Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Saturday, July 11, 2015

There but for the grace of God go I

As I was at my afternoon post in the main lobby of the hospital I work at yesterday, a man who had just been released from the behavioral health unit came up to the desk. As with so many people who spend time there, he was unkempt, not too clean, and showed the signs of years of drug abuse and sinful wasteful living.

  He asked to use the courtesy phone, and the lady at the desk told him how to use it. As he talked for quite some time, I heard enough to know he was trying to get off of heroin, he had HIV and Hepatitis, and he was trying to get into rehab. He finally finished his call and sat down around the corner out of sight. I don't figure one can catch HIV or Hepatitis from a phone, but just to be safe, I got some sani-wipes and wiped down the phone....only to have him come up and use the phone again for several minutes. And he indicated he would be using it again.

  A while later, someone came down from the behavioral health unit and got on this guy for missing the bus. The man told him he was trying to get into a rehab center, which got him a lecture about how he needed to really try this time, etc. The worker left to get him some information about where to go, and the man got on the phone yet again. This time he got a rehab center to take him. He put the phone to his shoulder and called me over. I had a feeling what was coming and thought "Dear God, please don't have him put me on the phone....." And sure enough, he wanted me to give the place the address and phone number of the hospital. I tried to talk without putting the phone on my ear, but couldn't hear the lady on the phone, so I had to put it on my ear. I gave the information and hung up the phone. The man thanked me and said "God bless you sir" and stuck out his hand. I'll be honest..... I didn't want to shake the hand of this diseased and dirty druggie, but I did, and told him he was welcome. He asked if it was OK to hang out in the lobby until his ride came, and I told him that was fine. Then I walked into the bathroom, washed my hands well, and scrubbed my ear.

  Exiting the bathroom, my eyes fell on him again, and I felt God check me for my attitude. I wasn't rude to him, and was polite and helpful.... outwardly. Inwardly, I was cringing and looking at him as just another wasted life spent on drugs and who knows what else. I felt my judgement replaced with compassion and the realization that there but for the grace of God I go. I didn't say anything else to him, but said a prayer for him.... and for myself.

  In my two years at the hospital, and especially in my 16 months working the Emergency Department waiting room, I have seen a lot. Drug overdoses, suicide attempts, the same people in and out of behavioral health for drug and alcohol related problems, people coming in trying to get drugs for pains and illnesses they don't have. It is sad. There are so many people addicted to things they used to try to escape, to try to be happy and feel good about themselves, but instead they got addiction, ruined health, and ruined lives. I see people come in with all kinds of health problems, barely able to breathe while reeking of cigarette smoke. They can't give up the thing that is destroying their life. Others walk through the door needing to be treated for STDs.

  We live in such a broken and hurting world. People all around us are trying to find happiness through other people, through drugs, entertainment, alcohol, sex, sex changes... and none of it works.

  I am not without compassion, though I have felt a sense of disgust before at the obvious attempts of people to get drugs through a visit to the ER. I have had the thought many times that multiple visits and stays to the behavioral health floor or multiple visits to a rehab or detox center will never truly fix people. Many of them will continue their destructive lifestyles until they die, a lot of them earlier than if they had lived differently. I have thought about the attempts of the nurses, doctors, and counselors who work with drug and alcohol addicts. They may give advice and counsel, but I doubt they point the people to the true solution. They are most likely not even allowed to do so if they are Christians. The only true solution is Jesus.

  We could all be where the man from yesterday was. Broken, addicted to drugs, having two serious diseases most likely gotten from his drug use. I don't know how long he has been on the road he is on, or how many times he has been in and out of rehab and behavioral health units, but it is very likely a lot of times. He is very likely homeless and carrying most or all of his belongings in the paper bag he had with him. That is very common.

  Yet Jesus died for him and loves him just as much as he loves you, me, or Billy Graham. He is what the Gospel is all about. Sinners who need redemption. I don't know if the man knows Jesus is what he needs. He said "God bless you", so I would assume he is familiar with God, but he obviously isn't giving God his life and a chance to redeem it and make something of it.

  We truly are surrounded by a world of broken and hurting people who are plunging to an eternity without God, but we are more concerned about taking a flag down so we feel better about ourselves, or catching the newest Jurassic movie, or making time for the Pirates game. We don't have time to take the Gospel to anyone. We don't want to get our hands dirty. We don't want to rub shoulders with drug addicts, alcoholics, gay people.

I am a bit cynical. I admit it. However, I wonder sometimes if the reason some Christians are so enthusiastic about missions and missionaries is because they themselves don't want to get their hands dirty or take time to be a missionary where they are, so it makes them feel good to toss some money in for missions and go and hear a missionary speak. I may be wrong and horribly judgmental and cynical for suggesting such a thing, but so many of us are unwilling to inconvenience ourselves to do much of anything for God, especially in the area of helping people and taking the Gospel to them.

  It is too easy to pull our righteous robes around us and like the Pharisees be thankful we are not like those kind of people. We can be thankful that we are not, but not with a sense of pride, but of thankfulness and humility that God rescued and redeemed us and remember that there but for the grace of God go I...... and that there is world of hurting people all around us who need the Jesus who has redeemed us and forgiven our sins.

There's a man on a corner with a cardboard sign that reads
I will work for food
A woman stands beside him with hungry eyes that plead
Our children are hungry too
Some may say I'm foolish for giving to their cause
I've become a believer that heaven's helped us all.

Oh there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh, it could be you it could be me the world has cast aside
There but for the grace of God go I.

When I think about my home late in the evening time
How we've been blessed with much more than we need
Keep a warm fire burning when it's cold outside
We don't have to worry that we might freeze
How can I go to bed at night and sleep so gracefully
If I haven't given something for the least of these.

Oh, there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh it could be you and it could be me the world has locked outside
There but for the grace of God go I.

Oh, the time has come for everyone to learn to help another
We could turn this whole wide world around if we only loved each other.

Oh there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh, it could be you it could be me the world has cast aside
There but for the grace of God go I.

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