When I left my house to go to the coffee house to read and see my girlfriend, I had not expected to be kissed by a 57 year-old Vietnam Vet, homeless and carrying a tall can of beer under his clothes. Twice.
It all started when "Laughlin" (like the city) asked me in passing for just a dollar, to buy a blanket, and I gave him five (had no change). Leaving, he said, "God bless you." I seriously doubt he knew that God would, that very moment, do just that. I said the same, but added, "Can I pray for you?" Laughlin either did not hear me or didn't understand, because I had to repeat myself twice. Once he understood my offer, he gratefully came to sit down beside me, and in a fervor, grasped my hands and began to pray, caressing my hands with his crackled ones. He started by declaring a most profound truth, that when two or more are gathered, there the Church is. He said it over and over as if to convince himself that indeed the Church had the answers to his problems. He continued to pray for forgiveness. He even professed faith in Jesus as the source of redemption. I sensed it was quite heart-felt, and I knew then there was more to do with him that night.
When he was done, I prayed over him, and declared forgiveness over him. He heaved emotionally, as if the words struck him tangibly. For so long, he longed to hear such good news.
When we were done praying, there was still great distress on his face. I asked him what was going on inside him, and he just began sharing his life. At that moment, he really missed a good friend, Martin. He had died. He told me that he was his closest friend and partner, as Laughlin is a bisexual. This did not deter me from staring straight into his eyes to show my acceptance of him. I felt like God wanted me to be Christ for him, and I know these are the ones Jesus flocked to. He also told me how he was dishonorably discharged from the Vietnam War for refusing to fight. He went into the war, having to serve two years, because of a drug charge; it was either jail or war, and he chose war for fear of being raped. Wouldn't you know, he ended up in jail anyways, and the pattern of serving time, being released, and falling back into trouble continued. His largest stint of some 18 years occurred when he did an errand for his drug dealer, by holding a gun to another users head as the dealer searched the apartment to collect on a debt. Well, the guy tried to grab the gun from Laughlin and it went off, killing him.
You can expect that Laughlin was not in a place to have much hope for his eternal security, let alone hope for this life. He prayed for the bare minimum, enough to just get by. I questioned that idea, asking whether he thought God wanted to give him more. I began to share the gospel of God's Kingdom, how Jesus desired release for the captives, and that His people walk in freedom now.
I think it was around then that another joined us. "Amal" was another guy living on the streets that broke into our conversation by asking me what Church I went to. He had not heard of it, and was roaming more of the downtown area, farther north from where I attend. He joined us and conversation bounced back and forth between how hard it is to be on the streets (and some good resources they knew of on how to get by) and the gospel of the Kingdom. I shared with them both from Mark 1:15: "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" I described that God's will was that now, with the coming of His Son to earth, Heaven would crash down into this world, and His ways would be known and lived out, bringing peace and justice.
Amal slipped away to grab his coffee. He eventually left after using my phone to call another Christian guy who was going to put him up for the night. It was in those times that I was able to share more of the Father's heart for the poor in spirit. I gave Laughlin my Bible and told him to read Luke, but with eyes looking to who Jesus sought after. He knew the answer already; he said the lowest of the low. I hope and pray he meditates on that truth, as he still doubts his chances of being redeemed from the pit. I shared Psalm 103 with him too. Right before we parted, we exchanged email addresses. He made me promise that I stay in touch and "continue to water the seed that I planted tonight." I assured him that I will, but encouraged him with one last scripture: “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. I am not angry." The Father is the vinedresser; He watches over and tends to the health of the vine's growth.
After that first prayer of absolving sin, Laughlin embraced my head and kissed my temple. When we at last parted, he embraced and kissed me again. He said I was one of the most beautiful souls he had ever seen.
I don't know if I'll see Laughlin again in this life. I'd like to think I will sit by him at the wedding banquet on that glorious day when Christ returns for His Bride. I tried emailing him at both addresses he gave me, but they didn't go through. I wanted to share with him from 1 John, how God is perfecting us in His love, that I saw God's hand on his life and that he should be encouraged and hopeful of the favor God has on him as a beloved son. It is a truth I am coming to know greatly. It is a truth that gave me the confidence to offer to pray for him as he was walking away, probably to go buy beer. Instead we spent a few hours in Church fellowship.
My friends, I experienced the Kingdom of God crash down into this world, where brokenness began to mend. His Kingdom came! And it is humbling to acknowledge it was me God chose to use. Bride of Christ, do you know who you are? Do you walk in your identity? Gaze into the eyes of your Lover to see how beautifully you are received. Walk in the freedom into which that love releases you. Give feet to the good news of our redemption and restoration, and captivate our discontent and jaded audience with your dance to our Father. It's time to shine.