A Chance Meeting… Along the Way

No one seemed to notice him as he stumbled into McDonald’s.  It was evident that he wasn’t able to stay dry on this stormy day.

I immediately recognized him.  I do not know him but I had just passed him walking along the highway on my way to lunch.  As I drove by him,  he trudged through the rain, walking to his destination.  I did not give it a second thought.  Just another homeless man who I pass along the way.

He enters the restaurant and walks towards the counter.  I am sitting at my table with a newspaper spread out and just taking a few moments to catch up on the news.   I don’t know why but I look up from my newspaper and for some reason I watch him as he struggles to get a few coins from his well-worn pants and hands them over to the cashier.  I watch his feeble hands caress the cup of coffee that he just purchased.   The man looks up and his eyes catch mine.  I immediately look down at my newspaper.  I did not want him to see me staring at him.  He obviously had been homeless for quite some time.  I try to resist the urge to look up, I give in and take another look at the homeless man.  He is still looking at me.

His prominent chin rounds out while his lips seem to fold over his gums as if he were missing teeth.  The pale pink-white skin resembles rough parchment paper that had been crumpled too many times.  His eyes are worn but kind,  an indiscriminate color of blue.   He appears older than his actual age. His mouth keeps a permanent expression that is somewhere between a smile and a frown.  The harshness of a hard life lived on the streets fills in the lines on his face and his brown hair hangs like limp thread.

He appears like he wants to speak to me, but I do not know this man.  A small voice in my head says to speak to him but my instinct says stay away.  Something is wrong.  I look back down at my newspaper and force myself to not look up and resist the small voice in my head that is telling me to speak to him.  Eventually he leaves and I see him walk out into the rain.

I pretend to read the paper, I start to wonder about the life of this homeless man.   Where did life take that once innocent little boy, and what twisting, tearing winds tore him apart?  What major event changed the course of his life?  What was his home life-like, and what issues of life was he avoiding?   I wondered if anyone  had ever said, ‘I love you.’ to him?  Did his parents abandon him when he was young?  Did someone break his heart?  I dismiss these random thoughts and try to focus on the sports page and eat before my lunch gets cold.

As my lunch hour comes to a close, I rush to my car because it is still raining.   Suddenly I notice that the man had not left the parking lot.  He is crossing the parking lot heading in my direction.   I turn my head and hurriedly get into my car.  I press the lock button and hear the reassuring click of all the doors.  Next thing I know he is knocking on my window.  I feel the shot of adrenaline cross my stomach and I am on the verge of panic.  I desperately look to see if anyone was around.  No one was.

I reluctantly opened my window a crack.   “How can I help you?” I ask.  I was sure that he was going to ask me for money.  I quickly glance at my cup holder to see if I had any extra change to give him.  It was empty and as he started to speak, I thought that I was going to have to give a few dollars from my wallet.  I notice that his rough, calloused hands went into the pockets of his stained coat. Then it hit me…he was going to rob me.   He looked at me and he said, “I wanted to give you this.”   I started to feel an uneasy , sick feeling in my stomach.  My mind was racing, trying to figure out what this man had that was so important that he would continue to stand in the pouring rain in order to give it to me.   He fumbled around and then he pulled out a gospel tract called, “Where are you going?”  and slid it in the opening of the window.  Before I can respond, I look up and he is no longer at my window.  He was trudging his way across the wet parking lot in the rain and soon he was gone.

I just sit there staring at the worn and torn gospel tract in my hand.  I wanted to tell him that I was a believer.  I wanted to tell him that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.  I wanted to tell him that I believed that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven.  I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that there was nothing I could do to earn my way to heaven.   Because the debt of sin was paid by His death on the cross, I could have eternal life.  I wanted to tell the man that I had asked God to forgive me and save me from an eternity of hell.  I indeed knew where I was going after I died.

As I sat in my car, with the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the car, I start to feel the guilt and shame that comes with realization that this man who had nothing and lost everything in his life cared more about the souls of others than I did.  In my shame, I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually witnessed to another person about the relationship I have with Jesus Christ.

There are so many avenues we can choose to take in our life.  There are wrong paths and right paths.  I have taken a journey down both of these paths.  I have learned valuable lessons on each path.  But the sad truth is that for most of my adult life I have traveled a path that could best described as a “gray path”.   This  “gray path” is best described as when a believer lives their life in such a way that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, they do not have a real regard in sharing their faith and being a true “witness” for Jesus Christ.  They become very comfortable just living their life, going to church on Sunday’s and for the most part doing whatever they want the remainder of the week.  This would describe me.

Sitting in my car on that raining day, holding that worn and torn tract made me realize that I have neglected my responsibility to be a witness for Jesus Christ.  I believe that God intended for that man to speak to me that day.  I see that I need to be open and not so judgmental.   Along the way of living out my life, I now wonder how many friends will I leave behind because I failed to witness to them.

The truth is that everyone is looking for God.  Many people may not want to admit that but it makes it no-less true.   I should have been the one that gave that man a gospel tract.  I should always be the kind of witness that sheds light on what it truly means to live for Christ.  We have a responsibility to those we come in contact with along the way of this life.

Hearts that never mend,
The tears that never end,
And words that go unspoken every day,
Love we should have shown,
Dreams they could have known;
If only we would have told
Them along the way.

And who are we to say we really love Him,
When all we seem to do is throw His love away?
Will we smile when we stand before Him
And laugh all the hours away,
Or cry for the friends we left behind along the way?

The race is never run,
The battle’s never won,
And time just keeps on turning, burning away.
Bless me, Lord, I pray,
Fill my cup, we say,
While a million souls are dying along the way.

And who are we to say we really love Him,
When all we seem to do is throw His love away?
Will we smile when we stand before Him
And laugh all the hours away,
Or cry for the friends we left behind along the way?

I know that I am a better person and a better witness because of that chance meeting along the way.

The question is…  who are you leaving behind along the way?


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