Young muscle-toned men skated past with boom boxes on their shoulders and moms pedaled into the sun with their toddlers in tow, strapped into bike trailers. Dogs of all shapes and sizes trotted along on leashes against the backdrop of Palm Trees and soft white sand. The Santa Monica sunset was beginning and most of us walking along the miles of biking and walking paths slowed to watch the orange beauty dip into the ocean.
My husband Guy and our oldest two sons stood by our car in the parking lot, shaking the sand from every nook and cranny and I trailed 20 feet behind with our baby lugging soggy beach towels and a wagon.
A violent loud ranting stopped me in my tracks.
I looked up to see a large man with overgrown beard and wild hair step dizzily towards my family, and as he approached, he shouted obscenity upon obscenity, threatening them.
I hightailed it over to a bike rental shack to ask the employee to call the police. The homeless man continued to rant and threaten as my husband closed the doors to our car with our sons inside.The curses continued as he headed towards me and one other woman and her dog who were also taking shelter.
Just as he moved in on us, another employee bravely ushered him away and I quickly went to my husband who had circled around to help me and our youngest son.
Within minutes, we were met by lifeguards in trucks with sirens blazing. Police asked us a few questions and sat the man down, gave him some food to help him sober, and helped him on to the streets-away from pedestrians.
What started as a highly tense situation diffused without any further calamity but the effects of the shouting and raging had made their mark on my sons.
My 3 year old, Quinn, was especially frightened. He asked over and over again, “Mommy, why is that man yelling at us?” and no explanation was good enough. He simply could not wrap his head around why anyone would scream and say bad words to our family or anyone else for that matter.
“He’s a sick man” I tried to explain. “He doesn’t have a home and he eats and drinks things that make him say bad things”. As best as a mother can do, I talked to him about how some people may not have Jesus in their heart, and just like all of us, they make choices that harm themselves.
Quinn was thinking hard, which didn’t surprise me. If you asked me one word to describe him, it would be empathetic. He feels the emotions of others strongly and it takes a long time for him to sort out how he handles others’ suffering. I realized that his questions were not solely based on fear, but on compassion.
That night, we had our normal suburban routine of bath time, songs and prayer, and turned out the lights.
Quinn popped his head up and asked to say one more prayer.
“Dear God” he lisped. “Please help that man who was yelling at us. Wash away his sins and keep him safe. Give him a home. In Jesus name, Amen.”
He prayed that prayer every night. For a long time.
But me? I had seen it so many times before. The homeless in Santa Monica are permanent fixtures. They blend into the landscape as much as the Palm Trees do. I had developed the ability to see right through them.
But not Quinn.
Quinn saw a person-a man who needed prayer, forgiveness, and compassion. That man was not invisible to Quinn.
God sees him too. He loves that man in all his chaos. And lest people like me become too callous, God sends someone with a child’s heart to notice and to pray. How do I know God doesn’t give up on us? On any of us?
He reminded me through the innocence of my child who simply could not move on with his evening, lie down on a soft and comfortable pillow, and forget.
My 3 year old was cursed at by a scary man and instead of becoming angry or lashing back, Quinn was filled with loving care for his well-being. That man may never know that somewhere in this world, someone is praying for him. But I know.
He didn't get what he bargained for that day when he stood before a young boy and lashed out. Perhaps he started his day hoping for an escape. But we can't escape from God's eyesight. And in the midst of mankind at his worst, God reminded me that we are not the sum of our sins. God looks straight through the raggedy clothes and the filthy stench and sees a person He loves. When Jesus Himself walked the earth He went to those who were sick and blind-the outcasts of society. And that has not changed. Through the loving care of a child, Jesus showed up in Santa Monica to offer grace for a sinner and to open the eyes of the heart for a thirty-something blind woman who had forgotten how to truly see.
Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast? Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne? Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you! Isaiah 49:15
Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who insult you. Luke 6:28
YOUR TURN! Has God used your kids to teach you lessons too?
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Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. Psalm 115:1
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you are never outside of God’s loving gaze.