My ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, and I were leaving the SoHills church building on a recent afternoon when we were approached by a man... let's call him Dave... who indicated he was in a tough spot. Dave said that he was stranded in Abilene without any money, hungry... and needing to get to Odessa where a "good opportunity" awaited him.
My initial response in situations such as this is "respectful wariness." I always struggle to not jump to a conclusion, and my prayer is that I will listen to anyone's story with the ears and heart of Jesus.
Stephen and I listened to Dave's story... a story which continued to evolve and change as Dave unraveled it. "Lord," I prayed, "don't allow my heart to become hard... show me how you'd have me respond to Dave."
To address Dave's hunger, I pulled into a local fast food restaurant. Dave's response was, "I don't want to eat here... they serve dog food!"
"Lord... please don't allow my heart to become hard."
I drove on through the restaurant's parking lot and headed to the bus station, the place where Dave had asked Stephen and me to drop him. We parked, and I pulled Dave's bag from the car's trunk. Dave seemed surprised and asked what I was doing with his bag. He said he might want to be driven elsewhere, and to leave his bag.
"Dave, that's not what we agreed we'd do," I said. "You asked to be taken to the bus station and that's where we've taken you.... we're not driving you anyplace else." At that, Dave became sullen, and asked if we'd take him back to the fast-food place where we'd been earlier.
"No, Dave... you said you wouldn't eat their food, so we're at your last stop... the bus station."
Dave muttered comments about phony Christians who didn't really care about people as Stephen and I walked him into the bus station. As we turned to exit, Dave turned his back on us... not making eye contact or saying a word.
As Stephen and I climbed back into the car, my prayer was still, "Lord, please don't allow my heart to become hard."