and He walks with me…

and He talks with me
and He tells me I am his own….

i grew up in the tradition of singing hymns, and as a child this was always a favorite.  the lyrics tell the simple truth of a relationship with Christ:  He walks and talks with us.  He speaks to us of our identity.  He is no longer distant God, but friend/lover/brother, come to live with us.

in this vein, Larry (our teacher) has made a habit of asking us where we’ve seen Jesus.  we talk about the people on the streets of Toronto or at the store, or even how we’ve seen Him in each other.

this past week, we had the pleasure of meeting with Andrea DeMink, founder of the PourHouse, a ministry to those experiencing homelessness in downtown Indy.  she shared with us the blunt honesty of her story and it was both beautiful and refreshing.  she also shared frustrations she’s had with members of the church community, who assume that those experiencing homelessness don’t know Jesus.

“when you’re living on the streets and you have nothing, you get to know Jesus really well,” she said.

then Larry asked where she had seen Jesus in the decade or so of her ministry.  she paused, and responded with a where-haven’t-i-seen-Jesus look.  then she began to share and one particular story stood out.  they have a man, i believe she said by the name of James (don’t quote me on that), who has the gift of prophecy.  on a normal basis, he mumbles and grumbles to himself, keeps his head bowed and low.  but every now and then he will be completely present, raising his arms and saying quite clearly,

“God wants me to tell you that He sees you.  you are not forgotten and He notices what is going on.  You are loved.”

at this Andrea began to tear up, as did I, and a memory came sharply back to my mind.  a couple years ago, in a place of deep brokenness, i went through, what i now jokingly call “the year of random make-outs.”  it’s funny now, but it really wasn’t funny, as i was so lonely and broken by things going on in my life, that i literally made-out with several random people throughout the year.

one such person took place in the parking lot after a Counting Crows concert.  we met up as we were both looking for our cars.  as we stood there, he said something i will always remember:

“you are an amazing person and worth more than this.  don’t let just any guy have you.”

i always treasured that statement, but didn’t realize until Andrea shared her story, that it was Jesus’s voice i was hearing.  that God was trying to speak to me, even in my own self-destructive choices.  it was a reminder that God walks with us into even the dark and dirty places and calls us to Himself.

i met a wonderful man this weekend in Toronto named Greg.  he is from the West Indies and i immediately got the sense that he knew God well.  before we left on Monday, i asked for his email and he wrote the following note:

i felt so humbled by this poignant reminder that God was with me and loved me.  the hymn is right in so many ways…He does walk and talk with us.  but the imagery suggests that Jesus only exists in beautiful places, gardens where “the dew is still on the roses.”  if i could, i would rewrite it, and it might look something like this:

i come to the streets of Toronto
where a man is asleep on the sidewalk
and woman i see is missing some teeth
she opens her mouth to speak

and (S)He walks with me and (S)He talks with me
and (S)He tells me I am His/Her own;
and the joy we share as we linger there
none other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of His voice
is so strange coming out of this person
in this choice i’ve made to be far away
yet He pulls me closer still

and He walks with me and He talks with me
and He tells me I am His own;
and the joy we share as we struggle there
none other has ever known.

 

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