One of the biggest challenges that I face while traveling, and even at home in the US, is meeting the challenge that Jesus sets before us when he says, “‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me'” (Matthew 25:50, The Message translation).
This is stinking HARD. It’s hard enough to see Jesus in the faces of our family members and friends, but to see His face in the irritating people, the beggars, the drunkards, and the hypocrites? It often feels impossible. And yet we are called to that very task, to love our neighbors as ourselves, whomever our neighbors might be.
Last night, after a tiresome dance workout (thank you to the Sean T.’s “Rockin’ Body” workout DVDs brought to Belize by my mom–thanks, Mom!), I took a walk to the grocery store to get some dinner supplies and baking supplies to make the chocolate chip cookies I promised to Melvin, Alex, and Delvin. It was kind of late–8-something, I think–and there was lightning and thunder but the rain wasn’t falling yet. On my way back from the store, some obnoxious guy yelled, “Hey, Beautiful!” from his truck, and I ignored him and continued walking. There was a man walking a little ways in front of me, and he turned to see who had been the recipient of the obnoxious “greeting.” When he saw me, he slowed, and I immediately put up my guard. I didn’t feel endangered at all; there were still people out and about, and I was only a block from the bunkhouse. Still, I assumed that he was going to ask me for money or try and sell me something…which he did, after introducing himself as Ivan and asking me what I was doing in PG. He pulled out several pairs of coconut shell earrings and asked me if I wanted to buy any. I refused the offer (coconut earrings are not my thang) and then attempted to continue on my way. Ivan, however, wanted to chat, which annoyed me. It wasn’t that I was in a rush to get home for something (though I did kind of want to avoid getting drenched by the impending rain). It was simply that I wasn’t interested in what Ivan had to say.
For some reason, though, I listened to him speak, and he spoke a little about his thoughts on ProWorld (which were relatively uninformed, I thought), and his belief that PG is in a critical position–that we need to band together and improve this place so that it doesn’t become the violent, crime-ridden center that is Belize City. I definitely didn’t agree with everything that Ivan said, and he certainly wasn’t the most eloquent person in expressing his thoughts, but still I listened. And when I began to grow irritated with the fact that he was still talking my ear off, I suddenly had a thought: “find the face of Jesus.” When I travel, I have a variety of goals, but two goals always stay the same: to spread love wherever I go, and to see the face of Jesus in anyone I meet. Here it was, right in front of me, the chance to see Jesus in Ivan’s face, and here I was, pretty actively resisting it! When those words, “find the face of Jesus,” came to me, I was reminded that that’s what I am here for! Not “here” as in “in Belize”, but “here” as in “on the earth“.
While Ivan’s face didn’t transform into Jesus’ before my very eyes (though wouldn’t that have been nice?!), I was able, for a moment, to look deeper, and to see behind his callused skin and big t-shirt, into the eyes of someone longing simply to be heard. And isn’t that what we all want? Simply to be heard? How many times have I walked past people who want just to be listened to? How many times have I deemed their stories of less importance or worth than my own? My conversation with Ivan went on for a little longer, and then I really did begin to fear the impending storm, so I said goodbye, shook Ivan’s hand, and promised to comply with his request that I pray for him that night.
Perhaps the scariest realization is that I didn’t do anything remotely special in looking for Jesus in Ivan’s face. On the contrary, I should be actively looking to see Jesus in every face that I encounter! I can only hope that there are others who seek to see Him when they speak to me. Thanks to my interaction with Ivan, I feel newly aware of the importance of truly seeing and hearing others as Jesus would. I’ve got a long way to go, and I know I’m not alone. I challenge y’all, dear readers, to try and see Jesus somewhere unexpected today. Perhaps we can make a habit of it!
Before I go, here’s a little inspiration from Mama T. to remind us of what we’re all here for. Thanks for reading!
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.
Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.
Jesus is the Dumb – to speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger & befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.