The question was simple: “Where is your bathroom?” The question didn’t even make me look up. The answer, however, got my full attention: “Our bathroom is out of order.”
We were on a road trip and had stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank, grab a snack and take a potty break. The reason the station attendant’s answer gave me pause was because my husband had just used their restroom. It was fully functional two minutes ago. What could have possibly changed in the last two minutes? So I looked up.
I saw a man standing at the counter who was obviously homeless. His clothes were very dirty. A hodge podge of torn and patched items that had obviously been collected over time. His right leg was injured and he had tied an old t-shirt around his calf in a make-shift bandage. He was older. He had a long, tangled beard and his face was like tanned leather.
He asked again, “Where is your bathroom? I just need to use the bathroom.” The attendant once more told the man that the restroom was not working. So the man then asked what I felt was a very logical question, “Well, can you tell me where is the nearest working bathroom?” The attendant acted as if he didn’t even hear the question. He just simply repeated, “Our bathroom is closed. You need to get out of here now.”
I watched from my position at the back of the store as this interchange was getting heated. The man was persistent about needing to find a restroom and the attendant was persistent in his refusal to answer him. Finally, the homeless man threw a plastic coke bottle at the attendant and stormed out of the store. What I saw next nearly made me sick. The attendant chased after the man, who was already out of the store by now, with a taser. He caught up to him in the parking lot and tased him through his tattered clothing. The man was now crying, and cursing at the attendant. He kept saying that all he needed was a bathroom.
My heart broke for this man. At first I was furious at the attendant. How could he be so heartless? And as is usually the case when I start to feel judgmental, the Lord quickly pierced my heart with conviction. Could the attendant have handled this situation better? Probably. But that wasn’t the point the Lord wanted me to see.
How many times have I dehumanized the homeless without realizing it? No, I’ve never chased anyone down with a taser, but I have been guilty of averting my eyes when the man or woman on the corner is seeking a hand out. I have been known to lock my doors when I drive past a street where homeless men and women are scattered about.
What do I have to fear? Why am I so inclined to look away? These are questions the Lord has been bringing to my attention a lot over the past year. I think it is easier to look away in fear because stopping to look, stopping to TRULY look forces me to make a decision. I am either going to judge these people, or I am going to help these people.
It’s easy to judge. To tell myself that these people are here because they are lazy or on drugs. That if they wanted out, they could do something about it. If I tell myself that enough times, I can avert my eyes and continue to live life as usual. So what’s the harm in that? They live their life and I live mine. No biggie, right? Wrong. The danger in this way of thinking is that it causes a dehumanization of these people. They become street trash. A disease you need to wash from your hands. Something to avoid at all costs.
But the Bible tells a different story. In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks to this very thing. He says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Did you see that? When we serve the “least of these”, the unwanted, the less than desirable in our society, it is as if we are doing these things for Jesus himself. As a mother, I get that. When someone compliments my children, I feel a swell of pride as if they had just complimented me. And on the other hand, if someone were to treat my girls with contempt, it would feel like a personal attack on me.
So instead of judging, the Lord has challenged me to stop and truly look. To see these people for what they are. His precious creations. He loves them. He loves them just as much as he loves me. They are as precious to Him as my two little girls are to me. Their value does not come from what they can contribute to society, but rather from the fact that they (like all of us) were made in the image of God. And as a follower of Jesus, I am called to care. I am called to do something. So I will stop and look. And I will follow the Lord as He guides me through the process of helping and healing. And all of it for His glory.
Precious Lord, in the name of Jesus, would You grant me Your eyes to see others as you do?