Afraid of Jesus

Every one of them could tell I had money. Every one of them vied for my attention to get the quarter, 50-cent piece or dollar I might hand out haphazardly as I walked the streets of Toronto alone. On occasion, the men and women I made eye contact with were obviously psychologically impaired and I started praying even harder for wisdom and the ability to see past potential danger. 

I had $200 in my purse. I could’ve fed all the people I ran into that day — including the ones that had the pride to hide under leaky stairwells from tourists like myself. I’m a mainstream redneck from Alaska, though. I’m well aware you don’t hand money to homeless people. You don’t tell your life story to homeless men just to get them to laugh for two minutes.

But then.. There was Alex. 

As all of his cohorts spoke loudly and jostled me through their three feet of sidewalk, Alex just sat there. Watching. When I got close enough to his corner, he quietly muttered, “Please? I need food? It’s been three days. Three… Long… Days.” He couldn’t have been more than 18.

Before I knew it, I had gotten down on his level, pulled him to his feet and pushed him gently towards the McDonald’s a stone’s throw from his spot. As we reached the counter, I told him to order anything he wanted up to $40.
He ordered a Bic Mac meal. At his small request, I found myself choking back the offer to take him home… As I paid for his meal, I did something I promised myself a long time ago I’d never do. I handed him the change. I heard myself scoldingly tell him, “… You use this on alcohol or tabacco, Dude, and I promise you… Just, don’t, okay? Be different. Please. Be different.”

“You’re the nicest (he probably meant dumbest and most naive…) person I’ve ever met. Thank you, Lady. Thank you so much.”

I was too overwhelmed with the hopelessness in his eyes to be a verbal evangelist at that point. All I muttered firmly was, “It’s not me. It’s Jesus. It’s just Jesus.” I should’ve stayed and talked to him but I couldn’t… 

I couldn’t sit and talk because the look of fear on his face when I said Jesus’ name was incredibly unexpected. The name of Jesus gives my life purpose. To Alex, though, when I said Jesus, he shrank away with white-sheeted fear. He stopped saying thank you. He stopped making eye contact. He just… Stood there. Shaking.

In order to save his dignity and because I couldn’t fathom his fear, I walked away after I squeezed his arm affectionately. But the only questions going through my mind were questions I now pose to those of you that call yourselves Christians:

What have we done to make those we don’t understand believe that Jesus is Someone to be afraid of? What haven’t we done in order to quell their fears and magnify truth? What do we need to do differently?

But then, Elroi

Elroi. The God Who Sees. I fell in love with this name of Yahweh a long time ago. He was given this name by Hagar, the outcast hand-maiden of Abraham (Genesis 16). Abraham didn’t want her, nor the son she had birthed for him. She felt worthless, unwanted, inhumane, helpless and completely unseen. But then, Yahweh.

He saw her. He loved her. He, when no one else would, provided for her. Elroi. The God Who Sees.

I’ve felt all those same emotions of Hagar’s before. I’ve felt all those things for a seemingly-permanent, torturously-long time. But then, there was Yahweh-Elroi. The God Who Sees. The God who sees and is willing to be spoken to by a seemingly worthless, unwanted woman. The God who sees worth when no one else does. 

Elroi. 

For the past three years, I’ve had to brokenly rewrite my definition of a woman’s worth. It’s been a beautiful journey with buckets of tears and hours of laughter. Every time I’ve gone back to the feet of Jesus and reminded Him of how hard it is to deeply feel unseen and unloved to the point of madness, He says one thing:

I am the God Who Sees. I am Your Elroi. Am I not enough? 

I’ve had to learn in the past year that that fear of being unwanted and unloved does not go away when you are, in fact, wanted and loved. Every time I push a button, get a little too human and can’t seem to feel perfect (grin), I fall back into the tortures of my life before Christ. My value is unseen because it’s not there. No one sees the good in me because there is none. 

But then, Yahweh. My Elroi. 

He sees what no one else sees. He provides what no one else provides. When all else fails, He asks one of thing of me and one thing of all of us: 

Today, choose Elroi. Today be fulfilled in the God who sees. When you feel unseen, fall back on the unchanging, unmoving beauty of Elroi. He sees you, and that is enough. It’s more than enough.

