Bare Buttocks, Barren Soul

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

(Matthew 8:1-3.)

***

I went out to lunch with my son on Tuesday. As we left the restaurant he saw a man across the plaza and said, “That guy needs to pull his pants up.”

I looked and said, “That guy needs help,” and started running over.

The man was slumped half way between his wheelchair and a bench, barely holding on, and his pants had slipped down exposing his buttocks and upper legs. As I ran forward I saw bruises all up and down his thighs, like huge black and blue stripes. He was wearing what looked like hospital scrubs and as I got up to him I saw a hospital bracelet on his wrist. We were nowhere near the hospital.

I told him I’d help and asked if he was trying to get on the bench or into the chair. He was in obvious distress – mental and physical – and barely comprehensible, mumbling something, but I heard his raspy weak voice say “bench” so I untangled his feet from where they’d got caught under the wheelchair and swung them up, and then reached under his armpits to pull and straighten him out so he was lying down on his side. I tried to pull his pants up as best I could too, but he was on them and he was too heavy for me to lift up off the bench completely. Then I saw a blanket under him so I tugged and pulled until it came loose and laid it over the top of him. All the while I was telling him what I was doing.

This man was about as filthy as anyone I’d come across recently – with scraggly hair and a nose that needed wiping and clothes that were falling off him and dirt crusted hands and shoes that had stepped in things I’d rather not identify – and I wondered just what I was getting all over my hands. Better not to think about that too much. I called 911 and said there was a man who needed a welfare check.

While waiting, a man wearing slacks and a tie walked out of a nearby theater and said he was a firefighter. He knew the man on the bench and started talking to him, calling him by name. Apparently this was not the first time he’d had contact with the guy. The off-duty firefighter said he’d stay with the man, so my son and I continued on our way. From halfway down the block we saw the ambulance had arrived and they were loading the man on a stretcher. I assume he’s now at the hospital being cared for.

I’m not used to getting hands-on with people like that. Oddly, even though this man was filthy and incomprehensible and his pants had fallen down around his knees, I didn’t feel any reluctance in running over and helping him, lifting him and laying him back, covering him with his old tattered blanket. It’s not that I felt a rush of joy either. It’s just that there wasn’t much feeling going on one way or the other.

Until later that night. As I lay in bed I thought back over the events, vividly seeing his face and clothes and legs and shoes and blanket and wheelchair, that’s when I started feeling something. I felt revulsion. I felt like I could feel the grime again and his tattered clothes in my hands, that I could smell him and his blanket and his wheelchair, that I could hear his incoherent mumblings and raspy breathing. And as I thought of those things I felt revulsion so bad that I could feel myself almost vomit.

Who’s the sick one here? The man I helped? Sure, in one sense. But me too. I am a child of the living God for crying out loud, and yet I get repulsed by merely touching the least of these around me?

Jesus said it’s the sick who need the doctor. I’m sick. I have a soul barren and bruised apart from Christ.

I need healing. Jesus reached out and touched the leper’s sores and wounds and healed him.  I am healed because Jesus reached out and touched me too.

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22 Responses to Bare Buttocks, Barren Soul

  1. You did a beautiful, gentle thing. You could do it despite your revulsion- you held your revulsion in check while you had to, and acted out of your Love. Thank you for sharing.

    And- revulsion at the dirtiness of a human being is natural, because we are made to be clean, and we keep ourselves clean unless we are sick. Do not curse yourself too hard about the revulsion. It need not be revulsion at the person, but at the state he was in.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for commenting, Clare. Actually, I don’t think I held anything. I think instead it was God who held me and the man on the bench in his hands during all this. None of what happened can be accredited to me, that’s for sure. And believe me, I’m not cursing my self at all. As Paul said, I am subject to no one’s judgment, not even my own.

      I like too what you said about revulsion at our fallen states. Whether physical or spiritual, it is repulsive because it is not in line with God’s glory. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we should be appalled at death because it’s unnatural.

      Blessings,
      Tim

  2. You do realize that was Our Lord you assisted, right? (Matthew 25:45)

    Proud of you my friend. I hope I would have as much courage and compassion in such a circumstance! And on the other hand, if I should ever find myself in the position of the poor man on the bench, I pray a good Samaritan would be a channel of God’s mercy for me!

