In her book, The God Who Sees You, Tammy Maltby shares this stunning personal experience. I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you for Christmas. Put yourself in her position and imagine what you’d do during a busy day of shopping.
I was working as a flight attendant, and I had a layover in Portland, Oregon. Christmas was on its way, so I decided to use my limited layover time to shop in the downtown area. I was running from store to store on a cold, drizzly afternoon, trying to put a dent in my Christmas shopping. I crossed the street toward one last department store before heading back to my hotel. And right outside that store, beside the big revolving doors, I saw a homeless man sitting quietly on a piece of cardboard.
He was dirty, disheveled, and missing both legs. And he was staring at me. He looked desperate and a little scary. He definitely made me uncomfortable.
In a hurry to finish my shopping, I entered the revolving door. But as I slowly pushed it around, I glanced in his direction, and his eyes met mine. I gave a passing half-smile, looked away quickly, and kept on pushing toward the emotional safety of the store. . . . as I bustled through the various departments, I felt a nudge in my spirit. I’d experienced that kind of nudge before, but this one came with words that surprised me:
This is a test. This is only a test.
. . . Oh yes, I knew those words were from the heart of God. He said, Tell him I love him, I see him, and I care for him deeply.
I didn’t really want to do it. I must have gone up and down the elevator five times, changing my mind. But I just couldn’t shake the conviction that I needed to go out there, so I finally headed to the door. As I pushed back through the circular glass enclosure, the homeless man met my eyes again. It was as if he knew I would return.
I fumbled in my purse and blurted out, “Hi, my name is Tammy, and I just wanted to give you some money for lunch.” I pulled out a ten-dollar bill and handed it to him. “Oh, and God told me to tell you He loves you and He sees you.”
The man reached up to take the money. “I saw you go into the store,” he said. “God told me you’d be the one to help me today.” He continued to stare at me with piercing eyes and spoke with such persistence. “But what you have to know is that this was a gift for you from God. Because this was only a test.”
My jaw dropped. “What did you just say?”
He repeated it: “This is only a test.”
I can’t remember if I answered him or not. I do know I turned away quickly, . . . as I stepped onto the busy street, only feet from where this man huddled, I turned to look at him one more time.
And he was gone. Vanished. No trace of him.
Now I was so shaken I could hardly walk. I looked for him up and down the street. He wasn’t there. And I had only looked away for an instant. He couldn’t have walked away, and there had been no time for someone to carry him.
I crossed the street and spotted a Salvation Army kettle ringer. “Where did that man go?” I asked. “The one who was sitting over there?”
The ringer shrugged. “I’ve been here all afternoon, and I never saw anybody over there.”
–Tammy Maltby, The God Who Sees You (Chapter 7)
This powerful story reminded me of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Or Matthew 25:37-40:
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
We never know what reason God may have for our lives to intersect with someone else. If we pay attention and see Jesus in others and strive to be Jesus to others, we may find divine encounters along the way.