As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
Proverbs 27:19 NIV
One day long ago, about twenty years ago when I was deeply in the control of my ex-husband because he decided he was ready to retire and lay the financial burden on me which included a spiraling effect of losses and eventually bankruptcy. He took over my business because he said he was better with the finances than I was. My driver’s license was suspended because I failed to go to court for driving on expired tags and registration. The only way I could go anywhere was to walk, a ride from him, or others. He didn’t allow me to go anywhere without his approval; the wife submitted to her husband he would quote the Bible. He had me on a chain close enough where I was in his view or with people he approved of; the others, he said, betrayed us and walked away in our time of need. I wondered if that was true or if it was a lie to isolate me from family and friends.
One day while having lunch in our truck next to Taco Bell, I saw a homeless man sitting outside a vacant building. It was cold, and I asked my ex for some cash. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to the money. He gave me a few dollars, and I walked to the man and offered it to him for food. He accepted the cash and asked if I would get him some food. I told him I was on a short lunch and I was in a hurry. Funny how much we miss when we are in a hurry.
When I returned to the truck and finished my lunch, I saw the man dragging his feet and carrying his food from the restaurant. So I told my ex to stop the car and jumped out to help him. We returned to the spot where he had what little belongings he had. I saw why he was dragging his feet; the soles of his shoes were falling off. I asked what size shoes he wore. He smiled and reminded me of what I had said earlier about being in a hurry. I apologized and told him I would postpone my work because I owned a cleaning business. The truth was my ex watched everything I did, and if I talked long with this man, he would interrogate me and accuse me of knowing him personally, such as an old boyfriend or flirting. So I kept my conversations short with the opposite sex. I told him I would be back with a pair of new shoes and socks for him. He smiled and asked if I would get him a pair of shower slippers. He said he loved those flip-flops!
I asked my ex to drive me to Walmart; I needed some supplies for work. So I ran into the store, found the shoes, socks, and slippers, and quickly returned to the gentleman. He was delighted and let me help him put his socks and shoes on. But, first, because I was fearful of my ex’s accusations and was in such a hurry, I didn’t pay much attention to him, and second, I rarely made eye contact with anyone.
However, this day was different. As I placed the shoes on the gentleman, he said something profound. He said, everything you do, do in secret; he said like this: He took my hands and asked me to pray. After I prayed, I looked up at him and saw a single tear fall from the corner of his eye. He had long curly black hair, and he looked like Jesus. When our eyes met, I saw I was more broken and homeless than this man. I saw God crying for me as He mourns for all His creation and desires everyone to be saved through Him, not by religion, beliefs, rituals, idols, or sacrifices, but by believing that His Son died for our sins and through Him, we are free from sin. Sin keeps us imprisoned, and evil people use religion to keep sinners locked up in spiritual prisons by shaming, dehumanizing, coercing, and manipulating guises.
I have few friends, and the only true friends I have lived this same kind of life. Some friends and relatives have tried to silence me. They say I am continuing to live like a victim. However, they don’t realize this is not about me anymore. I have seen and felt the pain of losing a child. I had a teenage relative hang herself because of a controlling boyfriend. I witnessed women and young girls being beaten by their husbands or boyfriends; this is reality. Maybe, they want to silence me because they see their pain in my eyes, as the man I encountered that day. I also have grandchildren who will someday marry someone who is ‘NOT AN ABUSER.” I hope they read my story and learn from me like my daughter once told me. She said she knew what kind of man she did not want to marry and made a good choice.
I realized Jesus was reaching out to help me through this gentle, kind man, expressing God’s love for me, and the new shoes symbolized the new journey I was about to encounter; a new path of change and transformation. I was fear-stricken by religion and walked as this man did; I dragged through each day without hope for a better future. To me, death was the only way out of living like a slave to a husband who acted like a cruel taskmaster, like my young relative who took her own life. God does not call us into this kind of life; He calls us to live a life worth living to glorify Him by being kind, merciful, compassionate, loving, and caring for the needs of the widow, the poor, and the orphan. To fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. To give justice to those bullied, oppressed, and in danger.
Father, thank you for this reminder that when we help others, we may be assisting an angel. You called us to live a life free to love you and others. May Your Holy Spirit remind us that when we offer a glass of water to someone thirsty, we offer it to You. When we break chains and free captives, please give them the strength and courage to walk or run from those who desire to control them and have people ready to help and shelter them. When we give from our hearts and not from obligation, fear, fame, or other selfish motives, we present to You because we love You and others. In Jesus’ Name, amen
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