“Before you go, can I ask one more question?”
I was hoping Gary wouldn’t mind. Even though we’d only met an hour earlier, he’d already shared so much personal information about his life. This final question should be an easy one. And I really wanted to hear his answer.
Earlier, my first question had come without much thought. He’d left himself wide open for it, reading his Bible as he waited for the food we were preparing to serve him and the other homeless men and women at this King’s Banquet.
I’d first asked, “So what are you reading?”
That was all it took.
Gary opened up. He had been reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah (a toughie for me), but he flipped back and forth to other related passages, giving clear explanations for each. His Bible was heavily colored with highlighters and ink.
I asked, “Are you a student?”
No, he said he was actually a teacher. A Bible teacher. (My bad. I’m still learning: Never make assumptions about people, homeless or otherwise.)
I asked him if he’d always known Jesus, even as a child, and again he answered no.
He used to be a witch.
So I asked, “What changed that?”
He said he’d walked through the desert.
He told me about his journey on the road from Texas to San Francisco. About his friend and about LSD. Then about reading his Bible for a whole year. And about finding truth.
And finding Jesus.
His life was new. He learned, then taught at a Bible school for eight years in California. He was recently released from the position after they decided he was too mystical to teach there.
He said he was big into spiritual warfare. He flipped to underlined verses and margin notes he’d scribbled around Ephesians 6. We talked about wearing the armor of God and what each piece meant and how important it was.
Then lunch was ready and our conversation ended.
But we weren’t quite finished. I barely caught Gary after lunch as he was leaving to catch the bus back to wherever (and eventually back to family in North Carolina, he was hoping).
I had one final question, if he had time for it:
“Hey Gary, would you share with me your favorite Bible verse?”
I knew it’d tell me the most about Gary. The truths we treasure the greatest, reveal our greatest treasures.
“It’s Matthew 24:13.” And he quoted it,
“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
That’s what Gary was most about. Just standing in Jesus. Against the devil’s schemes. Firm to the end (Ephesians 6:11-13).
I don’t know all the warfare that’s come against Gary. Or what comes against him still.
And I don’t know if our paths will ever cross in the future. Sometimes one intersection is all we get, and this may have been ours.
But at that junction and for that moment, hearing that answer from Gary about what counts most, may have been enough for a lifetime.
So Gary, wherever you are tonight, I pray you’re doing what matters the most. Stand firm, my brother. To the end.
* * *
Why Bible verse is special to you and why?
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