A short man, his head coming to about my eyes. He is younger than many we see, but he is not young. He came around towards the end of the day last week*. I was talking with another man named Steve when he showed up . . .
I was just telling Steve that we all need help, and that it’s okay to ask for help. Steve had been worried about appearing weak by asking for help, but he knew something in his life had to change, or his wife Darla might leave him. He was ready to make a change, and that included admitting he couldn’t do it alone. I told Steve that humbling ourselves to ask for help when we need it is true strength.
Then the short man, whom I had barely noticed, whose name I came to learn is Garland, yelled over to us, “I NEED HELP.” I chuckled at the strong exclamation, and continued talking to Steve. Once we finished talking and Steve left, I walked over toward Garland, and said, “You need help?”
“Yes, I do,” he said in a sweet, Southern voice, the remnants of a lisp detectable. His demeanor immediately endeared him to me. He seemed so tender, so kind, like someone for whom you wish you could just make everything better in an instant.
Garland then surprised me—just a little bit—for he carried the same tenderness into the question, “Why are you here?”
“Me?” I questioned.
“Yes, why would you be here?” he said, looking at me intently.
“To spend time with you all, because I care about you,” I replied, still surprised at the direct line of questioning.
“Why do you care about us?” Garland continued.
“I think you are just as important as anyone else, and I love you all.”
“You love us?” he sounded shocked.
That seemed to satisfy the line of questioning. He then looked at me like a man on a mission, and said, “I want us to pray. Grab that man to pray with us.” He was pointing to Jonathan, CitySquare employee and pastor. So we got a hold of Jonathan, and, following Garland’s lead, we put our hands into fists and “held hands.” Going into the prayer, I thought Garland wanted us to pray for him, but I was wrong. Garland wanted to pray with us for himself.
It was as though I got to listen in on the most intimate prayer of a humble man before his God. It was like touching something sacred. He poured his heart before God—in front of us. He was totally transparent. But not only that, the prayer was one of the most “sophisticated” I have ever heard. He prayed Scripture back to God. He prayed things like, “Lord, you say you provide for your children. I need you to provide for me. Oh Lord, as the Provider, provide for me.”
This is another moment I wish I could have bottled up for the whole world to hear. It was a beautiful prayer. Before he closed his prayer, this small, precious man, said, “And Lord, life is hard in [the shelter]. I ask that you would help me with temptation. When I am around drugs or alcohol, help me to resist temptation. You say, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ Lord, help me to resist. Help me to be strong.”
And with that, the prayer finished. Garland left for the shelter.
Last Thursday, Garland ministered to me.
I was the recipient of the love, of the ministry. I did nothing for him. He did everything for me. I keep wondering,
Why did he entrust such an intimate prayer to us, whom he just met that day?
He "laid it all out there," and he didn't know me. I am touched.
*post written on Tuesday, December 17