Christ’s Face in a Street Person

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Van Gogh once wrote, “I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals, for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing the latter may be – a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or of a street walker, is more interesting to me.”

I will never forget the day I experienced Van Gogh’s truth for myself.

I had just parked my car on the top floor of a downtown parking garage, donned my Harry Rosen suit jacket, grabbed my brief case and was headed for the stairs (I was working as Director of Development for a downtown London, Ontario office building project at the time).

As I entered the stairwell I ran into a problem. A disheveled old street person was standing in the middle of the top step… blocking my way. He looked terrible and smelled even worse. I had the sense he’d slept there that night.

“I’ve got to get by him,” I thought. But when I asked him to move, he was unresponsive; totally incoherent.

“But I’ve got to get to work.” So I held my breath, edged my way along the stairwell’s concrete wall and squeezed by him. Clear. When I got down to the first landing I took one last look at the poor guy. He was teetering so badly I thought he was going to take a nosedive.

Then I faced a moment of truth. “I’ve got to get to work, I’ve got things to do… but if I leave guy in this predicament he’s going kill himself.”

“I need to help him.” But there was no way I wanted to walk him down six floors… and I certainly wasn’t going to carry him. So I retraced my steps, edged by him again, and went and got my car.

After opening the passenger door (and window), I helped him in, shut the door and then got into the driver’s side. No sooner had I started heading toward the down ramp, the old guy fell over into my lap! I hit the brakes. “How am I going to do this?” I thought. I came up with a plan.

Gingerly I lifted his head up and then pushed him over toward the passenger door window. Propping him up with my right arm I headed toward the down ramp. It was one of those spiral ones. So I figured that if I took it real fast the centrifugal force would keep his body upright and away from me. It worked.

When we got to the ground floor, my conscience hit me again and I thought that the least I could do was give the guy a ride home. So I paid the $12 fixed day rate for my five minute stay and headed out onto the street.

The moment we hit the pavement the old man wakes up. Incredibly, he’s now lucid and able to carry on a conversation. I asked him what his name was.

“Wendell Hathaway,” he replied.
“Where you from Wendell?”
“Out east.”
“What brought you to London?”
“Work… I used to work in construction.”
“Do you have any family?”
“Used to… I was married… and I also have two kids.”

There was a 30 second pause. “A wife and two kids” I thought, “and now this heartbreaking life? How tragic.”

We talked a bit more about his life; where he grew up, when he got married and how his kids were baptized in the Catholic church.

“Hey Wendell, it’s starting to rain, where do you live, I’ll drive you home.”
“I live at the men’s mission just down the street.”
“Ok, I’ll take you there…”

A few minutes later we pulled into the mission parking lot and I said my goodbyes. But then, out of nowhere, Wendell decided he doesn’t want to get out of the car. He mumbled something about how hated living at the mission. I could tell he hated his life.

But I’ve got to get back to work.

So I got out of the car, went to his door and tried to help him out. But, like a little kid refusing to budge, he wouldn’t move. After a few minutes of pleading he eventually fell out of the car, onto the asphalt parking lot, and started crying.

By now it was raining quite heavily. My suit was getting soaked and Wendell wasn’t moving. So I knelt down and tried to pick him up. No luck. So there I was, stuck, kneeling in this men’s mission parking lot, holding this street guy’s head in my arms in the pouring rain.

What a mess. But then I looked into his eyes.

They were a piercing, deep ice blue. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them until then. I couldn’t stop staring. And as I did I started to feel a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for the man. His life story started to flash in front of my eyes. I thought about how proud his mom must have felt when she first looked into those eyes when he was a baby, about how his wife was in love with those eyes on their wedding day, and about his children proudly looked up into the eyes of their dad as he held them.

And then I started crying. This is not way things are supposed to be.

Wendell crying, me crying, and in some strange cosmic sense God crying through the rain.

It all seemed pretty hopeless, until something quite mystical happened; something I’d never experienced before or since. As I was looking into Wendell’s eyes, there was this moment where it felt as though his eyes became transparent and I was looking into Christ’s.

For a second I lost my breath, time disappeared and every part of me trembled. And for a moment everything was Christ. Christ in me holding Christ in him, surrounded by a world that was mysteriously held by Christ.

Van Gogh was right. There was more glory in Wendell’s eyes that day than any cathedral could ever hold.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus in Matthew 25:40, TNIV

Posted in: Pastors; Blog Photo courtesy Steven Zucker - http://www.flickr.com/photos/profzucker/3320839065/ Image: See Credit

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Ah yes. Stories like these. This is one of the glories of ministry in urban areas and other areas of poverty and neglect. For even more stories like these (shameless plug for my father's book) check out http://www.amazon.com/Chains-of-Grace-ebook/dp/B0051AUE3M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325788813&sr=8-1 :) pvk

thank you for sharing!

that is exactly the reason God led me into healing prayer ministry.  We get to see Him, when we minister to the poor, the struggling, those who are hurting.   I got to see His face through one of those "underprivileged"  just yesterday when He led me to a neighborhood of shacks in our area.   I left in tears.

I was there for only a few moments, but during those moments, we rec'd this video via email... It was a beautiful confirmation of what is on God's heart.  Based on Matthew West's song "My own little world"...

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ2F91NU&utm_source=GodTube%20Must-See%20Video&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=01/04/2012 

 argh.. looks like the video got pulled.  probably for copyright stuff..  too bad... I'm sorry, I thought  it was way better than the official one!   It was done by Christ Church of Heartland, and at the beginning the "man in the mirror" had the writing "It's my time" on the mirror, and at the end, he erases the "my" and replaces it with "His"...  It's His time... it was profound, and God used it as a powerful confirmation for me yesterday!!    matthew west sings it, don't know if he wrote it...

here's the link to the official one... again, the other video was far more profound at least for me for a variety of reasons, including the timing, so I'm not near as excited about this one!!  and btw, the Matthew scripture is one of  the verses He's been putting on my heart as well...

http://www.vevo.com/watch/matthew-west/my-own-little-world/US82Y1000065 

my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
population me

I try to stay awake during Sunday morning Church
I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts
And I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
Yeah, it’s easy to do when it’s
Population: me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now?
Outside my own little world oooh

Stopped at a red light, looked out my window
I saw a cardboard sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
And just above that sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by?
I gave her some money then I drove on through
And my own little world reached
Population two

Oh

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
Outside my own little world oooh, ooh
My own little world oooh

Wooah woooah woooah
yeeah yeeah

Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
I don't want to miss what matters
I wanna be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now
Outside my own little world yeeeaah yeeeah
My own little world ooooh
Woooaah
Wooah
Wooah

http://www.sweetslyrics.com/789128.Matthew%20West%20-%20My%20Own%20Little%20World.html 

 

Praise the LORD!  this link to this video of Matthew west's song, my own little world, by Christ Church of the Heartland in Texas is working again.  It is such a powerful video and it was profound timing when I first watched it...

I encourage you to watch this... It's HIS time!!!

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ2F91NU&utm_source=GodTube%20Must-See%20Video&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=01/04/2012 

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