Jessie is not the most approachable person at first glance. Covered in tattoos from face to foot, a bad skin infection, and walking around in dirty, tattered clothes, he is someone you would probably look away from, pretending not to notice if you passed him walking on the sidewalk. I met Jessie walking back to my car after having lunch with a friend, he was digging through a dumpster behind a Chic-fila on a Tuesday afternoon. I can’t actually take credit for having met him. After we had already gotten into the car, my friend John who was with me, led by the spirit, opened the door and went to buy him a sandwich. Following suit, I got out of my car and started a conversation. I am so glad I did.
I found out that the reason Jessie was digging through the dumpster was pride. He was too proud to beg, and in no condition to get a job. Jessie had been a marine in Desert Storm, he spent 3 years overseas fighting for our country. After getting back he had a daughter, and somewhere along the way could no longer pay child support payments. He went to prison for missing the payments, and while he was there his daughter died in an accident, and he got a staph infection on his arms and face. He tried to kill himself, but when he moved the chair the rope had been miraculously cut. He had $6 in his pocket, and could not even afford to buy the medicine he needed. Now here he was on the streets, looking for food in a dumpster so he wouldn’t have to beg for money.
That morning Jessie had been praying. He was at the end of his rope, and told God that he had one chance to prove himself or he just would not be able to believe anymore. We were the fourth people to get to him that day. That morning when he needed to blow his nose, a woman came up to him out of nowhere and gave him her ornate handkerchief. Later another woman came to him and asked him what she could do for him, and he told her he didn’t have any socks. She actually took the pantyhose off her legs so that this stranger could use them as socks. Next John bought him two sandwiches for lunch, and I gave him $15 before listening to his story.
Now I could just stop here and it be a nice story. A man who was at his low trusted God and He came through, but that’s not what encourages me so much about Jessie. He went on from this story to quote to me a passage from Hebrews 12 that talks about how God disciplines his children. He had a remarkable sense that despite his suffering, God has a plan for him to work good through his life. When I went to talk to him he had been drawing a cover for a book he was writing that he is going to title “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.” I was really inspired by the whole situation because even though he had nothing, he was richer than me in that moment. He has a treasure more valuable than all the wealth of the businessmen that passed him on their way to work that morning, a knowledge so much truer than anything taught in a university classroom. He knows that Jesus loves him, and that his joy can come despite suffering because his life is led by the truth of the cross, and nothing can take that away. I am convinced that God is only just beginning to show Jessie the blessings and plans He has for him.
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11 ESV)