Faces of Jesus: Jack and …
Jack doesn’t see me coming so he’s off guard at first, wondering if I’ve noticed that he has signaled this other guy to put some stuff away. The way Jack talks, the way his mind seems so clear, his thoughts so logical, plus the I’m-above-them attitude he has about the people who live in the library next to the park—all this had led me to believe that it could be possible that Jack didn’t use drugs. Not every homeless person is addicted to drugs.
But now I have a choice: pretend I didn’t notice, or show that I did.
I choose to show. I calmly watch this other guy finish gathering their substances into his hand and then slide his hand into a backpack. Then, talking straight at this other guy, I sit down like I’m there to stay and say, “Hey. I’m Dave. How you doing?”
There’s a ten-second pause, a hey-is-this-guy-for-real moment between the two of them. The second man is adjusting his hat to further hide his face, settling his back against the concrete support for the overpass, looking to disappear.
But Jack draws him out with, “This is the guy I was telling you about! The guy who brought me my bike and blanket!”
The other man’s face brightens. “Oh, really?” I get a genuine grin. “I thought Jack was lying like the son—”
Jack cuts him off. “Not around Dave. He’s a Bible man. Been preachin’ at me.” Jack teases me. “I’m just kidding, Dave. You’ve been real good about not being all high and mighty better than us.”
“That’s ‘cause I’m not any better than you.”
“So you are judging us?” this other man wants to know. “Aren’t you supposed to not judge, lest you too be judged? Doesn’t that mess with your redemption or your sanctification or some weird—”
Jack coughs over top of him, warning again.
I hold my left hand up to signal to Jack that my ears can take it. I’d rather hear the man out. I smile at him, my own beard just a little less scruffy, and offer my right hand. “Dude, what’s your name?” Tell me your story. You’re quoting Bible verses and throwing around Christian terms. You’d have my attention anyway, but go ahead and string me along. Tell me your theology.
And without asking out loud, he does.
“It’s not that there is no God, any idiot could see there has to be one. But it’s that God doesn’t care. He made everything, set it in motion, and walked away from the table. We are on our own. Why do animals eat each other? Doesn’t seem right. Why do people try to cover the world in pavement? We’re only killing the environment, the trees. Why do we steal honey from the bees? We take their honey and they die. Not all of them. We leave enough so they can make us some more. Birds are beautiful. Butterflies are stunning. They both know to fly away in the winter, they have this map that they intuitively use. But us? We’re stupid fools. Winter comes and we haven’t left in time, don’t even know which way is south. If there’s a God, why is he against us? Our minds could be so much stronger—human beings have so much potential—but God went and put addictive chemicals in plants—knowing that we’d find them and use them—not all of us, of course, we’re not all strung out all the time, I’m sure you’ve never smoked a joint in your life…”
I consent. He’s right. I’ve never smoked a joint.
Nope. Cigars, yes.
“You’re a cigar man?”
“They were the traditional you-had-a-baby cigar.”
“You have kids? How old are you?”
I always get this question. “How old do I look?” And then it’s my turn to tell my story. And my theology. A little. Not much. I point out where I think we can agree. The world is not as it should be and we all know it. War, starvation—we’re to blame for it because we chose and continue to choose to do wrong. All of us. We cannot fix ourselves. We need God to do that. So God spent a long time setting up the scene for Jesus to come and give us a chance to begin to be made right, and He’s coming back again. “Man, I am looking forward to Jesus making things right, that’s for sure.”
“…You think Jesus is for real.”
“Yeah. He changed my life. He’s changing it now…”
Jack frowns a little. “I won’t argue that. But if God is real, why doesn’t he just show up? If he wants me to believe in him, here I am. Just show up and I’ll believe.”
I lift an eyebrow towards Jack’s bike.
Jack shifts in his chair. “That’s not what I meant.”