Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick was talking about the ways that we often miss opportunities to serve Christ. Even if we preach charity and kindness, there are always chances that slip through the cracks and he told the story of a firsthand experience that changed his life forever:
ONE EVENING, on my commute home from a long day at the office, I stopped at a gas station / mini-market to refuel and grab a cup of coffee. As I got to the entrance, a bedraggled young man of about twenty stepped nervously toward me from the shadows.
“Please, sir. . .” he said in a low, faltering voice. We locked eyes for an instant. I sized him up before glancing away with a grimace of irritation. He seemed kind of scared, as if he were about to cry. Ashamed of begging, perhaps.
“Please, sir. . . I’m. . .”
“Sorry,” I cut him off, raising my hand dismissively as I walked past. Once inside, I poured myself a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, tossed a $50 bill on the counter, and told the clerk, “I’ll have this coffee and give me the rest on pump seven.”
I headed back out, sipping my coffee and thinking, I hope that beggar is gone by now. No such luck. There he was, standing silently in the same place as before.
I strode by, pretending not to see him. I pumped the gas, got back in my car, and drove out of the parking lot, coffee in hand, as I thought about how nice it would be to get home to my easy chair and a glass of wine and the delicious dinner my wife had cooked for me.
That’s when an explosion of remorse burst in my conscience. In a flash of shame, I realized just how selfish, uncaring, and hard-hearted I had just been to that young man who needed help. I had brushed him off with the contempt that often comes easily to those of us who have the comfortable necessities of life and then some.
“Get out of my way, Jack,” this contemptible attitude growls. “I don’t care. I don’t want to be bothered. Your problem isn’t my problem.” What an insensitive, self-centered jerk I was.
I turned the car around and headed back to the gas station, this time hoping and praying that the young man would still be there. And he was. Still standing in the shadows.
I got out of my car and walked toward him, seeing the same despair and embarrassment on his face as before, but also something else. A flicker of fear crossed his eyes as I approached.
This time, I spoke first. “I’m sorry,” I said to him quietly in an unsteady voice clotted with shame. “I’m sorry I didn’t help you. It’s just that I. . .”
His eyes widened when I took out my wallet and, without looking down to count it, handed him a wad of cash, everything I had, maybe $40.
“I’m really sorry,” I stammered again as I turned to walk back to my car, my head down, tears in my eyes.
“Thank you, sir!” he called out to me. “God bless you!”
I’ve never forgotten that young man. Our chance encounter changed me for the better. Through it, the Lord gave me a searing glimpse of myself in the mirror of truth—the painful truth that though I had always thought of myself as a good and faithful follower of Jesus, I was really, in many ways, when you got right down to it, selfish and apathetic toward the poor and disadvantaged.
My arms were loaded full with the good things in life with which God had blessed me—a beautiful wife and family who love me, a comfortable home, plenty of food and drink, a nice car, a good job, some money in the bank—and yet, I couldn’t be bothered to share even just a tiny portion of these blessings with someone who had none of those things.
And to make matters worse, I very nearly walked away from a huge blessing from the Lord in the person of a beggar who helped me realize my own deep need for conversion.
I thank God with all my heart for that painful moment of grace, for nudging me to turn my car around, go back to that gas station, and help Jesus standing in the shadows. He changed my life.
(Copyright Patrick Madrid 2015, from his book Life Lessons: Fifty Things I Learned in My First Fifty Years)
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