I often visited RCM before I began my apprenticeship. The youth group and I would worship with River City Church and then prepare lunch at the ministry. At that time, my understanding of serving the poor amounted to a vague sense that Jesus expected us to do something for the poor. One visit, I sat talking with the first person I ever met who lived under a bridge. I thought trolls were the only people living under bridges, and furry green grouches were the only people living in trash cans (since, I’ve met several people, no grouchier than you or me, who spend nights huddled in dumpsters to stay safe and dry). I couldn’t help but think how devastated I would be if this was my life. Church service began while I sat stunned, not knowing what to say. Not knowing what to do. That same man got up and reminded us of what we had to be thankful for, but maybe not in the way you think. He didn’t tell us how blessed we were, no, he told us how blessed he was.
“God has seen me through so much. I should be dead, but He protected me when I was in a gang, even when I had a knife to my throat, He protected me. He didn’t let my sin or my stupidity get in the way. He showed me patience. He let me wake up to a warm dry day, He made it a joy to be outside. He gave me a family here that loves and accepts me. He gave me time to come to Him, time to change. So today, I get to walk in His world, enjoy its beauty, and listen to what His creation tells me about Him.”
When he finished, those of us who knew his story sat in tears. I have a wife, children, job, and home and I don’t wake up that thankful. He taught me that we choose the tone of our narrative, we don’t have to just whistle along to the devil’s tune. He, like Paul, learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil. 4:11). Not just content, grateful.
I stood this morning at the bathroom mirror, I recalling that lesson and staring ingratitude in the face. I thanked God for my beautiful, healthy, precious, sleepless children. It changed my attitude. I went to watch the sunrise over one of my favorite spots on earth. I listened to the choir of birds and babbling brook and, like my teacher, listened to what God’s creation taught me about Him. God speaks as loudly through the hard concrete slab beneath a bridge as He does through the beauty of the sunrise. God speaks everywhere and through everything if we have the ears, eyes, and heart to recognize it. I pray you find the words of this dear brother as life altering and comforting as I have.