My 3-Year-Old Son: “Daddy, can we help her?”

homeless woman - flickr user eflon - cc

We were driving to church; it was a fairly typical Sunday morning. I was thinking about new improvements to this site, the worship set I would be leading during the service, the new drum we’d bought to give some more energy to our acoustic sound. I was feeling a bit nervous about singing some fairly new songs and working with the drum for only the second time. It was a cold night for Phoenix the night before, down in the fifties. The morning air was still chill enough for me to start the heater in our car.

I pulled up to a stoplight near Mountain View and 7th Street, the outskirts of one of the less great parts of central Phoenix. There is a large homeless population in this area that begs for money at lights while camping out at abandoned gas stations. Today a younger-than-normal blonde woman stood by the side of the road with the typical cardboard sign and grocery cart full of old clothes and bags. She stretched our her arm to wave, and I noticed her hands were dirty. She’d been on the street a while. She shuffled alongside the road, eyes tired and downcast.

Appropriately, Jensen means "God is gracious." Photo by Amber Joy Photography
Appropriately, Jensen means “God is gracious.” Photo by Amber Joy Photography

My three-year-old son Jensen asked–as he often–does, what her cardboard sign said. “It says she needs help,” I said, as I tried not to think about it too much. She probably got herself into this mess anyways…she has a sweatshirt on…it’s not too cold out…

“Daddy?” he asked, “can we help her?”

“Not today,” I replied, “we don’t have anything for her in the car right now.” After all, I didn’t have any cash in the car. I also knew that if I pulled over, I’d be late for church. And I needed to get there to make sure the new drum was set up and that we had the right songs to project on the screen.

* * *

In church, I felt like I should pray for this woman, and as I did so, I felt as if God just punched me in face. Repeatedly. I realized the depth of my sin and my brokenness in that moment.

No I didn’t have cash, but I could’ve bought her a hot meal at a drive through. That would’ve meant I’d have been late to “worship” rehearsal though. Worship is way of life, Nathan. Not just three songs on Sunday morning. When. Will. You. Get It?

Oh, and I did have something for her in the car. Bibles. Two or three, in fact. Purchased just to give away.

I hesitated to give them to the homeless woman because I always like to provide some “practical” assistance (read: cash or food) along with them. Tangible assistance is absolutely important, of course, but in my mind my options were limited to cash or food on hand, and I had neither of those so…Better for her to not receive a Bible at all than to get it with no money. Right.

How little faith I have.

How deep is my prejudice and dehumanization of those with less than me. I’d like to think I’m a compassionate, empathetic person, but I acted as if money is the solution to her problems. As if.

As if a kind word, a smile, eye contact, a simple prayer and respect for another human being is worthless and wasted on this person if I can’t just throw some money at them.

I preach about “Jesus is enough” all the time on this site and as part of other ministries. But this Sunday, Jesus wasn’t enough of a reason for me to pull over and show some kindness to someone in need.

God I believe; help my unbelief.

The truth? My lack of compassion was not enough for the homeless person on the corner. Me getting to church on time was not enough for her. Me ignoring God’s voice in the sincere desire of my little boy to help another human being was not enough.

But Jesus really is enough. I had the opportunity to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus, and I elected to take a pass.

Christ, forgive my hardness of heart.

Christ, have mercy on me.