“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (KJV)
We stood in line at the grocery store, and I began to unload our cart. As I reached to get the divider to separate our stuff from the customer’s in front of us, I saw that there were no less than four cases of beer sitting on the conveyor belt, and the customer who was buying them had left the line to get cigarettes at the customer service desk. He came back over to our line, and I noticed the pitiful, shabby condition of his shoes and clothes. He was very thin and haggard and appeared to be in great need of a good, home-cooked meal. His hands were shaking so badly that he could hardly sign the government check that the cashier had handed back to him for a signature. He finally managed to finish signing it, and it hit me that the man wasn’t buying any food at all….nothing. Not even a loaf of bread. Just four cases of beer, and I couldn’t see how many cartons of cigarettes.
My heart went out to him…everything within me wanted to help him. I wanted to tell him about Jesus and how much He loves him and how He wants a better life for him. Not that I think I am any better than this man….I absolutely am not. It is just that he was so pitiful to me. How does he survive? On just alcohol and nicotine? Is that possible? I listened as the cashier came up with the grand total….over $132.00! She took the government check and deducted his purchases, handing him back a little over $300.00. Would that amount have to last him the rest of the entire month? How long would it take him to drink the four cases of beer? Would he buy more with the remaining money? How would he pay his rent, utilities, and other living expenses off of such a meager amount? Is there anyone anywhere who loves him and cares about what happens to him? These were the questions going through my mind, as I tried my best to make eye contact with him. I so wanted to give him a friendly smile and maybe even speak a few kind words….but, the entire time of his transaction, he avoided making eye contact with me. He either looked down or around…anywhere except in my direction. It kind of appeared to me that he might feel ashamed. How I wanted to tell him that God loves us unconditionally! That He doesn’t base His compassion for us on whether we drink or don’t drink, smoke or don’t smoke, or any other outward act. He loves us not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are.
I thought of his shoes and the rips in his clothes, and I mentally calculated how much $132.00 would buy…especially if you hit the thrift stores and bargain bins. I could make $132.00 go a long way to help him get properly clothed and still have some left over to buy nutritious food for his obviously malnourished and pitifully bony body. As I watched him put the last of the four cases of beer and the bag of cigarettes in his otherwise empty cart, tears came to my eyes. I felt like I had just missed a golden opportunity to reach out and show love. I never got to give him a smile or a kind word….but I can tell you what I did do. I prayed for him…very hard. I hope someone some day somewhere somehow will share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus with him and let him know there is more to life. That redemption is available…no matter how far off the right track we have veered.
When Jesus was here on the earth, He never questioned people as to how they got into their current predicament when they came to Him. He didn’t go into a long spiel of “you shouldn’t have done that” and “if you would have made better choices, you wouldn’t need help or be in this mess” or “if you hadn’t of taken that first drink, you wouldn’t have turned into a full-blown alcoholic” or any other criticism. He simply reached out to them, and He met their need. His heart was filled with compassion and love and mercy. Don’t we all need mercy? One of my favorite mottoes is “But for the grace of God, there go I”. Are any of us exempt from addictions, bad choices, or destructive habits? Are any of us better than the other because we do or don’t do the right things? Is the church-goer who sits in a pew every Sunday any more pious than the drug addict lying in the street if their heart has not been cleansed and covered by the blood of Jesus?
You and I are here for a purpose. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call us to be judges or jurors. He calls us to be witnesses.” People don’t need our criticism or harsh rebuke or reminder that they should have made better choices in life to avoid shipwreck. What they need is a kind, caring heart to look beyond their tattered exterior and know that deep down inside they have a soul that will live somewhere throughout eternity.
When I was little, Mom and Dad bought me a walking doll that I named Marcia. She was beautiful…I still have her, and she is quite pitiful looking by now, but the thing I remember most about the times I spent playing with her, was that her right leg would fall off when I would make her “walk”. Each and every time it fell off, I would panic, because I didn’t know how to fix it. It was a huge impossibility for me to put it back on. So, I would run to my Daddy and beg him to fix it. He would stop whatever he was doing, because this was of utmost importance. This was an emergency. Marcia needed her leg! He would reattach the rubber band inside that kept her leg from falling off, and off I would go…smiling and happy that my beloved doll could walk with me again. So hard for me to fix; so easy for Dad….
Just as my Daddy would drop everything to fix my broken toy, God, our Heavenly Father is just waiting to fix broken lives. No matter how messed up they are, no matter how entangled with sin they have become, no matter how far beyond repair they appear to be, He has it all under control. He knows just what to do to fix every bit of our brokenness.
One of my favorite songs in the world is called “The Broken Ones” and is sung by The Talley Trio. Please take the time to go to my blogspot, click on the link, and listen to the words. I cry every time I listen to it or sing it. I hope it stirs you to reach out and touch the broken ones in your life. Surely you know someone who is broken. Maybe it is a relative who has bummed from you for years and is stuck in a rut of addiction. Maybe it is a friend who is crying out for help repeatedly. Perhaps it is you, my friend. Are you broken?
You are all-important to Him. He doesn’t look at you through human eyes…so quick to judge, condemn, and scorn. He looks at you through divine eyes of everlasting love. He wants you to be whole and complete. He wants you to walk again…with your head held high because you know you are His child. He is waiting to mend your brokenness…all you have to do is bring Him all of the pieces.