Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Need Hope"

Another great Sunday afternoon in the park today. Played a chaotic football/rugby hybrid with a bunch of boys and their mom. Sang worship songs to God with ukulele and drum box. Spun the merry-go-round and made one of the girls giggle by telling her she'd better keep the six chicken McNuggets she'd eaten inside her stomach.

Then, on the way home, we needed gas. He was sitting beside the stoplight -- bearded, ragged overalls and ball cap. A small American flag was sticking out of his backpack. A sign was resting against it that said, "Need Hope."

We parked the car and walked to meet him. He was trying to get back to Texas for the winter. Has some kids in Vermont, but he hasn't gone there since his wife died. Too many bad memories. No, he didn't need any food -- just warmed up with a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza.

I offered a pair of socks and gloves and he accepted. On the way inside the house to grab them, I prayed quickly. Should I offer a Bible? No. A little devotional? Didn't seem right. I finally settled on a beautiful olive wood cross that a friend gave me for seminary graduation. I chided the selfish voice inside of me that said, "But I didn't get to wear it" and said, "I trust you to make this make sense, Lord," and walked back outside.

The man was pleased by the gloves and thanked me. He had the look of a gentle soul who's known too much loss. I asked him if he follows Jesus. He told me his name is David and said he stopped believing in God when his wife died.

"I asked him, 'Why?' and he didn't answer," David said. Then he paused. "But I could never do wrong. I still believe in him. I'm still searching for him. I'll probably be searching my whole life. And, I want to see my wife again. The David in the Bible, he gave up on God sometimes, too."

I asked him if I could pray. "Yes ma'm."

I thanked God for letting us meet. Prayed for protection for David. For provision. For peace and healing and hope that he would see his wife. That he would continue to seek God, and that he would find him and be surprised by joy.

At the end, I handed him the cross. "I'd like to give you one more gift."

He took it and looked at it. Then he looked at me. "Mine?" he asked wonderingly.

"Yeah," I smiled. Then, this just poured out of me: "You know the story where Jesus prayed in the garden before he died? He questioned too, and he suffered. And he was surrounded by olive trees -- that's what the cross is made of. When you wear that cross, I want you to remember that Jesus went through what you're going through. God hasn't given up on you, David. He loves you."

David smiled and held up the cross. "That's a good gift."

We shook hands. I went into my house. And David kept walking.