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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Kingdom of God (03/12/09)

TITLE: Time to Act
By Jeffrey Snell


He stepped out from the mission into the cool flame of daybreak, his shoulders squared from the previous night. A steamy breath, a tug on his worn black stocking cap, and he headed up the sidewalk, two disheveled flannel shirts pulled tight around him. He appeared to be in his late thirties, though layered clothes and distance made it hard to be sure.

For nearly two weeks now I had observed this homeless fellow's visits to the mission in this seedier part of the city. Retired last June, I have plenty of time at my disposal. As autumn began whispering at the edges of our warm evenings, I'd begun to sense restlessness in my heart, as if the Lord was saying, "It's time to act." His voice has soundly replaced my late wife's in that function--reminding me of what I know I need to do but haven't quite gotten up the gumption to. And He's proved nearly as stubborn as she. What if nothing comes of it? I asked a hundred times. Finally, I relented.

A good friend of mine from church who'd been praying for me suggested the mission on Seventh Avenue was a good place to begin. In the Lord's irony, I had driven past that dark brown stone building thousands of times in my career days, aware but never truly looking. I often ponder nowadays, how many good works, how many hearts, how many lives have I passed by in my life without giving a word or a hand? So many chances to matter, to be His salt, I've missed, even in the twenty years I've been saved. So many days exhausted by building security for my family that... I couldn't hold on to.

We lost our only child when he was fifteen. I hadn't been the dad he needed, though I'd tried. Wrong crowd, drugs, a couple of arrests for shoplifting and bewildered, ashamed unbelieving parents make a terrible family mixture. I was half-way down the driveway that Wednesday at 5:40AM before I noticed my wife waving her arms, crying. She'd found a note, and despite the police, friends, and everything we tried, a year later he was still missing. We both turned pleading to Jesus through the loss, and He held us and wept with us, but our son never returned. A thread of hope remained, but time had worn it thin.

At fifty-three, the breath of my life closed her eyes for the final time in our bed from cancer. Born in her gall bladder, it grew silently and hidden, they said. She just fell ill, and three wretched months later, she was gone.

I barely survived. Lonely agony soaked my heart, and all I pleaded for was to follow her. After weeks of tears and accusations toward God, the counsel of friends and God's word gradually cleared my vision. Her beauty, and more importantly, her love flooded into my memory. Now it was up to me to do the loving for both of us, until my time. Knowing our separation was temporary gave me the peace I needed.

It was then the Lord started poking at me. I can't shake the image of my wife giving Him the idea. So, I visited the mission a couple of times at my friend's suggestion and was amazed at how graciously and powerfully those serving strengthened and healed the raw wounds festering in the souls of the homeless. Beyond food, clothes, shelter and a dry bed, all powerful gifts, these servants were touching them, smiling, talking together. It struck me because I realized they were in the same place I had been--I'd forgotten who I was during my suffering, and so had they. The mission was putting salve on their wounds, reconnecting them to the lifeline of another human heart. And leading them slowly to a Father's heart that longed to hold and heal them.

Parked at a now-expired meter, I stared as the man shuffled away from me. Same color hair... age could be right. My God, could it be? My wrinkled hands trembled at my lips. He was nearly out of sight now, refreshed resolve already dented by the cold concrete outside the mission. How long would he be able to continue this way? How long would he survive? How long until he's irrevocably lost?

Movement in my rearview mirror flashed, and I noticed a meter maid approaching. It was time to move... time to act.

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This article has been read 612 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ruth Ann Moore03/19/09
Sometimes being at the cusp of a decision can be the hardest place to stand. I hope he does act. What a blessing we could all be if we were sensitive to the Spirits leading and ministered grace to those around us. Great story.
Jan Ackerson 03/21/09
Wonderful! I'm so glad you left it open-ended, allowing your readers to supply the resolution. Perfect.
Bryan Ridenour03/24/09
Very well written and left me wanting to know the rest of the story. Great job!
Mona Purvis03/25/09
Loved this story filled with hope. Interesting and full of intrigue.
Gerald Shuler 03/25/09
What a powerhouse chapter two would be! I agree that you have packed an amazing amount of good writing into your allowable 750 words.
Lyn Churchyard03/26/09
Yes, Jeff! You must write the rest of the story. Even if the young man doesn't turn out to be his son. This story was extremely well written and kept me reading and wanting more. Excellent!
Catrina Bradley 03/26/09
Amazing. Wow.
TJ Nickel03/26/09
I liked it.
A few sentences ended in "to" that could be changed around a bit and the transition into the ending seemed rush to meet the word limit, but...
Well done - good voice and a narrative I paid good attention to for a variety of reasons, mainly because the voice was packed with wisdom.