A few weeks ago we were away as a family in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara has some of the most incredible restaurants and shopping around. People travel from all over the world to visit this scenic beach town. And you cannot visit Santa Barbara without taking a stroll on the main strip, State Street.
My son and I were walking up State Street passing people carrying their high end shopping bags, looking picture perfect for their day out. And all of a sudden right in the middle of the sidewalk laid a homeless man, motionless, completely sprawled out. Just a few feet away, also in the middle of the sidewalk, sat his wheelchair.
If you took a closer look you would notice he was missing one of his legs, his pants partially pulled down revealed a badly used diaper and an odor emanated from him that was revolting.
It was a jarring sight that stopped my son and I in our tracks.
As we tried to figure out what to do and how to help, I couldn’t help but notice that nobody seemed to notice this man in the middle of the sidewalk. It was as if he was invisible. People literally just walked around him, some even stepped over him to get to their shopping destination.
How does no one notice?
How could people just keep going?
Why doesn’t anybody do something?
Could it be that people were uncomfortable with what they saw and so they just walked by trying to ignore it?
Maybe they felt the way I felt, overwhelmed by the pain before them and completely unequipped to help. What did I have to offer? What I could I do to help? But even so, I can’t just stand by and do nothing.
Or is it worse than that, could it be that they were not uncomfortable at all, that they just did not care?
All I know is there in the middle of the sidewalk lay a human being that other human beings just passed by and stepped over. On the ground lay a person made in the image of God. One who is deeply loved by God, who has intrinsic worth, yet stepped over like a worthless piece of trash.
Often times when we talk about our relationship with God it is completely disconnected from the grittiness life. It remains a spiritual exercise for the soul with no earthly impact around us. This was never how it was intended to be.
You were put here on this planet for more.
You put here on this planet for more than being upwardly mobile, retiring early, or achieving the American Dream. You were put on this planet to not only know God but to express his love to a hurting and broken world around you.
You were put on this planet to love those God puts in the middle of your path.
We have a God who loves with a reckless abandonment every person on this planet.
He is about bringing healing and wholeness.
He is about bringing beauty from ashes.
He is about bringing dead things back to life.
He’s about making us new.
He’s about restoration.
God is inviting us to be about what He is about.
The problem is we often feel exactly the way I felt when I came across the man in the middle of the sidewalk. “But I’m not equipped. I’m not trained.”
We often respond like Moses did before God at the burning bush. I think you have the wrong person. Isn’t there someone else? Why would you want to use me? I’m useless. I’m average. I’m broken. I’m not good enough. Maybe one day but not today.
I love what Mother Teresa said,
“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
It is not so much the usefulness of the tool but it is the tool in the right hands that makes it useful. You are a Daughter or Son of the King most High. You have been given incredible gifts and talents by God to bring Him glory. You are an image bearer of the Creator of the universe. And when you give yourself fully to him he will skillfully use you in the way that He has made you.
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The more you were made for is to love others the way Jesus loved you.
This is the one thing I want to teach my kids. The is the one thing I want them to learn and live out. They were put on this planet for more than they could ever imagine and God wants to use them greater than they could ever dream. We step into the more we were made for when we love those God brings along our path. It is as simple and as difficult as that.
What does it look like for you to love those God puts in the middle of your path today?