I had an experience the other day. My husband and I had just left a comic book convention and were walking to our car. As we were walking down a narrow sidewalk, pressed up tightly against the backside of a downtown office building, a man approached us asking for change. The man was probably in his late fifties and wore a dirty plaid shirt with ripped, dirty jeans. He started to tell us his story but the grumbling of the air conditioner, coming from the building behind me, drowned him out. Still, I was able to pick out a few words: money, cancer, shelter.
I squeezed my husband’s hand as my mind searched for the words to say next, but all I could think of was this verse:
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:41
It was then and there that the meaning of the verse hit me.
Too often we take scripture too literally. As a child when I read the aforementioned verse, I honed in on the words ‘mile’ and ‘forces.’ I imagined someone holding a gun to my head and demanding that I walk with him, and me, turning to him and pleasantly replying, “Gladly, kind sir, but I’ll go with you two miles.”
This isn’t what Christ meant. The scripture means to give to each as they have need, but to give joyfully and with abundance, just as Christ gives to us. And it’s different for each person. For some, it could mean staying up an hour later to talk to a friend who’s had a difficult time; it could mean donating some extra money to a local charity or taking the time to volunteer there yourself; or it could mean that you pause in the middle of the roadway and pray with a homeless man.
I wish I could say that was what happened with the man with the beard and I, but it didn’t. While there is a list of reasons why, they all just seem like a bunch of excuses now.
It’s been days and I still can’t wipe the man’s face from my memory. Though I’m not quite sure why, I’d like to think it’s because for a moment I got to see that man the way God sees him, the way God sees us, and let me tell you: God loves us—including this homeless man-- so, so much.
So I’d like to ask you all a favor. I’d like to ask you to help me pray for this man, and for others like him. I have faith that God can work a miracle in this man’s life, though I may never see it. Will you pray with me, for him and for the countless other who don’t know where they will sleep tonight?
Thank you for the security I have in my life. Teach me to love others, like the man with the beard, who aren’t as fortunate. God, you command me to love others, but love is a verb. Therefore, I pray that you will help me to recognize when I have been placed in a situation to love someone else. Give me the wisdom and courage to act and serve them as you so graciously served us. In all things, God, let me be a vessel through which you pour out your love into the world.
Be with the man with the beard and all who he represents. Help this man. Wrap him in your love, peace, and comfort. Let him know how loved he is, and if I do not have the opportunity to serve this soul again, may I see him in glory, for he is your child, and you love him.
In all these things, I ask for your will to prevail over mine,
Written by Kayla Shown-Dean
Bio: Kayla Shown-Dean is a Student Development Specialist at Arkansas State University in Beebe and a volunteer youth leader at the Searcy Church of the Nazarene. She is also the author of the upcoming Ferocity Series, Muted, and Autumn Leaflets: a Collection of Poetry. On her summers off, Kayla will most likely be found outdoors spending time with her husband and son, going on long walks with the family dog, or working in the vegetable garden.