Think On This
Have You Ever Experienced Amazing Grace? Have You Ever Experienced Amazing Grace? Have You Ever Experienced Amazing Grace? Have You Ever Experienced Amazing Grace?
  • Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father. - James 1:17

All I had wanted was a quiet lunch with my wife Shelia at one of our favorite restaurants downtown before going on my usual weekly three day business trip, but there he was...his filthy clothes..."

His face haunted me. I could see it everywhere I went, through the windshield as I drove, in the face of people I saw; I couldn't close my eyes to get away from it. It had been three days since I last saw him. How could this man's face be so vivid in my mind? Why won't his presence leave me? I had only given him a glance when I walked around him as he sat on the sun-parched sidewalk, leaning back against the hot brick of the building. He tapped a little tin can on the sidewalk as he sat with his feet and legs folded up under him. His image was so real I could hear the chink of the coins in my ears as he moved the can up and down trying to draw attention to what others had given. All I had wanted was a quiet lunch with my wife Shelia at one of our favorite restaurants downtown before going on my usual weekly three day business trip, but there he was, in our way as we walked to the door only a few yards away.

Every effort was made by me, the protecting husband I am, to shield Shelia from him; I didn't want her to even get a glimpse of him—his filthy clothes, the smell of oil from days without washing, his hands so dirty, dried and cracked open from the time spent sitting on the sidewalk resting his frail body on his hands. This could just ruin our lunch and special time together—these people. His face was so weathered and wrinkled, obviously from many years of street living. Large knots and hard bumps covered his thin face; his left eye was calloused over around the pupil like a fungus over the bark of a tree. He wore a black toboggan even in the heat. It had to be to cover his unkept, lice infested, straight salt and pepper hair that poked out from under it.

He looked so thin and frail as if the lack of proper meals and the likely consumption of alcohol had certainly taken its toll on him. You know, that's why these people usually look the way they do. As we walked in front of him, I carefully guided Shelia away from him as I looked down at him to insure he stayed his distance from us; but suddenly my eyes locked with his. Quickly I tried to look away but it was like, I just couldn't. Looking him in the face was like looking into and knowing his whole life without saying a word or ever having spoken to him.

Not only does his face haunt me now but so do my words to Shelia after I gingerly ushered her around him as she asked, "Bill, aren't we going to help that man"? I said, "No, you can't help those people. They will just take your money and buy liquor with it." Shelia became quiet as I sensed some disappointment in her about what I said; but now his face and her words keep playing in my mind like a broken record over and over again—for three days.

As I continued my work during the week and counted the days to get back from my trip I was becoming very tired and weary from the lack of sleep—the images of the man's face and Shelia's words to me. As always, I called Shelia every night when on the road, and, as always, she can tell if something is bothering me. She would ask but I would assure her everything was OK and nothing was wrong, but it was! I knew I had to find this man when I returned home. I had to see him and ask his forgiveness for my uncaring and cold heart. Please God, allow me to see him once more; if you don't, his face and my words will haunt me the rest of my life. I want to ask his forgiveness, and Yours.

If I do find him....what will I say......what will I do? If I don't.... how can I ever forgive myself? How could you ever forgive me? Although she hadn't said it....I also knew I had disappointed Shelia.....she knew God and she knew he was bringing me under conviction....she was trusting Him for the outcome.

After four days I was now headed back to the place I last saw him, hoping to find him and, in a way, hoping I would not. Maybe God just wanted to see if I would try to find him. Maybe He is just testing me; this may be good enough—he's not in that same spot, not over there either. OK, I'm just going to go around one more block then I have done all I can do—wait there he is, right over there on the corner! So many people around. Why does he have to be there? My heart is beating so hard and so fast I can feel it in my throat. I will be embarrassed. Maybe I will wait until he goes to a less traveled, less busy place. No, I must go now; I can't go through another day, another night!

As I approach him, I can see he is still in those same clothes, same sitting position—that little tin can I had heard in my mind over and over again, day after day, the tapping and clinking are now only a few feet away. Before I get to him someone leans over and places a few coins in the little can; the coins clink as they hit! I clearly see his face once again as he looks up to thank them—so dirty, so wrinkled, and so rough. He doesn't look up as I am now standing in front of him; he just looks side to side as the heat of the sidewalk rises to his face. As I kneel down for some reason I assume his sitTing position and seem to become unaware of anything or anyone around me or the fact I have my dress pants and dress shirt on. For some unknown reason I am calm and unconcerned about my safety or his reaction to me sitting in front of him. I am now looking him square in the face! As he turns to look at me, he slightly closes the scared and damaged left eye as he focuses on me with his right, his toboggan slightly tilted to one side. I am now so close I could smell his clothes as the stench rose to my nose.

"You don't know me," I said, "but my name is Bill and I want to ask you to forgive me. I passed you the other day and didn't offer to help you." A small crooked smile came across his sun parched dark brown face as he squinted to see me. He said, "I'm Jerry", as he reached out his rough dry dirty hand. I took his hand and held it for a second. It seemed as if his skin was dead—with no moisture to it and rough as a piece of wood. He then started to reach into his right back pocket. What was he doing now? I stayed seated waiting to see what he was reaching for. After a few seconds, he pulled out a small folded piece of paper that had obviously been torn off for some kind of a note and handed it to me. He said, "Here." "No, no. That's OK. I don't want anything", I said. "No, here, read it", he said. I took the little piece of paper, not knowing what or who had touched it and slowly opened it. Inside the folded piece of paper was written in pencil, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father." James 1:17

Really surprised at what I saw and what I had read, I looked at him and said, "Those are really beautiful word's Jerry; can I pray for you"? I was really thinking: I am sure he has many requests and has a need of and for comforting words. Just then, once again, he reached out that rough small hand for mine. We clasped each others hand and then he looked at me and in a soft caring voice he said, "Bill, let me pray for you." My mind and my heart were now in a different place: Jerry is praying for me, I came to pray for him, I came to minister to him, he wants to pray for me!

As Jerry prayed, I was totally unaware of those that I know were forced to walk around us. I was consumed and my soul was moved by his prayer to God for me, my family, and him asking God to bless me and thanking God for me.

To this day, I can't remember all Jerry prayed as he prayed to God for me but I do remember what I felt. I do know God sent Jerry to me—I did not go to Jerry. I truly thought God was using me but God used a man named Jerry to minister to me and change my heart.

It was through Jerry that God revealed to me my own arrogance, judgment of others, and attitude that sometimes said, "It's all about me." Jerry's grace, so amazing, so undeserved in that he forgave me, blotting from him what I had done as he prayed for me, thanked God for me, asking God to Bless me and not asking for anything in return from me—true unconditional forgiveness and love. At that moment I experienced Amazing Grace!

We must go to Jesus to confess and He will forgive and intercede for us before God. He will forgive us as He loves us—unconditionally. He desires for us to have His heart, a heart of compassion for others and a passion for His purpose. We will be blessed through and by Him if we are willing to obey His voice. He wants you to truly know and experience "Amazing Grace" in Him.

Jerry and I maintained a friendship for a long time after sitting with him that day on the busy sidewalk as he bowed his head in prayer for me—many special visits along with several Christmas' and Thanksgiving's together. I learned of his hardships, his health issues, his loneliness without living family members and the circumstances that had placed him on the streets. God had placed us together at a special time in each of our lives.

Although Jerry had nothing by worldly standards, he was a rich man, changing the lives of people he touched in ways he would never know.

Author: Bill Lowery
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