Well, not actually him. He died a few years back. But it could have been him at a glance. Long scraggly hair, old jeans...has his shirt off as he's washing up, using the hose out front...his possessions at his feet. Everything hard worn, threadbare...even from a distance. I'm alone, so I stopped the car a fair distance away and called the main church office. I got a sweet secretary who said she'd send out a pastor. Brennan and I watch him wash off his stuff, scrub his back with his shirt. Rinse his head clean in the 100 degree heat.
And I think...that's me. That's my family. That's Uncle Lonnie. One step off the path from where I stepped and I'd be him. I know him. I remember Lonnie tossing me in the air...blowing on my belly. Does anyone remember this guy doing the same? Did some little one stare up at him, shyly hoping to be scooped up again? No one starts out hoping that this is where they'll come one day. Once they were born, cradled, nursed...some teacher smiled their way...tossed a ball to a friend...got a little frazzled over a test coming up...kissed a girl...little graces each day as I had. He went off toward folly like I did...and one more step and I'd be him.
I love our pastors. Danny and Tim showed up quickly. Shook his hand. Asked about him. Gathered up some water, snacks from the youth closet (not the healthiest stuff in the world) and stayed to see about getting him some help. Didn't run him off...didn't call the police. Wanted him to know we cared. I'm so grateful they saw him. Lots didn't see Uncle Lonnie, I know. He traveled from Houston to Austin to Big Spring (my home town). For those who don't know, if you drove it then it would be Houston, three hours to Austin, 6 hours to Big Spring. How'd he get from place to place? We never quite figured it out. But he'd be there one day, stay for a while...then off he'd go. Lived on the streets mostly. Threadbare clothes. A trailer that you could see through the floors of was the best he stayed in...one more step and I'd be him.
I love Brennan. We pull away after dropping off what I needed to. Tim was still there with him. I glance down. Gift cards are there to a local Chik-fil-a. But their Bren's. She got them from a friend just last week as she'd been sick for a long while and had lost some weight (which is blessing for me, but not helpful to her). They were meant for a "shake a day" blessing. But I asked anyway...What do you think, sweetie? Could we give him one? Quick reply: You can give him more. I don't need them like he does. Love her heart...
So, I'm a thankful woman today in so many ways. Not simply that I'm not Uncle Lonnie. Nor that I'm not this man. For I am them...one step away. It's the Lord I see today. I deserve nothing but wrath from Him and have proved it over and over. Uncle Lonnie and this man are the same. But today by His grace I see Him. I know Him. He is not simply the Holy One. He is my Holy One. And I see His grace in my life...grace when none should be offered. I see His grace in stopping me from heading to Padre to do "normal" college stuff that memorable Spring break when I met my husband instead...in Brennan's quick reply...in clear, cool water on a man's head to break the heat of the day...in pastors who lived the meaning of the word...in water put into bottle that can be filled again and again...for a glimpse of the gospel and how we can live it out every day.
Jesus died to purchase this grace for me...and for Uncle Lonnie...and for the man who needed a hand today. I've done nothing to earn it. More than that, what I have earned is death. But what was offered was water, Living Water, to satisfy my soul on a hot day. So, I'm thankful today. Not for a life of ease, but for a grace that allows me to see His grace...and for being able to watch Scripture come to life...
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.