Jack needs prayer. Now.
I had planned on taking my time with this story and do my best to relate my experiences with Jack so that you’d feel like you knew him as well as I do. But now there’s no time for that. You’ll just have to fill in the blanks on what you’d think and how you’d feel:
if you knew Jack got a room in somebody’s basement
if he accepted your invitation to a healing service where people would’ve prayed for his back only to have him cancel when you came to pick him up
if you picked him up, took him for coffee, sat and watched airplanes land on the mini runway while sharing life stories
if he told you he was getting kicked out of the basement because the landlord wanted to sell the place, and that winter was coming and he needed a place to stay, and you knew you couldn’t sublet to him because his stories were starting to have holes in them that he’d skip over and the truth was no longer lining up, and when you went through all the available possibilities with him you found out that he had been kicked out of the Salvation Army, the local food shelter, wouldn’t go near the library and was no longer welcome at McDonald’s
if his moving-out day came and you lost contact with him for months as the winter rolled in, burring your car in snow, knocking over the telephone pole at the end of your driveway, stranding you without power or heat until the roads got plowed and you made it to your in-laws where you could sleep in their basement and be warm
if you read in the paper that under the bridge where Jack used to be people had set up tents, but then one collapsed under the weight of the snow and suffocated some girl, and another tent caught fire, and the city came and cleared the area out and put up an even larger fence, and the snow kept coming
if when you can finally drive around on the icy roads you find him, pull over and have him sit in your car for two hours, running the heat and talking together about the people who died and the spiritual realm and laying out your testimony of Jesus in your life only to listen to him say he believes there’s Something or Someone but he’s got too many unanswered questions
if the next time you saw him he was back under the bridge but strung out of his mind on something, not coherent except to yell at you that you only ever show up right before your volunteer shift at the hospital so that you have an excuse to walk away
if all summer passed and you couldn’t find him anywhere and you knew that the amounts of fentanyl on the street was killing people left and right…
And then on Thursday, God pokes you to go play your trumpet. So you go to the park where you first played, full of empty soccer and baseball fields, and the notes from the worship songs you play echo back at you off the surrounding mountains. But you still need to play. So you go park at the McDonald’s and play under the overpass, and your lips get tired but you just want to sing through your trumpet to God. And yet you still need to play. So at noon you go to the town center and stand outside the doors of the storefront church, playing to the bookstore, the candy store and the health-nut café people as a smattering of shoppers use the crosswalk on the one-way street. You shut your eyes in praise and open them when you hear:
“Jack? Oh man, am I glad to see you!”
“How’s it going, Buddy?”
“I thought you were dead.”
And then Jack relates how two of his friends died this last summer: one from an overdose, one from a home invasion. And he goes on and on about how the one guy he knew ten years ago, and he was a gang leader and a bad guy, but he changed. “He kept telling me he’d opened his heart to God,” Jack says, “and I could see the difference. He was a totally different guy. Got married, treated his wife and kids well…”
And you listen. And you hope Jack is listening to himself.
“But they found him. Shot him dead. He used to talk about demons following him around…”
And then you help Jack with the huge bag of recycling. You take it to the bottle plant, sort through it all—beer cans, soda cans, wine and water bottles—and then take the change back out to him because, sure enough, he’s been kicked out of this place too. You asked the girl behind the counter.
You agree to meet again the next day. 3:30. Coffee shop.
Friday comes and Jack’s not there.
You’re conflicted. Your evening happens to be booked for you—you’ve got to go home, cook dinner for everyone and get them out the door for a church fundraiser—and here you are, killing time, waiting for Jack who probably won’t show up. It’s happened before. You stand around and wait. You check the time. You try to get lost in thought. You tell God you’d rather do this another day.
And then Jack arrives.
While waiting you had seen an add for soda and pizza by the slice. So you skip coffee and take Jack for pizza, thinking it’s probably cheaper ‘cause you won’t have to buy him a sandwich too. The two of you sit down, Jack eats, and you talk about the peer pressure your son is facing at school.
Jack talks, and you find yourself not really listening. Not fully. God is talking in your ear almost incessantly, pushing you to say a few words. You interrupt Jack with the half sentence you’ve got in your head, and the conversation shifts. And the next words flow out of your mouth until you stop. Jack’s turn. You try to listen, but God’s talking in your ear again, over and over with the next prompt. You take it, and the conversation shifts again. You realize God’s covering the ground of truth, honesty, conscience, guilt, sin and confession. And He’s doing it again. Again, you’ve got these words in your right ear. You say them and you find you’re explaining the whole thing. You say words like:
“We can’t clean ourselves. One of Jesus’ closest friends wrote that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us. Jesus does the forgiving. Jesus does the cleansing. All we do is confess. We can be super sorry about the stuff we’ve done, but there’s a difference between being sorry and standing before a judge and confessing guilt.”
“I’ve tried that,” Jack says. “Doesn’t work for me.”
“Well, how’s your relationship with Jesus?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t have one.”
“That’s your problem. Jack, God is knocking on your heart right now. You know it. He’s saying, ‘Open up. Let me in.’ He’ll do the same for you that He did for your friend. Where do you think your friend is now, the guy who got shot?”
Jack rolls his eyes heavenward and they’re pooling with tears. Not because of loss. They started watering when God took over the conversation.
“Jack, God wants your heart.”
“I know,” he wipes his eyes. “I feel it. But I can’t do that right now. I don’t have much stuff, don’t have many things, but I do have ‘stuff’ in my life that I can’t put down. You know what I mean. I can’t give it up. I love it too much.”
And that’s how it ends.
Jack knows God’s knocking, and knocking hard. But he says, “No. Not right now.”
Will you pray for Jack? Will you ask God to keep knocking until Jack says, “Yes! Yes, right now!”