From January 17, 2013
If, by the end of this story, I have glorified myself, or made my actions look holy on my own efforts, then I have failed in writing this blog. I want this story to encourage you to live absolutely fearlessly, and in complete obedience whenever the Spirit leads you into action.
It was 1 am two hours ago. A friend of mine had posted a link to an article about the Red Light District of the Bronx. I looked through the photographs of the people who were endlessly hooked on crack and heroin, and who supported their substance addictions with sexual acts. They were beaten on a regular basis, both by customers and their pimps. The photojournalist featured pictures of the weapons the women carried with them, in case a client got too violent. The most peculiar was a railroad spike, with a red ribbon tied around the handle, reminding me that this is, indeed, one of the beloved daughters of Eve, wrapped in a web of lies and addiction, but beautiful nonetheless.
My heart broke for these women and men, trapped in slavery to their addictions. I wandered our dorm halls, looking for something to punch, just to let out the aggression that had pent up inside me against the substances, and the ways of the world; against the way the enemy works against every one of us and traps us with our own desires. Against the injustice.
I ended up in the chute room, where our trash gets dumped, and where the furnace for the floor is. It is also used as storage for mattresses and desks and other furniture. At first, I threw some punches into the mattresses, but my aggressive actions immediately turned into aggressive prayer. I cried out to God for the women and men featured in the articles, and demanded that He seize that territory for Himself. I prayed for wisdom for my girlfriend Katie and myself, as well as a dozen other things. Soon my prayer circled back around to the Red Light District, and I found myself offering to be used to aid this.
Then God struck me with a thought.
There are just as many needy people here in Chicago, right outside this wall.
$20. I don’t care if they just buy weed and booze. $20.
I stood up and looked at my phone for the time. 1:35 am. I walked back toward my room to put on winter clothes, grab the twenty dollar bill, and head out. As I passed the elevator lobby, I happened to see my floormate Chris exiting the ‘vator. I asked him if he wanted to come out with me….and then gave a very vague reason for what I was doing. I couldn’t even explain it myself. He agreed, to my joyful surprise, and we got dressed.
We shot down to ground level, walked outside, and headed toward the McDonald’s where there’s always a crowd hanging around outside. Before we even made it to Macker’s, we passed a beautiful black lady. She was waddling past us, and I felt that familiar gentle nudge to talk to her.
“Excuse me, can I talk to you for a second?” I asked.
“No, I’ve got somewhere to be,” she tossed over her shoulder without slowing.
For a second, I resolved to continue walking and give it to the next person we encountered.
I turned and chased her down, holding out the twenty. “I want to give you this. For…whatever,” I stuttered.
At this, she shrieked that amazed cry that only joyful black women can. She asked me if I was serious several dozen times, and I repeatedly said yes. Then she asked if I was walking with the Lord. I told her I was, and we talked for the next half hour about God, and His goodness and provision. She told us her name was Mary, and then showed us how she could name books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Nahum, Psalms, Song of Songs…..), and hugged us both at least five times each.
She told us how she had been praying not even a minute before I stopped her, asking God for just four or five dollars. God immediately answered her prayer, but it was much deeper than a mere cash deposit into her hand. For Mary, this was God reaching down and touching her. He was reminding her of His enormous love for her. He answered prayer in a way that is rare, but when it happens, it is the most incredible feeling in the world. And let me tell you, being the answer to her prayer brought me just as much, if not more joy!
God had been telling me that, though I don’t have much money, I have too much. I needed to lighten my grip on it, and that is what happened. Chris and I got to see Mary’s loud joy displayed for half an hour, and more importantly, see her hope renewed. She took our numbers, and our church information, so she could get plugged in again to a community of believers. Chris and I were both just blown away by God’s perfect timing, if we are merely willing to say a simple ‘yes’ to His nudges. We did nothing amazing, but God arranged that meeting ages ago. I love it. I love it. I love it. I would trade those twenty dollars for the joy on Mary’s face any day. Now it is three in the morning and I am wiped.
Obey when God is speaking to you.