Did I Miss an Angel or Was That Just Another Homeless Guy?
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
—Hebrews 13.2, King James Bible
Jesus is not hanging out in
Sebastian’s Riverview Park, stinking of booze,
stale cigarettes, and unwashed clothes.
Jesus sightings or entertaining angels in Riverview Park? Nope. Not the last time I was there—as far as I could tell. I went to the park for some outdoor writing, and when I arrived, I passed a homeless man sitting on a bench, his dilapidated, but full, shopping cart at his elbow. Ignoring the “This park is smoke-free” signs, he curled his cupped hand hiding a lit cigarette toward his mouth.
Another homeless man sat at a picnic table not far away. When I sat down to write, yet another stopped and told me about his book, which sounded identical to The Four Agreements. Although he was kind of clean, I sensed that he, too, was homeless. He walked through the park, crossed the street, and ducked into a sports bar. When he came out, he carried a large paper cup.
Senior citizens, mothers and their young children, several squirrels, and birds also shared the park with me. The day was pleasant and a salt-scented breeze wafted my way from the Indian River Lagoon across the street. As the group of homeless men grew, however, I no longer felt the positive aspects of the park. When I left an hour after I arrived, at least five homeless men had joined the man on the bench. I wasn’t afraid—it was daylight and the park has few shrubs, so creepers have no place to hide, nor could anyone spring forth from a bush and give me a stroke.
I left the park earlier than planned with too few words scrawled across my page because I no longer was relaxed beneath those oaks. I simply was uncomfortable, but looking back, I know I also felt a bit holier than thou, which later morphed into a tad of guilt. Why? Because of the stories telling us not to ignore strangers or turn them away from our door lest we blow our big chance to entertain angels or even Jesus in disguise.
I admit that I also feel a tiny bit guilty when I ignore the latest “Share This!” “angel in our midst” experience on social media. Not sharing means I probably won’t get to meet many angels this side of paradise.
An overabundance of Internet stories tell about messages from beyond, spiritual exchanges, and meet-ups with God. A person might wonder why God isn’t talking to them, too. So many sightings of Jesus are reported that I’m concerned He’s become a spiritual shape shifter extraordinaire.
I’ve even read about benevolent spirits taking the form of bag ladies, big box store cashiers, and people broken down on back roads where no human treads within twenty miles. If you can get over your Stephen-King-induced terrors and stop to help, then you’re bathed in the shining light of divine presence. (Or, nevermind, I’ll let Stephen tell that story. You also can watch variations on Criminal Minds.)
To be frank, I do believe in angels, God, and Jesus. I also believe in divine intervention and being in the presence of divinity (and not just Stuckey’s).
I don’t, however, believe that angels appear as often as folks—and especially social media—say they do.
I also believe—and know—that it reflects the best human traits when we show compassion, kindness, and even generosity in the form of a dollar, spare change, or a sandwich to bag ladies and homeless people.
However, in our “hide your kids, hide your wives” culture, should a homeless person knock on my door, I’m not going to let him or her inside—even if it means I lose out on entertaining angels.
It’s disappointing to some I imagine, but no, Jesus is not hanging out in Sebastian’s Riverview Park, stinking of booze, stale cigarettes, and unwashed clothes. If He is, all I have to say is: “Lord, please get out of here and head to Nepal, Haiti, North Korea, or even Baltimore—where you can really make a difference.”