    (Printed this post to read to my kids tonight.)

    • Tim says:

      Good point about Matthew 25, Adriana. It also brings to mind that any time we serve the Christ in least of these, it is also the Spirit of Christ who is serving through us in doing so. That gives me all the more reason to boast in him and not in myself:

      It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31.)

  3. Mary Anne says:

    Kind of gives “the laying on of hands” a whole new perspective, doesn’t it?

  4. cathyallen says:

    The other person who came to my mind as I was reading your story is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In his biography of her, “Something Beautiful for God” (taken from one of her favorite sayings, “Let’s do something beautiful for God”), Malcolm Muggeridge says that when she began her Missionaries of Charity Order, she deliberately set out to collect the LOWEST of the LOW people in Calcutta. From what I understand about the slums of Calcutta (at least at the time she started working there, if not now), one could hardly find anyONE, anyWHERE, lower than that: the lowest, dirtiest, most repulsive, the disease-ridden and the dying were all around in the streets. She said she saw Christ in them, “the LEAST of my brothers”, and wanted to give them a clean, loving place in which to die. I have been disturbed by that statement since the book was published, in the mid-70’s. And you have DONE it for that man! I hope I would, too…

    (You see what you’re doing here, don’t you? You’re “comforting the afflicted” and “afflicting the comfortable.” — Whew! and God bless you!)

  5. michellevl says:

    Who you were in that moment reflects the person you are. You didn’t walk away (“Can’t get my hands dirty!”) or make excuses for not helping (“Praying for ya, buddy! Be warmed and filled!”). You did gave the man Jesus’ touch.

    Wonderful story. Reposting on Ye Olde Facebook. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      It’s odd, Michelle, but if someone were to ask me if I wanted to go out to inner city neighborhoods and serve people like that man I’d probably have a million ways to justify not going. But here in our little county seat of a town the man was right there and I just went up to him without giving it any thought. That’s why I have to say this was God’s ministry and not mine. If left to me, I’d have never crossed paths with the guy.

  6. KSP says:

    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11).

    Imagine how much greater the contrast experienced by a Holy Christ becoming human. Actually, I can’t imagine, but this post helps me get a little closer to it.

  7. lauradroege says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Tim. It really touched me.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you, Laura, for being here and for allowing God to use this to work in your heart too. I was reluctant, for a variety of reasons, to hit publish on this one.

  8. Aimee Byrd says:

    This reminds me of the Basic Skills Math class that I was an aid in my senior year of High School. I did it for a community service credit (not the most sincere of motivations). I came in with the attitude of an honors student/popular cheerleader who was going to graciously “help” these outcasts–and they really were outcasts. I ended up writing a paper for my AP Comp. class about how they were really the ones helping me.
    Thanks for the reminder, Tim.

  9. Tom Bolton says:

    Reblogged this on Hopeful and commented:
    I was much moved by Tim’s blog this week. He truly demonstrates the importance of touch, and being with those we serve. This is tender wisdom.

  10. mb53 says:

    Thank you for letting God use you…. I know that I have no clue what I would have done in a similar situation. Gives me much to consider and ask God about how I think of those he loves — from the ones who we naturally feel attracted to and would have no trouble helping right down to “the least of these” who are not on the top 10 list of people you’d come in contact with (whether because of sickness, bad choices in their lives, homelessness, drunkeness/drugged out, etc)….

    • Tim says:

      I know what you mean. Usually I have a hard enough time with those I naturally feel attracted to. God breaks through my self-set barriers, though, and for that I am really, really thankful!

  11. Great entry. That is good that you were able to help him from falling down and such. I am sure not many people are willing to touch men like him, and the fact that you did is so nice.

    Just wanted to mention that if the man is paralyzed at all. . .he wouldn’t know or feel that his bum was showing. My father-in-law is in a wheelchair and he always has his pants falling down because he can’t sense them falling. I have seen his crack so often and just tend to look away or in an area other than there now. ha. It was shocking though back 12 years ago.

    • Tim says:

      That’s something I hadn’t considered, Victoria. I just wondered if he was so mentally and physically distressed that he couldn’t do anbything about it, but you’re right that he might not even have been aware. Thanks for the insights.

      Tim

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