I found myself in the French Quarter last weekend inviting strangers to come into the Cathedral to pray, light a candle, and just be with God in Adoration. If you know me, you know this is wayyyy out of my comfort zone. On top of that, I was burnt out from a hectic week and just wanted to reunite with my bed, but I sucked it up and went because I already made the plans with my friends.
So there I was, walking back and forth in front of the Cathedral with my friend (Hailey), nervously eyeing our next attempt when I asked her what kind of instrument one of the street performers was playing. She said, “I don’t know, but you should go ask him then tell him about the Cathedral.” Now he was surrounded by other musicians and some others who were talking to them, so my mind screamed “NO! ABORT MISSION! TOO MANY HUMANS!” But being the overly competitive person that I am, I knew I couldn’t turn down this challenge. So instead, I spotted three guys on a bench who were eyeing the lantern I was holding, one with a bottle of liquor. Challenge accepted. We made our way over to them and I gave the usual spiel, “Hey guys, I don’t know if you’re interested, but we have the Cathedral open tonight if you want to light a candle or say some prayers.” Instead, one of them held out his hand for the lantern. Another asked for some food because they were hungry. Everything in me started waving red flags. “Sharon, what are you doing? These are three grown men, it’s dark, and it’s New Orleans. Be smart.” But I couldn’t leave and Hailey wasn’t turning away either.
After talking to them for a little while, the guy with the liquor asked us to pray over him. As we took his hands and started praying, his body started to shake with sobs. Each prayer we said over him resulted in a tear-filled nod. We asked God to remind him of his worth, to be near him, to heal him, to allow him to see himself through God’s eyes. As we finished, he overflowed with fears…he was an evil man, he claimed. He had done terrible things, he had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for 35 years and he knew he was going to die soon…where was he going to go? He feared the answer was hell, but he wanted to be with God. I could see the sincerity in his eyes. My heart ached for this man.
After this, they asked us to pray over the other two guys, and as we were praying, a fourth guy came up and put his hand on mine. When we finished, he began praying over them too, pouring out gratitude to God for this moment. I couldn’t believe that this was my life…I don’t do things like this! I don’t pray over random men in the French Quarter.
But for the rest of the night and every day since then, I’ve come back to this same point: that first man wanted to be with God. I wanted him to be with God. But most of all, the one who ached and wanted this the most was God Himself.
It feels like a bad romantic comedy. The guy and the girl both love each other and want to be together, but they have terrible communication skills, so it never works out. He thinks she hates him because he made some mistakes, but if only he knew how much she forgives him! If only he could see a fraction of the love she has for him. Instead, he keeps looking away, keeps blocking her out.
If only I could tell that man that the only thing standing between him and God is himself. How much would his life change from this simple truth? Maybe he could go to treatment and end his addictions? What if his testimony could save so many other souls? Does he have a family? What if he could reconcile with them? All of these possibilities for his life run through my mind, and suddenly, his fear of God’s mercy seems ridiculous.
If only I could tell myself that the only thing standing between myself and God is myself. How much would my life change from this simple truth? What would my life look like? Where is God calling me?
And suddenly, I realize we’re not that different. We’re both letting fear move our feet. Every day we come up to the two roads diverged in a wood…how long will I let fear stop me from taking the road less traveled?