Sunday, April 04, 2004

lessons from Benny

A jobless and homeless man approached me and my friends last night. His name is Benny. We got to talking and ended up spending an hour just hanging out. It was awesome, troubling, humbling and inspiring all at the same time. He was a strong Christian by any definition of the word and had a faith that was deep. Daily he trusted on God's provision. Daily. He shared with me how he never asked for more than he needed from people because if he took advantage of people he would have to deal with God on that. This from a man who was doing fine in life until he lost his job because got shot while being robbed. This from a guy who sleeps in an abandoned warehouse. This from a guy who's wife has left him for another man and who's 5 year old daughter has to stay with his in-laws. Brittany Lee is her name. He told me that he hopes to get her an Easter gift if he can manage it.

Why is Benny poor and homeless? It is because his has a mental illness? No. Its it because he is an alcoholic or a drug addict? No. Its it because he is black or hispanic and can't get a decent job in a racist society? No. Its it because he isn't smart? No. He tries to read left-over newspapers when he can to stay up on what is happening in the world. I am sure there are many complicated reasons why Benny is out on the street. But the most obvious is that he got robbed one day. He got shot during the robbery. His leg still hasn't fully healed. Due to medical bills, most of his major possessions were taken. Due to an injured leg, he lost his job. Now because of the leg and not having a place of residence to put on the applications, he is having trouble getting a new job. Are not all of us a few bad circumstances away from poverty and homelessness?

But does all this get Benny down? Sometimes it does, he admits, but not for too long. He figures just because life is tough doesn't mean he needs to get involved in bad things (like drugs, alcohol and stealing). He reminds himself that he was not guaranteed anything in this world besides death. He attends "church under the bridge" and goes to a weekly bible study with some of his student friends at Common Grounds. He prays daily for God's provision. And he trusts that God will take care of him. And so far, Benny tells me, God has taken care of him.

I learned a few things from Benny last night. Most of all I learned how weak my faith was in comparison to Benny's. The richness of his heart dwarfed the wealth of my middle class possessions. And yet the poverty of my faith resembled quite well his living condition. If for just the briefest of moments, I saw the world through the eyes of God.

Luke 6:20-21 makes a lot more sense to me now:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." Maybe I have been spending too much time in Matthew 5 in order to justify myself.

Father, thank you so much for letting me meet and hang out with Benny. I thank you for the example he is to me. I pray that you would continue to heal his leg. I pray that you would continue to provide for him daily. I pray that he would get to spend some time with Brittany this Easter. Father, would you help him to get a job soon so he can move out of that warehouse. And would you continue to open my eyes and help me to see how you see.


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