By Timothy Cross
It was a scene not unlike something we see every day. Driving up to a McDonald's on a Saturday morning, Bro. David and I saw a couple sitting on the sidewalk curb. Their feet were stretched into the parking lot, their heads were hanging, and they looked like it had been a while since they had a shower or a fresh change of clothes. They looked weary and at the end of their rope. "Probably a couple of druggies hoping for a handout," I remember thinking as we walked inside. Surprisingly, they hadn't said anything to us as we walked by, but I remember the defeated, empty, and despondent look on their faces.
I was going there with Bro. David, a young minister friend, whose wife had just given birth to their first child. It had been a very blessed morning, and we could feel the presence of the Lord surrounding us as he told me about how his grandfather had wept to hold the baby boy who would continue their family's lineage into another generation. I was moved to tears to hear how blissful and sweet the miracle of a newborn baby is, and it made me all the more certain that God would soon give my wife and me our first child.
As we walked back to the car, I noticed the couple still sitting there on the sidewalk's edge. "Hi! How are y'all today?" I asked, and the man replied something like, "Well, uh, okay, I guess…" I asked them why they were sitting there and whether there was anything I could do to help them. I tried to be as unassuming as possible and not put them on the defensive, but the woman began to cry and I could see that they were both broken and in need of help. Contrary to what I had first thought, they weren't panhandlers, and they told us that they hadn't blown their money on drugs or alcohol. I've dealt with my share of street people, and I usually won't give them the time of day, but there seemed to be something different about this couple. They didn't seem to know how to ask for help, and they were reluctant to accept anything from us. His name was Ronnie, about 40 years old, and her name was Susan, age 29.
We invited them inside to get something to eat and, while we talked, the Lord moved on Bro. David's heart to give them some financial help. As we talked and ministered to them, it was apparent that they were at rock bottom. Susan understood about us being Christians and why we would help total strangers. Ronnie, on the other hand, hadn't been raised like her, and he couldn't fathom why we would do this. He used the word "pride" several times, and we realized that accepting help was humiliating to him because he wanted to be a real man and a provider for Susan. He had failed at this, and he was now having to accept help from total strangers who were half his age!
As we talked with them to try to understand their background and what events or choices had brought them to this point in their lives, we learned that Susan had been raised in church and in a Christian home. Somewhere along the way, things had taken a turn for the worse. Now she was homeless, jobless, had no transportation, and had two children by two different fathers. Here she was, sitting on a McDonald's sidewalk with nothing but the clothes on her back, a cell phone with no minutes, no money, and a “boyfriend” who couldn't provide for her. Ronnie is a roofer with no work due to a bad economy. He has also been in jail numerous times because he can't pay child support, which makes it even more difficult for him to find a decent job.
I could go on at length describing their plight, but here's what gripped my heart. As we shared Jesus with them, Susan kept breaking down and weeping. I knew that part of her sorrow was the guilt and shame of having known what was right, but now she was paying the price for making decisions that went against her better judgment and her godly upbringing.
At one point, she pulled a small notepad from her purse and read a couple of phrases that had special meaning for her — perhaps something she had learned in her childhood. I don't remember them word-for-word, but one was about having to let go of whatever you are holding onto so that God can place something better in your hand. Another saying was that God won't allow you to go to a place where His grace can't bring you back.
What really stood out to me was how Susan had been raised by loving parents. She said, "Daddy used to tell me, 'Sin can look so beautiful from the outside, but when sin has trapped you, only then do you realize how horribly wretched and disgusting it really is!'" Susan was thinking back on her father's wise counsel. Brother David and I saw firsthand what happens when a person steps over the boundaries of a Christian upbringing for a taste of the "other side" of life.
Part 2 will be posted on January 15, 2013
Evangelist Timothy Cross resides in South Carolina with his wife Sister Faith. They attend Grace Covenant Tabernacle. He has a desire to encourage young people to keep pressing on.