Sometimes, a small test reveals a large unresolved issue in us.
This is a personal story. It happened to me Friday, May 8, 2009.
I went to Walmart to get a few things. I did not feel too well, and wanted to make it quick, so I could go back home. My back hurt me a lot that day, and I was very fatigued.
When I was finished, I pushed my cart to my car in the parking lot.
A weary looking man approached me, and asked me for 75 cents for a bus back home. As a typical American shopper, I responded that I only use credit cards now, but I might have some loose change in my ash tray in the car.
He said ok. I asked how he managed to be in the middle of the parking lot with no money. He replied that he had traveled down to here to get money owed him from a friend, but the friend did not have it, so he was stuck.
I said ok, and proceeded to try to unlock my car.
At first, the key would not unlock the door, and I was there for what seemed like at least a minute or two, trying to unlock the door. The man seemed to disappear on me while I was doing this. I did not see him.
The man then came back, and watched me struggle with the key. He said, “it was so hot today. I think it was 90 F.” I replied, maybe it was, I had not heard the weather report. He asked me the time, and I told him about 5 pm. He made comment about when the next bus might come.
I continued to struggle with the door.
I looked around again, and did not see the man. I thought maybe I was taking too long, and he had found someone else to help him, and had left.
I finally got the door open, and slowly put my items in the car. My back was hurting, so my focus was on that, and getting finished.
I stood up for a moment, to relieve the stress on my back from bending forward, then I went back in to see what kind of change I had for the man.
I saw some change. I took that.
Then I saw 2 x 1 dollar bills. I took them.
I also saw a $10 bill a friend had just given me for gas for taking her somewhere. I left that, thinking the next stop was the gas station.
I went to the lane to look for the man. He was a few cars down, waiting for me. I gave him the 75 cents and the 2 dollars, and told him to buy himself a drink, since it was hot. He looked grateful.
I went back to my car and got inside.
Suddenly, I felt a cringe in my spirit.
“Why didn’t you give him the $10? He looked like he needed it,” the Lord said.
I felt a sudden rush of regret and guilt. I realized that I had been stingy with the money that I should have shared.
As I slowly pulled out of the parking space, I looked around for the man, but did not see him. I continued to look as I left the parking lot. He was not there. It was like he had vanished.
I left, went about a mile down the road, starting crying in remorse, and then turned back, and went back to the bus stop. I wanted to give the $10 to him.
He was not there.
From there, I went home, knowing that I had lost him, as well as the opportunity to do the right thing, and show mercy to someone with generosity, not stinginess.
I cried and repented all the way home. I asked God to send the man someone who would help him the right way, and not be like me.
Today, it is 24 hours later, and I still feel remorse.
What I learned is that deep in me, there is still some idolatry, and greed, that I put a $10 bill between myself and blessing someone.
Idolaters and greedy people do not inherit the kingdom of God. Even though I have given much to the poor, and helped people directly on my own, there was still some iniquity deep inside of me that I was not aware of.
What I, and others need to also realize, is that angels are among us as strangers. We never know when we are entertaining one.
This man seemed to appear and disappear in front of me, and then he was gone, without a trace.
I pray for forgiveness even now, and another opportunity to help someone with the generosity of God, not with the limits of my own flesh.
I learned my lesson, I hope, and look now for an opportunity to bless another angel that might cross my path.