Alene and Rick come from different sides of the street. Alene’s comfortable, suburban lifestyle was worlds apart from Rick’s experience as a homeless vagabond. As their worlds collided, however, God revealed that each had something of value to offer the other. Together, their story has much to offer to the world.
Graffiti tells the poignant tale of how these two very different people discovered the truth of Galatians 3:26-28: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As Alene put it, “You’ll see our stories reflect different scenarios and circumstances, yet there is a sameness to the love exhibited. It’s Christ’s love that abounds, and that’s the story that needs to be told.”
Reading Graffiti reminded me of three very important lessons about life.
1. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
I’m as guilty as the next person of judging people based on externals: body language, clothing, appearance, mannerisms, etc. Several years ago I pulled up to a stop light in the middle of the afternoon. In the lane next to me was an older man – probably in his sixties – riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was wearing a red bandana headband and “biker-type” clothes, and I found myself immediately passing judgment on him in my mind. I imagined he had lived a wild, raucous life; probably had experimented with drugs; and was a rebellious type with a dangerously volatile disposition.
Thankfully, I didn’t get very far with that ridiculous line of thinking before I heard a voice of reason screaming from inside of me. “WAIT A MINUTE! Who in the world do you think you are? You know absolutely nothing about this man, and yet you have the audacity to pass judgment on his character? For all you know, he is a faithful husband, and is on his way to see his grandkids and play with them in the back yard. How dare you think of yourself as better than him. How dare you!”
Alene Snodgrass was willing to open up her heart and look at Rick through God’s eyes rather than her own. What she saw astounded her.
I’m afraid that too many of us look at a homeless person like Rick, and all we see is a bum who is too lazy to work. Or someone who probably paved his own path to poverty through irresponsible and maybe even immoral living. He probably deserves to be where he is.
In Rick’s own words, “being different causes others to question, mock, and avoid me. The Christian world is no exception.”
Shame on us!
What Alene discovered when she looked past Rick’s externals was a man with the soul of a poet, a history of church attendance and Bible study, a heart of kindness. He had grown up playing soccer in England. He had been married, and had helped people who were in dire straits. Even as a homeless man, he was intent on his mission: “To be a voice for those less fortunate. To take people by the hand and lead them off the streets and hopefully to Jesus.”
One of the important messages of Graffiti is that we all need to look past people’s externals, and look at their hearts. We need to see people around us through the eyes of Jesus.
2. Sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zones to really become who God wants us to be.
Alene was perfectly OK doing church work in a comfortable, familiar setting. Her life was full; she was busy. She was serving God in many ways, ministering to women and making a difference for good. But something was missing. “I began to feel Him nudging me to reach out and minister to those in need – the abandoned, abused, and homeless.” She gave in to that nudging, and that’s when her life took on a new sense of freedom. “That liberating feeling you are looking for will be found by stepping out of your comfort zone and into the messy and hurting.”
I spent twenty-five years as a youth minister. I love helping young people discover their passion for God, but working with teens brings its own unique set of challenges. Through the years I have been thrust into numerous situations in which I was completely uncomfortable and felt overwhelmed and inadequate.
- We have had kids show up at our front door in the middle of the night because they had run away from home, and I had to figure out how to play mediator and help those involved find reconciliation.
- My wife and I have both been called at all hours of the day and night to help bail teens out of jail,
- to minister to teens dealing with addictions and mental disorders,
- to counsel those struggling with same-sex attraction or self-worth issues or suicidal tendencies.
- I have sat with families in hospital waiting rooms as the doctors came in to break the news that their loved one had died during surgery.
- I’ve watched families deal with teen pregnancy and teen rebellion.
Because my wife and I experienced the death of our teenage daughter, we have been called on to counsel with and minister to other families dealing with the death of a child. Even though I have had a similar experience, I often feel completely inadequate trying to help someone else who is beginning their own dark journey of grief.
In all of these situations, I was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t feel like I was qualified to provide what was needed by those to whom I was called to minister. And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t qualified. I was inadequate. The only thing I could offer was not my own wisdom, but God’s. Only His love is adequate to heal those who are caught up in the messiness of this world. And it is when we step out of our comfort zones and open ourselves to serve those who are hurting, in His name and for His purpose, that we grow into the people He wants us to be.
3. Each of us has a story to tell, and each story needs to be told.
How sad it would be if Rick’s story had never been told. And perhaps the saddest thing is that, had Alene not stepped out and opened her heart to the homeless and abandoned, we would not even know about Rick. We would not even realize that we were missing the beauty of his story.
In the process of telling Rick’s story, we are blessed to see Alene’s story unfold as well.
“What about your story? Will it ever be heard? Or will you choose to keep it silent? I pray that you will choose to voice your heart and let your story be heard.”
“It’s in telling your story that you will find the freedom that you are longing for.”
I strongly encourage you to read Graffiti. Then find a way to tell your own story.
How have you been forced to step out of your comfort zone, and what difference has it made? Tell your story in the comments below.
- Book Review: Graffiti (Tweet that!)
- Alene and Rick’s story has much to offer to the world. (Tweet that!)
- Reading Graffiti reminded me of 3 important life lessons. (Tweet that!)
- You can’t judge a book by its cover. (Tweet that!)
- “How dare you think of yourself as better than him. How dare you!” (Tweet that!)
- We need to look past people’s externals and look at their hearts. (Tweet that!)
- We need to see people around us through the eyes of Jesus. (Tweet that!)
- Sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zones to be who God wants us to be. (Tweet that!)
- Only God’s love is adequate to heal those who are caught up in the messiness of this world. (Tweet that!)
- Each of us has a story to tell, and each story needs to be told. (Tweet that!)
- How sad it would be if Rick’s story had never been told. (Tweet that!)
- What about your story? Will it ever be heard? (Tweet that!)