Sunday, June 10, 2007

Peeling back the layers


I find it fascinating that each week as I venture down to Hollywood to meet and spend time with people on the street, that I come away with a greater understanding of people, and a greater understanding of God. The smallest things amount to great hope, and God’s miracle-working abilities become clearer each week.

These past two weeks I heard two different testimonies from guys on the team. And both stories ended with a knowledge of God from a very subtle, yet almost tangible recognition of his peace and fulfillment in their lives. They both sought out God – one as a means of rescue before killing himself, the other as a challenge – and both felt an overwhelming peace and sense that Christ was there with them, and that He was real. Both turned their lives over to God and now share him with people on the streets who need that same experience.

People don’t even need us, God is the one who does the work. And many times He will work through his servants, but we are not the reason they come to Christ – his Holy Spirit is, we are simply his tools. And this is strangley encouraging, because sometimes it feels hopeless and nearly impossible to convince people.

To my delight this past week, I actually saw a familiar face, which can be rare as we meet so many new people each week, and many don't live around the area. I met him a few weeks ago, “Carl”, and shortly before leaving this past week, we ran into him. It still brings a smile to my face, remembering that he had come earlier to join in our bible study. All we had to do was invite him once, and on his own accord, he came two weeks later to see our bible study. Unfortunately he came too late and missed it, although it was short and informal inside a Del Taco. But he came! So we chatted again for a bit, about what he had been up to, and what he had thought about since we talked. We got into a discussion about the purpose and meaning of life. In general, he ignores those questions when they pop into his head because he knows it will be very hard to figure out. He said that every once in a while, however, that there’s a very small voice in his head that makes him wonder about those things. He also admitted that he had thought about hell since we talked, and wanted to know more about Satan. As stated in a previous blog, he didn’t think hell was a big deal, wasn’t worried to go there. So while it might not seem like a big deal, I believe that the fact that he had even thought about it was huge headway. So I told him I would help him out and send him things to read in the bible about it. I got his e-mail address this week so that I could send him that, as well as info about purpose from the Bible. I also invited him to church once again, although this week he declined as he was helping with the Gay Pride Parade (great). But we’ll shoot for the week after. He may also come to our bible study next week (be praying!)

11:10pm: Earlier in the evening, at the same Del Taco location, Krista got into a discussion with a guy, “Jim” that we met, high at the time, newly out of prison, and also claiming to be a Buddhist. So while she talked, another person asked to talked to us. So 3 of us girls sat with Salma in Del Taco while he(she) ate, and she told us of how her friend recently died, and it had her thinking about what would happen to her if she died. Apparently, he had grown up in the church, believes in Jesus, and has given his life to Him. But he is worried about his lifestyle, and it is making him question what God thinks and if he really will go to heaven. He said he has prayed about his lifestyle, and doesn’t 100% want to change, but it seemed clear that he wants to live this way, but knows he shouldn’t and is thinking about trying to change.

Side note: I’ve noticed something in talking to transgenders, and some of the more flamboyantly homosexual men. They often seem to me, to be sort of a shell of a person – lacking in distinct personality, they all kind of act and think the same. It’s evident that they are entirely confused about who they are and what they should be, and while speaking to them it’s hard for me to connect and really figure this person out. They don’t seem entirely real, perhaps because they are both trying and pretending to be something that they feel inclined to, but just aren’t. They let that become their personality and identity, and it’s hard to figure out exactly who they are, what they like, how they think. Even as I write this, it’s very hard to figure out if I should say he or she, because he was a very convincing she.

Salma however was encouraging, as he really was seeking the truth and wants to know what to do. I offered to help him find a church near there, and perhaps will go with him if he feels awkward. He said he gets some pretty funny looks and attitudes when he goes, which is understandable. But even if he appears to be a female, that shouldn’t stop him from getting to know God.

12:00am:After praying together, we all split up and walked around, ending up back at 7-11 where we met a teenager named "Dan", sitting against the wall waiting for a friend to come pick him up. He had been left by his friends at “Tiger Heat” because the bouncers don’t let obviously drunk people into the club. So by the time we met him, he was completely wasted, but perfectly willing to talk and even discuss religion and God.

In just a few weeks, I have come to see that people generally know more, think more, and have more religious experience than they first portray. “I don’t believe in God” and “I’m not religious”, after peeling back the layers of fa├žade, turn into “I’ve been through too much, I don’t believe God is good,” or “I used to go to church and I learned about Jesus.” This was what happened with Dan. We probably talked with him for about an hour and at first it was the I-don’t-care attitude and he just likes to drink and doesn’t believe in an all-powerful being, etc. Which eventually led our discussion to past experiences with church, trying to pray and find God, a past full of hurt, suicide attempts, and a boy who had basically given up on a good God and lives in hurt and pain every single day, so he lets alcohol take away the pain. We prayed with him, and he seemed open to investigating God by the time we finished.

Yes, God works in great, yet often very subtle ways. In the questions of a young man, trying to be a woman; in a drunk teenager amazed by hearing personal stories of tangible experiences with God and wondering if he can have the same; in an apathetic homosexual who has given the idea of heaven and hell a second thought. Seemingly small thoughts, but significant steps towards Christ. Just the type of ways in which God uses to get his foot in the door of their lives and begin his real work. We just have to crack the door open, and God handles all the rest. It may take years, but with Christ, all things are possible.

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