Johnny was there when I arrived... one of my more difficult clients. I had asked him to leave an indoor event just two days before because he has not given is his personal best. In fact he had threatened property and disrespected our need for safety. He had been too mad to talk with me just yesterday. I braced for the worst.
I was meeting volunteers to give them training before we went on a street "Mini Mission Trip" to hand out sandwiches, goodies, and find out about prayer needs. Johnny was right there. He seemed to be trying to show off for the young women who were volunteering that day. His language was rough. He actions safe but unpredictable. I asked him to move back a bit but respected him. It was an outdoor event and he had as much right to be there as we did. I followed up with him and asked if he was over being mad at me. He said that he was but continued being abrasive.
Johnny followed us along as we served people. He even carried a bag or two of dog food, toiletries, and clothing that we were passing out. As we walked, he began to tell me about his day. He had gotten four separate tickets from the police. He was so angry and upset. I haven't ever seen him show remorse or dismay for getting a ticket. He was afraid of going to jail. He said, "Do you think I like being angry? I don't! But if they keep treating me this way, I'm going to get angry. I'm going to get drunk. I'm going to get high. I hate feeling this way." I listened and he talked--sometimes screamed--it out.
Finally, we stopped to serve an older woman who sells flowers on our "beat." She always chats with our volunteers. I asked Johnny what he knew about Jesus. He began to explain his relationship with Jesus. He understood the Gospel. He gave voice to a struggle within himself to be authentic in his response to Christ. He has encountered "fake" Christians and doesn't want to be like them. He doesn't believe he can do all the right things in life. He confessed to being a big screw-up. I stopped him and explained that he was no different than anyone else in this regard. We are all unable to be as perfect as we'd like to be. But he is no screw-up. He's a lovely child of God.
Johnny spent the rest of our time together close to me. He hugged me. He was a totally different person. We saw three faces of him: the abrasive boy almost taunting the world to stay away from him, the angry man so conflicted over right and wrong, and the self-aware child fearful of his Father's judgement and desiring his Father's love.
We often have difficult clients. We are called to love them. And it's a real blessing. Join us-volunteer.
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