Reaching Beyond Ourselves
Had I looked under the driver’s side seat? I fell to my knees and reached under. A dime. Two nickels. Yeah, with the ten cents I had already found, I knew I could run across the street to the 6th Street Market and buy a bag of carrots. It wouldn’t be much, but I hadn’t eaten in two days!
Living in a converted motel four blocks from downtown Salt Lake City. I was broke and couldn’t think of how I was going to get my next meal let alone pay the next weeks rent. I had quit my last job as a crew boss for a concrete reinforcing company who’s checks bounced every week. I had no prospects for work, and it was one bag of carrots between me and starvation or so I felt. God sure does work in strange ways sometimes.
You see I didn’t starve. Sure, I did live on carrots for two more days. My rent was due and living in my car was the next move. But just as that was about to happen my old partner showed up in dire need of a guy of my talents. He was willing to pay, soon I was back to my old life. My luck was with me again or was it.
The truth is I learned a lot from being broke. Being hungry. There would be other times. I would live in my car for almost two months. I would live in a tent after losing a three-bedroom home in Los Angeles, but for some reason, the lessons God wanted me to learn about being without came from that one-week period. So, what is it that I learned?
The first thing when I look back, I know with all my heart, nothing I have ever gone through has anything to do with luck! What is it that the Lord tells us through the prophet Jeremiah:
“For I know the plans I have for you.” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Our God cares for us, even when we don’t care for him. As I sat in that room I never once thought of God or what he wanted me to do with my life. Thirty years later I know His plan was for me was to walk down many roads, some of which showed me what being in true need is all about. It wasn’t luck that got me safely here it was His plans to give me hope and share that hope with others.
I think the next and more important lesson was what an empty stomach feels like. I was blessed to be raised in a middle-class world. Never once as a kid did, I ever go to bed hungry. But in that room for the first time, I felt real, physical hunger. The desperation. There I was digging for coins and in the back of my mind making plans to steal or worse to keep myself fed and with a roof over my head. Yeah, desperation, if it is real or not, is powerful and knowing that has opened my heart to those today who find themselves there, in despair.
After coming to the Lord, I saw it even more clearly. The lesson of that short period of time in my life would not let me go. When I read the gospel of Luke and Jesus declared His mission:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recover the sight for the blind, to set the captives free.” (Luke 4:18)
I knew that should be all of our missions. To bring good news to the poor but not just in words but in doing all in our power, by God’s grace to care for the physical being as well.
I think James states it best:
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but he does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or a sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed, and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2: 14-17)
Jesus knew we had to care for the body to care for the spirit. How can we do any less?
Thirty years ago, I experienced hunger for a short time. But I pray I will never lose the lessons it taught. Never to look past the needs of others. I know it sometimes looks hopeless so much need so little we can do. But today if you and I can touch one life, spend one dollar to feed the hungry, we have a God so big He can open the coffers of heaven, He just askes we do our part, through and in Jesus’ name. It is simple, if we have the faith in Him who saved us, the works He wants us to do will follow.