On Thursday at lunchtime, I decided to go sit at a nearby sandwich place to eat and read my Bible. This is not something I do everyday. More often than not, I speed through my food at my desk as I work. (Probably not the healthiest habit.) Anyway, I was feeling a need to connect with God, thirsty to hear from Him, so I thought reading part of one of the gospels or a Psalm might be the way to do it. I went out, holding my Bible by my side and thinking about what to read. I breathed in the warm air outside and reveled in the cool breeze as I made my way to the restaurant. Time with God as I had planned in my head was sounding like just what I needed. I crossed the street and saw my friend Steven sitting on the sidewalk with his military bag. He was trying to get enough money for food, relying on the compassion of passers-by. I would go say hi on my way back from lunch, see how he’s doing.
As I approached the revolving door of the restaurant, I felt a strong prompting from God to go back and sit with Steven. So, I turned around and walked back to the little spot on the bridge where Steven sat and where we had had our very first conversation just over two years before (Take the Marine to Lunch). I sat down next to him on the concrete in my black, pressed work pants. I put my Bible down next to me, my purse between us, and wrapped my arms around my knees.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he said.
The sun blasted down on us and the wind blew across our faces as we talked about a full range of topics: his health, my work, some painting I needed to do at my house, that he was reading Revelation, a guy we know named Thomas who sells newspapers, a guy we know named Prince who lives on the street, but whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving. For much of the time we were just quiet. People in suits scurried busily by, staring down at us. Tourists with kids skipped by, looking at us with curiosity. Time slowed almost to a stop. Sometimes Steven and I talk about our faith, our doubts, Christ. This day, though, there was no need to talk of these things. Christ was right there with us. His presence and His peace settled on us, grounding us in Him and lifting us to Him. I could have sat there forever and thought that heaven would be like this. In those minutes, we could foresee the day when Steven’s pain would be no more. His nausea would be gone, never to return. He would not be losing weight; would not be worried about more chemotherapy or radiation or that more cancer would be found in some other place in his tired body. In those minutes, we saw in each other the place where God dwells in us. In those minutes, Christ was with us, just as He said He would be. (Matt. 18:20)
About thirty minutes later, it was time for me to get back to work. I picked up my Bible, smiling to myself with a grateful, joy-filled heart, made a quick stop for sandwiches, gave one to Steven, and took mine back to my desk.
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40) It is easy to sit at a table at a sandwich shop and study Scripture, to know what it says, to be able to identify what book says this and which says that. It is something else entirely to come to Christ. If you have tried both, you know, without a speck of doubt, which one brings life.