One winter day, I left work a little early. When I got to my truck, there was a homeless guy sitting in the driver’s seat. I guess he was cold and saw the doors were unlocked, so he got in. His shopping basket was up against the passenger door on the other side. My truck was parallel parked between two other cars, and he sat there looking like he was waiting for a light to change. His hands were on the steering wheel at ten and two like they teach you in driver’s education class.
I walked up to my truck and sheepishly tapped on the window. I felt like I was interrupting him. He looked up and waved at me, then stared straight ahead again, putting his hands back on the steering wheel. After a few more moments of him staring forward, I tapped on the window again. He looked up and waved. This time he rolled down my window, smiled, and asked, “Can I take you somewhere?”
“Not today,” I replied as I opened the door and let him out. He swung his legs over, stood up straight next to me, crisply patted me twice on the shoulder like I was his valet, and then walked away whistling. I just stood there for a minute, my car keys still in my hand.
The next day, I drove to work in my yellow pickup truck and parked in the same place. At the end of the day, I came back to my truck and there he was again. I tapped on the window, he waved at me, and I waved back. He asked if he could take me somewhere, I said no, and he opened the door. He stretched, and we swapped places again. This went on for months. We didn’t talk much during any of these exchanges. It was kind of like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace but without the fur hats. He needed a place to stay, and I needed an oil change. People in need find each other.
What this man really needed was a secure place to spend his days. Someplace warm and dry. What I really needed was to feel like I was being helpful. We both were doing something about it. I never got his name and he didn’t get mine. I didn’t know what he did, and he didn’t know I was a lawyer. I didn’t know why he was homeless or for how long, and he didn’t know I hadn’t changed the oil. I just knew I looked forward to seeing him at the end of each day and I think he liked seeing me. We had found our rhythm together and didn’t need all the other details.
One day I came back to my truck after work, and from a block away I could see my friend wasn’t sitting in the driver’s seat. That was strange. I was kind of sad to see he wasn’t there and wondered what had happened as I walked closer. When I got to the truck I found out why. My truck was trashed. There were empty beer bottles, half-smoked cigarettes, and garbage on the floor. A couple of knobs on the dashboard were gone. It was a mess. I knew why he wasn’t there. He was ashamed.
Shame does that to us. It makes us leave safe places. It breaks the rhythms we’ve established with each other. This guy and I had never needed words. After he made a mistake that day, he no doubt thought there would be many words he’d need to give me, but shame makes us silent. It strips us of the few words we might have. It mutes our life and our love. It’s the pickpocket of our confidence.
I hadn’t done much for him. We hadn’t had any real conversations in the many months we’d known each other. I treated him with the same quiet respect he treated me with. We just traded places once a day. Evidently, that day something had gone terribly wrong and he didn’t know what to do, so he left and I never saw him again.
We can’t allow this to happen between us. Shame will do this, and fears will too. Dumb arguments will do it. Pride and its unreasonable expectations will do it. Our failures and embarrassment will do it. Each of these will tell us as many lies as we’ll listen to, then steal our words, rob us of the rhythms we’ve established with people we’ve come to know, and tell us to run away.
Jesus told His friends a story about a father and a lost son. The boy wasn’t spending his days in the driver’s seats of other people’s trucks, but pretty close. He’d messed up and felt really bad about what he’d done, just like my friend by the railroad tracks did. But when he was found, something different happened to the son than to my yellow- truck friend. The son ran back toward the relationship he had with his father, not away from it. It’s something we all get to decide whether we’ll do. You’ve probably messed up a couple of times. Me too. Run back toward God, not away from Him.
The father in Jesus’ story ran toward the son too. When the father found out the son wasn’t lost anymore, he celebrated in ways I couldn’t when I found my trashed truck. I think I know why. There was no shame. The father wasn’t thinking about how badly the son had messed up. The son wasn’t thinking about it either. They both knew the son had steered his life right off a cliff, but somehow, they got past the shame of the failure and got to the celebration of being together once again.Find your way back to the people you’ve loved and who have loved you. Click To Tweet
Do lots of that. Find your way back to the people you’ve loved and who have loved you. Figure out who you’ve broken your rhythm with. Don’t let the misunderstanding decide your future. If you lost your way with God, let Him close the distance between you and start the celebration again. We’re all in the same truck when it comes to our need for love and acceptance and forgiveness.
What made sense to me when I first heard about Jesus is how He doesn’t give us a bunch of directions intended to manipulate our behavior or control our conduct. Instead, He has beautiful hopes for us and has told us what those are, but He isn’t scowling at us when we’re not yet ready to have those same hopes for ourselves. He won’t love us more or less based on how we act, and He’s more interested in our hearts than all the things we do. He’s not stuck telling us what to do, when to do it, or what we want either. Far better, He continues to tell us through our successes and our mistakes who we are, and here’s what He wants us to know— we are His.
Taken from Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff. Copyright © 2018 by Bob Goff. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.EverybodyAlwaysBook.com
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