Thursday, October 23, 2008

Listening & Soft Tacos

Several years ago, I was sitting in a crowded Taco Bell, during the lunch time rush, with a pile of soft tacos in front of me. Noting comforts the soul quite like Taco Bell, and I am convinced that the soft taco, with hot sauce, is the closest representation we have of what manna from heaven must have been like. It's an existential experience.

Now where was I? Oh, so I'm opening my first taco, sitting at a table close to the back of the restaurant with at least five other tables between the front door entrance and me. Each table was full of people eating a quick lunch before heading back to work. It was in between bites of my second soft taco that I saw him. He was a young homeless man wearing old jeans and a faded black jacket, but not your typical homeless guy. In fact, I remember him so well because he looked exactly like Jack Black. Somewhere in between homeless, and a drifting musician. His hair was uncut and disheveled and he looked agitated and anxious as he paced outside the front door. He was jittery and confused looking, almost as if he were working up the nerve to come inside. Finally, he stopped, looked up, scratched his head and made his way to the entrance. It was quite obvious that he was searching for people to lend him some spare change, so what did I do? I kept my head down, just in case he decided to approach my table during his quest. Well, not only did he decide to approach me, but ONLY me. It was almost as if he knew who he was looking for, as he deliberately walked passed each table, and headed straight for me. It was intentional. Deliberate. Mechanical.

I sighed and thought to myself, “Why me!?” I was hungry, tired and way too focused on myself to want to care, but I did. He stopped at my table, lowered his head and spoke. “Sir, do you happen to have any spare change?” "Why me?!" I didn't want to care! They're were other people in the restaurant! My soft tacos were getting cold! Well, the moment of truth came and went. I failed. I retreated. I didn't even have to check my pockets. I simply said "no" and turned my eyes back to my lunch. He said thank you, turned straight around and followed his same deliberate bee-line path out of the front door; not stopping to solicit money from anyone else. He was out of my life.

It wasn't until several minutes later that the previous rhetorical question repeated in my mind. “Why me?”, I asked myself, only this time for a different reason. Why did this man walk into a crowded restaurant, pass several tables full of people and walk straight to me? Why did he leave without approaching any other tables? What was the real purpose of this encounter? Whatever the reason, I felt shame, anger and conviction. I dropped what was left of my lunch, left the restaurant, jumped in my car and began my search for this man. I don't know what I would have said to him. I don't know what difference it would have made. But I drove for what seemed like 30 minutes, and was unable to find him. He was gone.

I don’t think that there is any question that God speaks to His people. Sometimes His words are louder than others, and sometimes they come in the form of that still, quiet voice that we often dismiss as coincidence or imagination. C.S. Lewis once said that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I believe that this is why we seem to grow so much out of our struggles. Either way, He speaks to us, and the more that we seek fellowship with Him, the more we will hear and hopefully heed.

The Bible tells us stories of the great prophets that had the privilege of hearing God’s voice in an audible manner. The disciples walked the earth with Christ Himself. But fro us, until we leave this temporary home, we rely on faith, trust and obedience in what He tells us through prayer and communion with Him. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) See, I think that if we listen; really listen, His presence in our lives will be more powerful than it was over 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth in the form of a man. That power comes from the Holy Spirit as Christ promised in Luke 24:49, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised;” and again in John 14:16. Basically, Jesus was saying, "Guys, I know it's going to be touch when I'm gone, but you have no idea how much better it's going to be! You have no clue how much closer you will be to me!"

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Let us listen to that small voice in the back of our minds. In Christ, there is no coincidence: only His Holy Spirit urging us to be His hands and feet until the day that he welcomes us home. In reality, we are all homeless until we leave this world.

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