Seeing people is at the same time simple and difficult. I remember when I preached a sermon about 1 1/2 years ago. I spoke on the story of the good samaritan and talked about how we should learn from the people we normally look down on (those on the margins - for me...the homeless). I remember that someone talked to me afterward and challenged me on it. He said he knows a lot of people in the inner-city who are not good people at all, in fact they do a lot of evil things. What are we supposed to learn from them? At the time I said that the evil things are not what we are to learn from them, but that we can find some good. I have always felt uneasy about that conversation because I did not think I answered well.
At the end of Tim Huff's book, Bent Hope, Steve Bell writes a Benediction. In it he says that Tim has an innate ablility to really see people. Not their problems and tragedies, not their lies, not the external decoys, but truly see who they are and that they are a person of value. That is really what I meant in my sermon 1 1/2 years ago, but did not really know it. That is how I hope to live. I hope to be someone who really sees people, I want to see my children, I want to see my wife, I want to see the people I (or most people) usually don't notice, and especially don't see.
So, you would think that this would be fresh on my mind as I went to volunteer at an inner city - drop-in mainly frequented by homeless adults this past week. I was there with a few people from our church. I met George (name changed) who I talked to for a long time. He told me all about his beliefs, his hopes, his dreams...many of which I thought were really wrong, but did not know how to respond to. As we were driving home after the evening, some of the people in my car were telling me about their experiences and the joy they took in really connecting with people. They didn't see drunk, or homeless, or unemployed people, they truly saw people, and were filled with love. I, on the other hand, told them about George and said, "I just didn't know how to counsel him."
This morning as I thought about George some more, I read Acts where it talks about Peter and John walking into the temple to pray...
"Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked straight at him, as did John. (Acts 2:2-4)" They saw him, they looked straight at him and truly saw this man, this man who everyone passed by his whole life. I realized that I had only seen George's problems, his "wrong theology," his misunderstandings, I wished that I could go back and truly see George.
Going back to my conversation about my sermon, I wish I could have been wise enough to say, "It is not about what people do or the kind of things you can learn from them, but moreso it is about seeing past the problems, the evil, the garbage, the facades and looking straight into their eyes and actually seeing them."
I hope to look to see more often.