This is a story of one of my Christian stumbles.
As we parked and unloaded, my fiance asked me which bench I’d like us to sit on to play guitar and sing. After a 10 second pause, I selected a standard bench among multiple others.
We sang and praised the God that gives us opportunities and blessings every waking moment. We gathered a crowd of passerby’s every now and then. Finally, one man came up to us. He was sobbing uncontrollably and looked as if he hadn’t seen a good night’s rest in months.
He told us that his name was Marlin and his girlfriend had just left him. He had been homeless and jobless since he had returned from prison and usually slept on the exact bench that we had chosen to sit on that night. We asked what we could do for him and he requested we sing a song for him.
He slowly began to open up about his life. He grew up on a reservation and broke all family ties because of his actions and theirs. His three brothers all faced life in prison. Marlin, had been jailed as a minor when he murdered someone in self-defense. After, being released and starting an honest life he worked hard to support his girlfriend, whom he dearly loved. Unfortunately, his girlfriend left him as soon as he couldn’t pay her cell phone bills. (I hope someday that Marlin meets a woman of God that labors with him to create a happy home.)
After his girlfriend left, Marlin faced another trial. His roommate’s check bounced for the apartment rent. Again, Marlin found himself in jail because they couldn’t pay their rent. After getting out, he was penniless, homeless, friendless, jobless and had nowhere to turn. He had been on his way to kill himself in the river when he walked by us…and stopped.
We called a pastor with connections in town to see if he knew of a shelter that could help our new friend. Apparently, Marlin had been kicked out of the only shelter in town. As we tried what we thought was every effort to help, every door seemed to close.
How do you minister to someone in this situation? I have no idea. I knew what Christ calls us to do. In Matthew 25:37-40 it says, “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “‘The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.””
Friends, that night I failed. As we drove away, I couldn’t stop thinking of him. I’ll never forget his face. And I’ll never forget how I failed to help the least of these. You see, the next morning I realized that I had had a box of leftovers from our date in the car that night. And my fiancé, had a sleeping bag in the trunk. All along, we thought that we were such good Christians because we cared and listened.
But God calls us to do so much more than listen. In Matthew 25:37-40 he calls us to action, wherever and whenever. That was one of my moments. And I failed.