He asked me to give him a hug. Me. A non-hugger if ever there was one. Hadn’t I already given him enough? Could I not even be spared this last and greatest indignity? A hug. Well, if it was going to happen, I wasn’t going to be halfhearted about it. I reached out and pulled him to me, sweat, stale cigarettes, and all, in a huge bear-hug. I’m not sure, but I think he may have had tears in his eyes as he headed out the door and up the street to get his supper. I was left standing there, still wondering what had just happened.
What had just happened? Well, for starters, I think that part of it was just God, letting me know that He too has a sense of humor. Back a month or two (September 14th, “Another Chance To Shine”), I told you of missing a chance to help a man and then later, another fellow coming in who was hungry and in need of food. I said then that in my relief to be able to redeem myself, I “could have hugged him”. Perhaps, the Lord thought that there was still unfinished business, because the man who insisted on a hug today was that same fellow who provided my second chance back then. I guess I should learn not to use idle words when I describe events, shouldn’t I?
Actually, though, my encounter with the young man didn’t go all that smoothly today. Mark came in asking for help once more and I almost sent him away without doing anything for him. It’s easy to become jaded by all the contrived stories and the contortions being performed by people who are developing their skills in a marketplace which is rapidly becoming saturated by men and women, all doing the same thing. His story needed work, but it was plain that Mark was hungry and had no way to get food until the local food bank reopened tomorrow. He wouldn’t starve. Perhaps, I could get away with refusing to help him this time. Others already had today. He was prepared to hear another rejection and would try at the next place down the road.
I’m glad that I didn’t refuse him. I would have missed out on the hug. And in missing out on that, I would have missed out on the bigger lesson, a lesson I desperately needed.
It is Christmas time…the time when we celebrate the coming of a Savior…the time when we reflect on a God who would leave His glory to live as a servant to men, knowing that He would die at the hands of the very people to whom He came to show love. I read the words again last week, written by the Apostle to his friends at Philippi. “You should have this kind of heart, the kind that leaves behind its riches, its authority, and its glory, and reaches down to become just like the dirty, smelly slaves that populate the world He created. That’s exactly how you should think, and live, and be….”
The paraphrase is my own, but it seems to sum up what is written there. It certainly describes what happened on that first Christmas, so many years ago. This was no romantic tale, no beautiful scene; there was no pomp, and certainly no regal birth. He was born to be a servant, and by His example and His words–and His death, He showed us the way to live and serve, and to believe in Him.
|Preti: Adoration of the Shepherds|
Imagine, if you will, the Royalty of Heaven…touching and smelling and embracing, the dirty and the sick and the dying. As I consider it, the stale smoke and the sweat on my young friend today would hardly be noticed in the world which the Baby King stepped into, would it? Why, even the stench of the “filthy rags” the religious people of this world are dressed in would make my friend’s condition feel like the freshness of a spring day in comparison. And yet, we think nothing of demanding His touch, His caress, His embrace, as our right. I have to wonder: how do we smell to Him?
I hugged that man today and I am serious when I tell you that as I walked back to my desk, I imagined that the odor emanating from my clothes was like a bouquet of flowers. To the King of Christmas, I think it might have been so. Obedience is surely a sweet aroma rising up to heaven. And, for a moment today, I think I understood just the tiniest bit of what He did for me.
That understanding may be gone tomorrow, but I’ll keep plugging away at this obedience thing. There will be more chances in the days to come. Of that, I’m sure.
I’m also going to need more practice before I’ve got the hugging part down though. Perhaps, if you come to visit, a firm handshake will suffice.
“Men greet each other with a sock on the arm; women, with a hug. The hug wears better in the long run.”
(Edward Hoaglund~American nature writer~born 1932)
“They (your gifts) are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.