Regular readers of the humble ramblings know that eldest Son Matt is an occasional contributor. I have threatened to cut him off from this site because his thoughts often get better responses than the Old Man receives. Recently Matt wrote to me about a very personal experience and he posed some questions. He has given me permission to allow you to “eavesdrop” and even contribute to our dialogue. I think you will see why I am filled with the good kind of pride when I see how God is working in Matt’s life. His Mom did a heckuva job. And she has also done an awesome job with the younger Sons. We are blessed with three kind, Godly men.
Here is Matt’s letter. I will respond tomorrow.
A decade into the most formative years in my life, 18-28, there are far more questions than answers. I know that you already know this.and might tell me that it will never change. You will tell me that wisdom is not answers but the asking of right questions. Well, I have a question.
I was riding a public train in Salt Lake City, UT. The train was cramped and I was traveling with friends to dinner. Sitting next to me was a man, unshaven, dirty, ratty clothes, bad breath, and inarticulate. We began talking and asking general questions of where we grew up and jobs and family but soon he, Brett, went straight to the heart of it all. He was homeless. He lifted up his battered jean jacket to show me the scars on his arms from years of dope and heroin use. He told me about his wife dying and the restraining order his only daughter has on him. He was in jail and lost his job and doesn’t go to church anymore. It was a sad story. In my experience these are the stories that lead tourists (or Christians) like me to offer money or dinner or whatever to help. If you are feeling sorry for Brett, as I did, there is a certain level of pride or superiority to it all. We want to help. It’s a natural feeling. But this is not grace. It is pity. I reached for my wallet but something inside me hesitated. I asked him to walk with me towards the restaurant.
The conversation wasn’t nearly as deep on the way to the restaurant. We debated the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. I asked questions about the Salt Lake Olympics. We joked with people around us. When we reached the restaurant I asked him if I could buy him dinner. He had already eaten. “Can I walk you to the shelter?” We walked for a couple hundred yards while my friends went to the restaurant. We sat on bench in the cold mountain air and started talking again.
As he elaborated on his story he started crying. I started crying. It broke my heart. We cried together as people walked by and looked strangely at the preppy young man in Polo and the homeless guy in rags sitting together at this exquisite outdoor shopping mall crying.
The raw, unedited man that was before me cared less about what I thought of him. He opened the darkest part of him, the graphic ugliness of life, and screamed aloud, “HERE I AM. ALL OF ME”. Drugs, alcohol, death, pain, hopelessness.his story is probably like thousands of others. He was so exposed in that moment. But he didn’t flinch. No hesitation. He knew he would most likely never see me again so the risk was low. It was safe to be this person with a stranger. But it wasn’t safe for me.
I was exposed. My life is full of moments that are guarded. Even in my finest hour I would describe myself as only less guarded. I am never fully open or honest. Not like Brett. All he had was his story and his brokenness and his pain. He entered into it with me and I was exposed.
I asked to pray for him and said a quaint sincere prayer of protection, hope, forgiveness, and provision of resources. I reached for my wallet again and he stopped me. He asked to pray for me. He prayed a beautifully inarticulate prayer with his raspy broken voice, “Matt.I pray you will not do drugs like I have. I pray your children love you and accept you. I pray your woman will love you and stay with you. I pray that you have a home, job, and food. I thank you for not being scared of me and talking to me. I pray that we can see each other again.” Did you see it? He prayed that I wouldn’t be him. Pity turned to grace. It was his grace for me.
We hugged and said good-bye. He patted me on the chest and whispered “Go Mavericks” as if he had to hide this little exchange from those Jazz fans around us. I gave him some cash and turned to walk away. It felt great and awful all in one step.
Earlier I promised a question. This is what I thought as I walked away from Brett. How can a man I knew for 20 minutes pray the most sincere prayer for me? Why did I feel so unguarded and open to this man that had, in most circumstances, very little to offer me? The risk was low.I know. But do we really weigh our relationship depth on risk? Why can’t all friendships feel this freedom and openness and ugliness?
Somehow Brett knew himself the way I think God sees me. He sees my raw, unedited, and ugly me when I, albeit completely internal, whisper to God in a low inaudible voice “here I am.all of me”. What will it take to shed off layers and layers of protective armor that guard my heart everyday? Will I have to experience a life like Brett to fully understand it? Can the pride that sequesters us to insincerity (we are all guilty) be broken in normal life circumstances?
These are my questions. I look forward to the dialogue.