she said, “okay- well I’m sure there is a church around here that would be happy for you to join them tomorrow!”. He didn’t seem content with that answer because he continued asking if anyone knew of a church he could go to on Easter.
Finally, we offered to pick him up and bring him with us to our church Easter service. He was happy. We made a plan to pick him up at 10AM in the same spot we met him. He said he’d be there. We felt good about ourselves.
I’m sure you know where this story is headed. We went to our meeting spot at 10AM on Sunday. He wasn’t there. We waited a little longer. He wasn’t there. We drove down to his “house” and my dad went to peek under the bridge to see if anyone had seen him. There he was. Asleep. And not looking like he had any plans to move anytime soon.
As we drove away, I felt angry; like I had been stood up. I was hurt. Why would he ask to go to church and then not show up? Why would he choose to use drugs or alcohol the night before, knowing that we’d be coming to take him to church at 10AM? How can someone be so selfish? My anger continued to grow throughout the day.
As much as I wish that Richard had been able to go to church yesterday, to celebrate Easter— God had other plans. Had Richard been at our meeting spot at 10AM on Sunday, we would have picked him up, given him some food, let him take a shower, brought him to church and then brought him right back to where we got him. I would have had a really great story to share with everyone and I would have gotten a lot of pats on my back. I would have felt awesome about myself. The story might have ended there, or it might not have. But that’s not how the story went.
Richard didn’t show up.
Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, death, so that the people He loves have a chance at life. He laid down all that He had, so that His love could be offered. Many people never accept that love. Many people, that Jesus loves dearly (the same people that He died for) never receive the gift that He has offered them. But that doesn’t mean He will ever stop offering it. He will keep offering His gift— His life and His love— rejection after rejection; time and time again. He died so that we’d have the chance at life.
We aren’t called to create beautiful stories that bring tears to peoples eyes and give us satisfaction of a job well done. Sure… we celebrate when God moves and we get to see Him transform lives. Praise God when we get to be a part of that! But many times- that’s not the way it goes. Many times we will offer love that isn’t received. And sometimes we might get stood up.
But with Christ as our example, we continue to offer, we continue to love and we continue to sacrifice without regret— not so we can feel good about the things we’ve done, but so that there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, someone will see Jesus.