I want to introduce you to someone. His name is Charlie.
To be honest I don’t know Charlie at all, except to say that he is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met. At first glance you probably wouldn’t say that, but all it would take is to just see him smile, and I’m positive you would agree.
I met Charlie just the other day at a Sonic. I had never been to this Sonic before but like all Sonics, something awesome happens at 2 pm.
Happy Hour. Half-price drinks. It’s a glorious occasion. A true treat if you’re thirsty.
So I was there of course to get my usual and that’s where I met him.
Sitting down at one of the bright red picnic tables, I faced the glass doors where the car hops come and go with each new order. I could see myself pretty clearly in the glass. Admittedly, I thought to myself I look pretty good. I had just gotten a hair cut the day before and was wearing one of my favorite freshly ironed shirts. I felt like a brand new man; anxious and excited to be in another city, getting ready to experience all that God was going to do in the days ahead.
Only I didn’t expect what was about to happen.
I saw Charlie walk up behind me and immediately felt that tightening in my chest. You know what I’m talking about here. That recognition and judgement that someone doesn’t belong or doesn’t quite fit.
Let’s just be honest with one another call it what it really is: self-righteousness. Yeah that’s it, and I was full of it!
I fully expected to be propositioned for some change at any moment, only that didn’t happen. Charlie made an order and sat down at the red picnic table next to mine. His hair was long and unkempt and his beard had not been trimmed in years. His faded jeans and tucked in plaid shirt was obviously over due for a wash as well. He looked like he could have been Uncle Sy’s distant cousin from Duck Dynasty. And having set what appeared to be a map on the table, from my peripheral I could just barely make out the words Missouri on it.
I turned back to face forward, again looking at my reflection in those glass doors and suddenly everything changed.
Tears began to well up as I began to think about Charlie’s family; whoever they were, wherever they were. It was as if in that moment I was given new eyes to see this beautiful man sitting just across the way. Eyes to see him, the way The Father see you and I, with unconditional love and with complete abandonment of logic. All sorts of narratives were playing out in my head about where Charlie had come from, where he was going, what had been through, what had he experienced.
And above all that, I just desperately wanted him to know how truly loved and accepted he was. Just the way he was. I didn’t know if he had been told that recently but I couldn’t leave that Sonic until I had.
Charlie’s order was delivered and you’ll never guess what it was.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched, as Charlie, like a child, enjoyed a cup of coffee and a strawberry shortcake. In those small innocuous moments a smile began to form as I could see the whipped cream collect in his beard. That smile was the last straw. I had to do something. I had to meet him.
I went over and introduced myself and we shook hands. I asked him if he needed anything, several times as a matter of fact, and he repeatedly said no. I asked him where he was headed and he said St. Louis. Then I asked how he was going to get there and he said he was walking and hitching rides. So again I asked, do you need anything. Again, he said no.
I finally responded by telling him I needed to give him something and so I gave him $50. It wasn’t much but I knew he needed it more than I did. He couldn’t look me in the eyes, which broke my heart even more, but I asked him to look at me and I just simply told him how amazing he was, how loved he is, and how accepted he is just the way he is.
Those few minutes came and went so quickly, but in them I experienced the gospel more so than I have in years.
You see for most of my adult life, I’ve considered myself to be self righteously set apart. I’ve often spoken about my story and how acquainted I’ve become with pain and sorrow. I’ve claimed that I’ve cornered the market so to speak when it came to difficulties and obstacles. When I read about the least of these, I nod my head, saying amen, like I’m one of them, but the truth is I’m not. And neither are you. At least if you’re reading this that is.
And part of what I write about in The Awesome Manifesto, about things being turned right-side-up, challenges me over and over again to face this reality.
What a healthy perspective shift this gives us.
I’ll probably never see Charlie again, but I’ll continue to think about the tremendous gift he gave me, by letting me watch him enjoy his strawberry shortcake.
This much I know, I’ll never be the same again.
Thanks for letting me share something that has impacted me so greatly. I hope it benefits you in some way!
Know you’re loved and accepted just as you are today!
Move from that place. Create from that place. Love from that place.
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