Homeless People Don’t Always Want Your Sandwich

Real estate can be a funny business.  One day you’ve got 15 hours worth of work to do, the next you’ve got 4.  It can swing wildly at a moments notice.

Last Friday, I was working and went over to Panera for lunch.  As I was sitting there, I realized that I had a couple of hours in between appointments and really didn’t have a lot to do for a little bit. So, I asked God if there was anything I should be doing, please bring it to my attention.

I was sitting there long enough to have forgotten that I had offered out to God to change up my day.  As I was sitting at the front window and this guy walks past the front of the store on the outside on the sidewalk.  He’s older, hunched over with obviously a bad back, stained tshirt and pants that don’t look a lot better.  He was thin, unshaven, and looked ‘well worn’, like someone who was homeless.

He walks past once, then again.

On the outside of the Panera store there are tables for customers and the trash can with bins to put your plates, cutlery, and bowels into once you are finished.   He goes over to the bins and trash and starts to rummage through, finds a half eaten bowl of soup and goes to sit down to eat it.

I have an “OH” this is where I’m supposed to do something realization.  It’s not normal for me to do this all the time, but I got up and went to the register and bought a sandwich. Seemed like a no brainer.  I had asked God to fill the space and He was. I even thought, do I get a half sandwich?  No….I got a whole sandwich.

As I have sandwich in hand, I exit the store and he’s right there, like he’s getting ready to come in.  We exchange a couple words…I’m not exaggerating when I write this….it’s as close as I can remember.

Me:  “Hey buddy, I got you a sandwich.”
Him: “I’m not hungry.”

(I just saw him rummaging through the trash)

Me: “You can take it and eat it later?”
Him: “What kind of sandwich is it?”
Me:  “Bacon Turkey Bravo”

(In my mind: Are you really going to be picky?  I’m slightly confused)

Him: “I’m going inside”
Me:  “You don’t …want the sandwich?”
2 second pause
Him: “Did you play baseball?”
Me: “Um, no…?”

(I’m no longer slightly confused.  I’m FULLY confused.)

Him:  “Can I get around you?” he motions to the door.
Me:  “Sure”

I step aside and he walks past me into Panera.  I stand there for a second with my Panera bag in hand, that has a bag of chips and full bacon turkey bravo, dumbfounded.

In my mind, I’m like, “Ok God, thought I was listening to you on that one…I mean…you don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to see this one. (Yes, rocket surgeon is a joke)

But the equation actually was:

That interaction stuck with me for 2 days.  I felt like I was missing God completely, I was misunderstanding what I thought He was telling me, and I was a little bent out of shape, feeling like I was ‘benched’ when what I really wanted was to be in the game.  This just seemed like the way things are going lately in my walk with God.  I’m asking for help and understanding and direction….and feeling like there’s nobody listening.

So, I don’t mean this as blasphemy, please don’t take it that way…but have you ever seen the street hustler who has three cups spread out onto a flat surface and there’s an object that he shows you and then covers it with a cup, moves them around, and then asks the ‘sucker’ where it is?  (I saw a good ‘ol boy from Kentucky get taken for $150 once, right in front of my eyes.  Hysterical!  But back to God.)

Honestly, some days I feel like I ask God into a situation or ask for help in directions and He’s playing this game with me.  Like looking for a wife.  God tells me there a wife out there for me…shows me she’s under one of these cups and does the whole mixing of the cups…I think I know which one, point to the cup and He lifts the cup….only to find I was wrong again.

I ask Him for direction on something simple like with the guy and the sandwich, and then there’s nothing under the cup again

I was a little salty about how that had played out.

Couple days later, I’m with a buddy, we’re talking about life, and I tell him the story….it seems to represent my walk with God lately, thinking he’s going to give me the “hey sorry, that sucks” and a follow up, “yeah, it’s tough some times”.

But he doesn’t.

Instead he says that it’s our job to be obedient, and I had done that.  “but the guy didn’t take the sandwich?” I protested.  The rest is up to God and that it’s not up to us to produce fruit, he said.  I said something along the lines of “yeah, guess you’re right” but it didn’t sit well with me.

A couple days after that, I again was with another friend, we were bicycling after work one day and I told the story about the guy and the sandwich again.  Her response?  I was being obedient, and that was the thing that I should be doing….the results were not up to me.  

In my head, I’m like “Ok God….I get it” but truthfully, I really wasn’t completely convinced.

On Sunday, at church, Paco, (the youth leader)  spoke about being obedient to what you think God is telling you.  He told multiple stories of how sometimes God tells you things….and how some times you’ve got to stay true to that, even when things are not lining up with what you think should happen….matter of fact, ESPECIALLY when things don’t look right, you gotta push through.

Ok God.  
I get the message

In hindsight, I see that God was talking to me back at buying the sandwich.  It wasn’t completely obvious, and the outcome was questionable…but He was.  It’s very rare that He gives me an ‘impression’ or thoughts in my mind that I’m like, “wow, is that you God?”…but it has (very rarely) happened

I think MOST times for me, there’s an opportunity and risk and a ‘nudge’ that you should do something…because maybe you’re the only one who sees what’s going on.  In this case it was some guy rummaging through the trash for something to eat and I felt like ‘someone’ should do something.  Usually that someone is YOU.  Usually for me, that nudge is God.

You could say there are a few lessons here.

1)  If you’re going to buy a guy a sandwich, buy one that you would like to eat yourself…and get made the way you would want it to be made.  Because you may eat that sandwich twice in one day.

2)Be obedient. God used three different people to tell me that, without question, I was supposed to do what He ‘told’ me to do.  This is also about looking at your life as a WHOLE where God is speaking to you.  This is huge: IF you’re hearing the same thing from different parts of your life…then maybe you should pay attention.  Because, if you’re ONLY paying attention at church, you’re missing out on SOOOO much.

3)The outcome is not up to you.  This is probably a very important lesson for me to relearn.  Just because God’s using me doesn’t mean that I get to determine the outcome….doesn’t mean I get to see or taste the fruit.  Sometimes God uses you for a purpose that is a detriment to you, and it could cost you something.  Actually, it could cost you everything.

You’re called to pour your life out for others, some times you will have to do that

Sometimes God nudges you to buy a sandwich.
Sometimes God uses your friends to tell you something important.
Sometimes God uses a sermon that seems to be directed right at you.

Sometimes I’m just not that bright and I need Him to use them all.