I had coffee with a smelly homeless man the other morning. The sweet and chatty old man was absolutely filthy...I couldn't tell if the stench was caused by the dirt and grime covering him or from the smell of alcohol...you know, that smell that lingers on the breath and comes out as perspiration?
First of all, I do not write about this old man, we'll call Sweetie, to make myself out to be a saint because I am not and I was not...in fact, I have this incredible guilt for not reaching out and touching his shoulder, for not sitting longer, and for keeping a good distance because he smelled so badly. Sweetie had so much to share, he spoke to me as if we were child-aged siblings, he did a little dance for me like on "Oklahoma," and spoke of musicians from an era long ago. Sweetie's beard kept catching in his mouth, a layer of black mud coated his face, dust covered his clothes, and his hair was almost "dread locked" from all of the grease and grime. Sweetie chatted away as if we were old friends, told me the address where he was born, and explained why one could hear the voices singing w/o microphones at concerts in a park nearby, then, suddenly he stated: "He said, what's a boy from an upstanding Christian home doing listening to honky tonk?" he repeated this sentence and gazed off in the distance, then shook his head to wake up and started talking about music again.
"you know a lot about music, huh?" I pondered
"yes! yes I do. The others, they went one way...and I...I went another...the others, they went over here and I stuck my head in a whiskey bottle and I couldn't get it out...actually it was the beer..."
"that happens to the best of us," I didn't know what else to say.
Sweetie gazed off again, shook his head and went right back to talking about music.
I keep thinking about Sweetie, about how much he smelled, how he needed a nice hot shower. I wondered where he takes showers, how long it's been since he's had one, and found myself worrying about how he'll find one...strangely, yes, this (not food or shelter) is what came to my mind...
I started praying for Sweetie and praying that he could have a nice hot shower...then, the thought came to me:
"you could let him shower at your house,"
"What?! My house? Where?" my mind argued. I pictured his filth, how much soap it would take to wash him clean, how filthy he would make my white bar of soap and my white guest towels...and THEN I thought of Zechariah 3:
"Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.'
Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.'
Then I said, 'Put a clean turban on his head.' So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by." Zech 3:3-5
What must my filth look like? what must the sinful me smell like? And, when God washes me clean, how many bars of soap does it take to make me clean? He dries me in His white towels, do I cover them with my filth?
We are all like Sweetie before God, and God gently washes us clean.
What "whiskey bottle" in our lives have we stuck our heads in and not been able to get out?
It breaks my heart to think of how Sweetie's stench probably keeps many at bay...yet, the stench of my own lifestyle-my selfishness, lack of patience, and completely conditional love-that stench is stronger and God still welcomes me into his home, into his piping hot shower...He removes my filthy garments and replaces them with soft, clean white towels.
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Eph 5:1-2