During the season of life where my life seemed interrupted, and I entered a time of recovery that I could neither foresee nor appreciate at the time, a random event occurred that changed my life.
I was walking a lot in those days. It was how I often connected with God; even as He had stripped me back where my life circumstance serially broke me.
I happened to be walking along the main street in the outlying city I lived in when I stumbled across a drunk man. Initially I had the thought to avoid him. But he seemed so defenceless, and not a physical threat at all. So I got closer to him.
He was keeled over next to a building, slightly concealed by the grade of the land adjacent to the structure itself, in a culvert. He seemed to be unconscious, so I began to try and rouse him to ascertain if he was okay.
I was surprised. The man was unexpectedly coherent even if he were inebriated. My instinct was awakened to the fact that this human being, an indigenous man of my home nation, was not so much just schnozzled, but grief-stricken!
As I fumbled with him in my confusion, trying to make some sense of the situation, like a fisherman I caught snippets of information, the big catch alluding me. It was clear he was hurt, not just psychologically and emotional, but he was physically hurting too. His grimaces and his sobbing were a melding of a throbbing existential pain, both situational and generational.
As he sobbed through his story I completely forgot where I was. It was as if God had transported me for those moments into the travesty of this other man’s life. I could see his family situation. I could feel the abnegation and abandonment. I could taste the paroxysm of injustice. I could touch how nonsensical his life had become. And I heard how desolate he was, of hope, of purpose, of reason to go on.
God took me beyond the stereotype and gave me spiritual insight into the soul of brokenness — perhaps because, for me, I was in a season myself of aberrant brokenness.
I tried to console the man, and astonishingly he comprehended my encouragement, peering into my eyes with a longing hesitation. Very quickly, however, I suffered a bout of flesh, and my courage to speak hope boldly begin to abruptly diminish, as I believed upon the reality of his plight.
I called an ambulance. This man needed hospital attention. He needed a range of healing services holistic in nature. I felt completely unable to tend to him as he needed, but at least for those eternal seconds he may have felt something of God’s profound empathy.
As soon as the ambulance arrived on scene I could see some new things emerge; things that comforted me but also things that disconcerted me. I was reminded of the wonderful services our western society has that we take for granted. Then I also saw the presumptive mindset that prevailed in the two men who attended us. Sound men, but with unsound biases. They must’ve been so conditioned by the typical drug-affected homeless people they come across daily. They weren’t unkind, but they could not see beyond this man’s appearance. They couldn’t see past the stereotype. They couldn’t see his soul. For a moment I wondered if in fact I’d done the right thing.
But then God reminded me of my limits; I’d done all I could have.
I rested in that even as I prayed for the man as the ambulance drove off.
In this, God taught me to look beyond the outward appearance into the unknowable heart and soul and created mystery of a unique person made in His image. It’s a lesson I have continually been reminded of. A lesson to see the sacred value of the person caught in a compromised position. And to see that we all fall, and but for God’s love, who are we?
Everyone has a story for where they’re at and why they’re there, no matter their external appearance.
Before this moment in my life I don’t think I’d seen such a demonstration of God’s power to show me how quickly I pre-judge situations. This power also showed me my capacity to help. I left changed.