The group I see every Saturday at a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center is always diversified. They come from all walks of life, but it’s the homeless ones that get my attention, perhaps more than the rest. They come from under bridges and back alleys for a few days, maybe a week of relief from the harsh cruelty of their lives.
Homeless addicts are generally easy to spot. Their clothing is tattered and worn out, matching the look in their eyes. It isn’t difficult to see when a man hasn’t had a real haircut for ages, and when the redness of his skin is aglow from the scrubbing of a long overdue shower. His eyes aren’t as focused as most, often casting a forlorn look of dejectedness.
Many are illiterate, always looking at me with a prideful helplessness when I hand them a pen and registration form. But although the Bible I place before them will go unopened, but they often run their rough, weathered hands over it in a moment of reverence we could use a little more of in our own lives.
Yet it is often during these times of respite from their difficult lives that these folks have touched me and others with insight that you might never expect. Stripped of the materialistic comforts we so often take for granted, many of those I’ve met from the depths have developed a spiritual relationship that always leaves me in trying to find more meaning in my own life. In short, they minister to me, though our intend roles are just the opposite.
My Saturday morning Bible studies are generally centered on having a real relationship with God through Christ. I emphasize that one should repair or create that relationship first in their attempt to reconstruct the nearly destroyed lives their addictions have brought about.
Floyd sat through my Saturday rambling with nary a word from his mouth. He made no eye contact, and for all I knew, the words I’d spoken about trusting God with one’s life weren’t reaching anywhere near his ears, let alone his heart. His hair was matted and disheveled. He had on the wardrobe of many years of collecting whatever he could come across. He sat staring off into space, seemingly wanting nothing but for me to finish so he could move on.
Then, at some point Floyd’s eyes raised to meet mine. He looked at me direct and I could tell he wanted to speak. I nodded his direction.
“When I pray, asking for money to buy gin and cigarettes, is the money I receive coming from God or the Devil.”
What a question. My answer was simply, “Yes.” It got a few chuckles, but Floyd didn’t laugh.
Floyd said whenever he’d asked for money, God had provided, even though God knew what he'd do with the money.
“Sometimes, I think God not giving me what I asked for would turn out better for my life...” Then after he reflected for a few minutes, Floyd had a moment of revelation.
“You know, maybe that was God’s way of telling me He was still there...”
There was a quietness about the room that fell. Many of the participants realized that knowing God was present was oftentimes enough. Floyd had touched us all.
Yet another Saturday, Cuban refugee Carlos slowly raised a wrinkled, somewhat withered hand to ask a question. I called on him and he said something in broken English that I couldn’t quite make out. I heard "Jesus," "die," and "cross," mixed in with some slurred "spanglish." I walked toward him and asked him to speak slower. Carlos said, this time quite discernibly, "If Jesus had all that power, why did He allow himself to die on the cross? I’ve never understood why He did that." I asked him if I offered to pay off all his past, current, and future debts, would he take me up on it.
"Of course I would," Carlos replied. Jesus, I told him, died on a cross to pay for your past sins, your current sin, and your future sins, out of His incredible love for us. Without that payment, we’d have no way to reach the Father, no way into God’s presence, heaven.
"Carlos, have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior?" I asked him.
"No," he replied..."but now that I understand, I do!"
All that and more from folks taking a short break from lives most of us cannot imagine.
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