Have you ever had a strangely profound encounter with someone that left you in awe, wondering if it was a messenger from God? Mine was with a homeless man, in the midst of an intense long day and night writing my book Flourish.
I rushed into Whole Foods to get a late hot meal for my family – brown rice, some vegetables and the last rotisserie chicken. I was getting ready to rush away when I noticed a street person right in front of my car digging through a trash can. Our eyes met very briefly before he shamefully looked away.
I was compelled to stop, empathizing with the collective shame I recognized. But for the Grace of God, we are all desperate, languishing, longing, in need and hungry for God in some way.
“I’m not good enough”. “If people only knew who I really was, they wouldn’t find me worthy of love.” “I will hide behind who I think I should be – even if I am alone and disconnected.”
As I approached him, I could sense that under this shame and fear of rejection and disconnection was a familiar excruciating human vulnerability. At some time we each long and hope for being worthy to be noticed and accepted, for the freedom of authentic connection, just one more touch from God’s loving hand.
When we don’t, we hide, we pretend, we try to perfect or selectively numb the shame and fear behind our vulnerability. This starts a vicious cycle of feeling miserable, searching for meaning and purpose that keeps us from the authentic freedom to seed and cultivate vital emotions like joy, gratitude, peace and hope.
In order to flourish in belonging and joy, we must risk being vulnerability authentic in all of life – to be seen as a whole person – to believe “I am valuable. I am worthy. I am enough. I am free to be authentically who I am.”
With compassion I leaned in. “May I buy you a turkey sandwich?” Fully embracing his vulnerability, he sheepishly glanced up at me. “Um, well, actually, um – would it be possible at all to have one of those – um – whole cooked chickens?
No. Not the only chicken ! I tried to persuade him otherwise. “Are you sure you don’t want a turkey sandwich?” “Oh no. A cooked chicken will be just fine.” I hesitated. What are the chances of him wanting the last chicken? This must be a divine encounter. So I walked to the car and offered him the chicken. I had to. He needed to know that he was worthy of God’s love, even if he wasn’t aware of the cost. I looked him in the eyes and from deep within me it just sincerely came out: “God loves you.” His response of delight and gratitude became my epiphany.
That’s what God does for us. He gave His Son to show we are worthy of his love. We don’t have to hide, to pretend, to numb. As we embrace His love and compassion, it gives us the courage to risk fully embracing our authentic vulnerability – even in our languishing – so we can live genuinely fully alive.
This is what makes us beautiful and becomes the opportunity for embracing whole-hearted living, gratitude, connection, believing we are worthy of being seen, heard and loved. A ‘Flourisher’, a ‘Shalom Bringer’, reveals this compassion and kindness – “ You are valuable. You are worthy. You are deserving of being loved”.
I will share the rest of the story in the next blog.
Question: Have you ever had a surprising life changing encounter with what appeared to be ‘a messenger from God’?