The people staggered in line behind me were getting impatient. The cashier in front of me, a lifeless guy in a hair net who chewed gum like a teenager, even more so. He stared at the top of my head with pierced eyes through half-closed lids while I fidgeted with my debit card. It was worn, cracked and not functioning properly. All I wanted was a $2 hamburger with what little funds I had to my name. Impatient myself, I looked up and asked the guy to run it on his end. Then. “Your kind always steals.” That’s what came out of his mouth with zero remorse. I’m sorry, what?! Let’s replay that in slow motion. “Your. Kind. Always. Steals.” I was speechless.
Or the time it was freezing, and my car wouldn’t start. I walked into this nice furniture store to ask for help. Stares. Even the ones on their smoke break couldn’t muster the kindness to help me out. I even had the jumper cables in hand. Silence. Nothing. Everyone content to leave me on red.
I was a homeless man with a scrappy appearance and a stale stench. I was also crumbling into a bitter, angry, and hateful person. Circumstantially life had failed me, but the failing of people around me was a rejection I couldn’t bear.
My list of stories, where I was considered less than, subhuman, not worth the time, is long and dehumanizing. But that’s the experience it took for God to grab my stubborn attention. He had to get me completely alone before I could see him with clarity.
I was rich
by my own
Not even a year earlier life was fully on. I was rich by my own standards. I prided myself on money and material possessions because growing up I didn’t have anything. So, I thought this was truly living. I had all the friends, the stuff, always partying and turning up. I was happy and well-liked. Life felt full.
And then bam, I fell on hard times. I lost my job, and through some craziness with my roommates, I got evicted. I was forced to live out of my car, sleeping nights in a Walmart parking lot. All those friends who said, “I got you,” during the good times, suddenly they didn’t get me. They disappeared. No, actually one worse. They ridiculed me, spoke fun of me, and deserted me. It was intentional and hurtful. It was an act of their will, not their apathy, and that stung.
Feeling shame, my pride kicked in. I tried to hide what was really going on in my life. I needed help, but refused to ask for it. Why set myself up to get hurt? Believing I couldn’t trust anyone, my resentment of others took root. When the people closest to you give up on you when you need them most, humanity starts to look differently.
I didn’t have many expenses, which allowed me to keep my gym membership. See, I was trying. Without a home, without a bathroom, I would shower at the gym to get clean. One day the gym was doing maintenance on the other shower, and some loud-mouth dude asked me to hurry up. I had just got in. Then he said, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. I’ll just go shower at home since I actually have a home.” The steam swirled around me as I stood there seething. So many vile words came to my mind as I thought about this guy. What the hell? How could a human being say that to another human being? Does it feel good to hurt someone, someone you don’t even know? That’s how the hatred of strangers grew. I was bitter towards everyone.
I started focusing on all the fakeness and hypocrisy around me. The holier-than-thous who would see a man down on his luck and fail to help. Even my own kind. I’d see people who made $100K salaries, and yet complain about what they didn’t have. I saw families driving nice cars, and just pass with no care in the world. These people were vile in my eyes.
So, here’s a crazy side note, I used to make fun of homeless people — back when life was clickin'. I figured they just didn’t work hard enough. They must have caused their own pain and despair. It was their fault for getting there and staying there. I looked down on them, judged them, and felt good about myself in comparison to them. That’s how I rolled, until the day my car became my house, and the only way to use a restroom was to find a gas station.
But now, abandoned and angry, my bitterness turned to God. He had clearly rejected me too. How could he let this happen to me? How could he allow others to treat me this way? Why wasn’t he fixing the problem? It’s not like I wasn’t working. I ran deliveries out of my car. I had my resume on Monster.com for nearly a year, but no calls. That wasn’t my fault. Nothing was happening, nobody was helping, friends or strangers, not even God.
It was Thanksgiving Day. I was still wiping the crumbs from my fast-food turkey dinner when my car rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. It had died. All systems shut down. As vehicles whizzed by, I sat there empty on faith and hope.
That’s when I began to feel the coming death of my ego. In the solitude of a broken spirit, the events of the last year played over in my mind while I waited on no one to come to my aid. I thought of all those rejection moments. The verbal abusers and judgmental accusers. One disappointment after another. And then, in the rearview mirror, I caught my own eyes. A mirror reflects the truth, you know. I was receiving the kind of ridicule that I had given other helpless people time and again when I was living the high life. And the very hate and judgment I was receiving from others, was the same hate and judgment I was feeling in my own heart. Not just towards man, I was hateful towards God too.
Along the side of the road, I broke. “God, I’m sorry for treating people the way I have. I don’t want to live like that. Mama didn’t raise me that way, and neither did my dad. I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you too. How I’ve blamed you for the circumstances around me. Please help me!” I didn’t hear a voice, but I had this overwhelming sense of assurance. Jesus was whispering, “I got you.”
The next day I got a call for a job interview. That resume that had been idle for a year finally got picked up by the right set of hands. Ha! Coincidental? Magic? IDK. But I also got a call from an old friend, a guy I never really gave the time of day because I used to think he wasn’t cool enough. He said, “I heard what’s been going on. Why don’t you come stay with me a while till you can get on your feet?” I remember looking up at God and feeling like he just winked back at me.
The problem God was fixing wasn’t my circumstances, it was me. Justice is His. He needed me alone so I could begin to work on my heart. I’m learning to be different. He’s teaching me no matter what I have or don’t have, I have Him. I guess you could say Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
And spending time with Jesus is making me more compassionate. I find people in the same situation I was in, and I no longer cast judgment. And for all of those friends and strangers who made fun of me — I forgive them. I can see through to their soul. They’re lost, insecure, angry, and judgmental like I was. We all are if we’re honest with ourselves. The only reliable source of love, help, and security, is found a perfect loving savior.
I’ve learned that Jesus is my “A1 day 1.” He doesn’t fold and suddenly disappear. He doesn’t reject me or turn his back on me. He’s ever-present, and always-loving in the good times and the hard times. When I live like I believe that, he makes everything right. And I’m glad to know him. Do you?