I Trusted a Cop 

One of my dearest supporters growing up was a cop. We were 3,200 miles apart but my day was either filled with two emails from him or an hour-long phone conversation. The only days I didn’t hear from him were holidays. If he “skipped” a day, he always warned me beforehand or gave me an extensive explanation later on.

Terry was the way I survived my teen years. Terry understood I needed him despite the fact that I wasn’t in trouble and he wasn’t pursuing me because I broke the law. My perception of cops was protected for 22 years because of Terry. Even when one of my closest friends became a black man and I started questioning the authenticity of law enforcement, I had Terry as proof that some cops understood their job goes beyond the badge.

During one phone conversation, Terry was anything but his upbeat self. He had always treated me as a “Prayer Warrior” despite my immature and naive ways. Brokenly, he asked me to pray for an unnamed 2nd-grader whom he had just picked up. The kid had drugs in his backpack — obviously belonging to his parents. There were no racial slurs. There was no major character judgments. There wasn’t even a violent desire to apprehend the parents and pay them back for what they had done to their son.

The only thing Terry wanted was to protect the boy and give the parents a second chance free of charge. He couldn’t do that last part; he was, after all, a cop. But he went about his job, praying every second of every day. He was not out to get an award. He wanted to make a difference. Even when it hurt.

Today, law enforcement is different. I respect that. I have memories myself of times where I feel as if certain parties of law enforcement could have done much, much better. Unfortunately, there have been moments where, out of shock, hurt and anger, I’ve joined the throng of people muttering, “Cops don’t do anything.”

It’s not true, though. There are still people out there exactly like Terry today. Yes, recent events have led me to wonder even more about what this world is coming to when someone is handed authority and a gun. But making blanket statements about the usefulness, trustworthiness and twistedness of all law enforcement is wrong. 

Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. I’m not saying deny truth; but make every effort to solidify that what you believe about “that cop” is truth. This isn’t a story of Cops versus Citizen. Ultimately, this is a story of Broken versus Broken. This world sucks. 

Not all cops are bad. Not all cops can’t be trusted. When you title cops worthless, you are including the men and women who truly try to do their job in a Biblical way.

Be careful, dear ones. Don’t let your pain lead you to believe absolute truths that aren’t absolute truths.

Failing to Defend

I let out a little squeal as I opened the package. I wiped away tears as I realized its contents worked perfectly. I shook my head in wonder as I mentally pestered God about the necessity of my purchase. He was apparently honoring my whimsical desire to steward well what little money I had, but the whole scenario made no sense. I had muttered a crazy dream toward His direction one night and He was orchestrating it without my help. I wanted to be excited; but my faith stuttered and I let my logical argument with my Dream-Painting Lord begin.

After all, though my new possession was frugal, well-intentioned and useful, the fact of the matter is, I won’t need the contents of the monstrously large box for… Well, I don’t know exactly when I’ll need it. I just obeyed what I felt God was telling me to do. Only after the purchase was made did I lose confidence in my act of faith and started regretting and worrying about the wisdom of my decision. 

But, I had to remember one thing. I had prayed about it and God had mercifully worked out details which I never would have thought about myself. Apparently, it was the right move. Apparently, God had His reasons for making me do something as nonsensical as ordering something I won’t be using anytime soon. Honestly, barring all leaps of faith and being the doomsday prophet that I am, it’s possible I’ll never use it.

Too often, I forget what I’m responsible for when God calls me to step out in faith. Without even thinking about it, I act as if my act of faith is only important if I can justify it to those around me. Even deeper, I lose confidence in my obedience when I can envision being told my dreams, goals and actions are ridiculous. The moment I hear that, the joy of obedience is lost because I faced opposition.

It’s as if I can hear my Savior saying, “You obeyed Me, Kiddo. You found joy in the unknowns and in the simplicity of watching Me work until you listened to the world that doesn’t understand Me in the first place. You asked me to use you, you begged me to honor your desire to use your resources well. You answer to Me, not them. 

Because of your obedience, if the time comes, I will not fail in defending your decision. I am the Judge that matters.”