Driving through the parking lot of the hotel, one known for illicit behavior and less than safe situations; I pulled my little blue car through the L-shaped lot. Men from what appeared to be work crews due to the jackets they wore and the row of construction trucks, stood drinking at the back of a pickup.
They laughed and sipped on their beer, probably tired after a long day in the sun, or in the case of our weather lately, a long day in the gray day of cloudy skies.
I watched my surroundings, making sure to be aware, but actually I was on a mission. I was searching for someone because it was his birthday.
I’d driven through this one fast-food spot earlier, having the unexpected opportunity to witness an odd situation. A man rode up on his bicycle, a herky-jerky rider who watched his surroundings too, with a gaze, sizing up the folks in the parking lot.
A man and woman were parked in a white car in the front spot, and the man on the bike pedaled to the cracked open door of the driver side. He leaned in, talking with the man, and the woman sat in the passenger seat using her phone, maybe texting or perusing social media. She never even looked at the man on the bicycle. Not once from what I could see, since I circled them.
Yes, being the nosy person I can be, I drove slowly around them, staring at them. I wanted to make sure the man didn’t hurt this precious couple, since I wielded nothing to protect myself except the ability to phone for help.
Then as fast as the man came into the parking lot to park his car. As fast as the biker rode in to lean into the door. The two parted ways!
Did I just watch an exchange? An exchange of possible drugs? Maybe!
Processing this, I kept driving to the next parking lot and witnessed another man panhandling at a gas pump. I saw another man stumble across the highway. I waved to a woman who never saw me, but moved into the road at the light, appearing oblivious to the cars, but not getting ran over.
Oblivious! A wandering maze of folks! On a journey of broken cycles and choices!
That’s the word that sticks to my throat, even now. For when I pulled into the parking lot at the hotel, it’s like my eyes snap in slow-motion, the actions of others. A possible prostitute. A possible lurker. A possible criminal. A possible threat.
In my regular eyes, I see them as such, sizing up folks as if someone left me in charge. But then in my spiritual eyes, I see them as redeemed, saved, and in service to God. I see them as new creations in Christ. I see them as blessed children of God. As restored and whole. As loving and kind. As people standing on the foundation of the Rock. Our Savior!
I parked my car a the end of the lot, I stepped from my car, and moved to talk to a group of men sitting on the ground. Not men who had a room at the hotel, but men who huddled on the asphalt between the shrubs at the end of the building.
One was too drunk to stand. Another waved his arms talking to the air. And yet, another walked away upon my approaching. I prayed for them and also for my safety. And I prayed for Christ to reach into their hearts, for the Savior to call to them. For God to use me for His glory.
And then this one man turned his head, a slow and methodical twist. His red eyes focused on me, his strength renewed and his countenance changed in a flash. “Ms. Pam. It’s been a long time. I’ve not seen you in forever.”
I moved to my friend, one stuck at the end of the parking lot. We embraced and he was thrilled to have the company. We laughed, and chatted about a few nonsense things, picking up on our friendship.
I shared with him a few nuggets, “Now you know, you are fearfully and wonderfully created in God’s image. I pray the Lord will visit your heart, and that you may know Him fully.”
“Yes, Ms. Pam. I hear ya. God bless you for coming over here.” He hugged me again. More than twice. It was like he was ready to go home with me, ready to find his way, tired of the spot on the ground. He spoke hope to my heart. “Ms. Pam. I can’t believe I got to see you.”
“You made my day, too. I thought I was wandering around tonight but instead God sent me to you.”
“You think He sent you?”
“Yes, He’s the kind of God who is pursuing us. He’s calling to you.”
Our goodbyes came with waves and he watched me turn my car around, and I stared at him in the mirror, whispering yet, another prayer.
I’d drive around a few more blocks and streets before finding the homeless friend I searched for, the one who had the birthday!
I’d see a man sitting behind a liquor store with his blankets and bags. I’d see someone with his back up to a wall, lost in a stare to nowhere. I’d see a friend who sat in the doorway of another gas station, and people would go by and I wondered if anyone really saw him.
And then I ask myself, “Do I really see them?”
So I pause and pray that the words I say, that the steps I take, that my life sings of praise and of hope in Christ. That I move with grace and show mercy. That I share Christ whenever I can.
That I’m friend to the lonely, to the drunk, to the drug addict, to the wanderer. And then, that I’m also a friend to the well-dressed and polished, to the rich, the prideful, to the arrogant, to anyone!
Satan can use money and material things to destroy our walk. He can use a bottle or even drugs too. He can use many sins and plenty of means to keep us from serving Christ, from praising the King, from surrendering ourselves to Jesus.
A drive through the parking lot of life is filled with souls in need of a Savior! I wonder, will I see them! Will I share the hope and mercy and grace of our Savior? May not be oblivious!