Walking down the side-walk one morning last week we saw a man a couple hundred feet in front of us making quite a show--dancing and yelling, directing his antics in a particular direction. Jordan and I were prayer-walking the neighborhood and so walking with some extra awareness and sensitivity to what was going on around us spiritually. As we approached this man who was continuing to in his antics, we realized that he was taunting someone sitting in the truck parked on the road nearby--saying all kinds of terrible and hurtful things toward this person, mostly around the fact that she doesn't have a home. As we were passing, Jordan realized that the person he was ridiculing was Sally, a friend of ours who has been a part of our community attending the Love Feast for years.
Emboldened to stick up for a friend, Jordan paused, turned to the man, and cordially interjected, "Actually, this is a friend of mine and she is a good person. I'd appreciate it if you didn't say those things about her." The response right out of the gate was, "I don't believe in God or the devil, so you don't have anything to say to me!" This was followed by three to four minutes of profane insults, ridicule, and manipulation to the point where the man had reasoned that we were assaulting him and he would call the cops if we weren't out of his sight by the time he counted to three. In the midst of this jarring encounter, one of the first questions I asked myself was, "Is this person possessed by a demon?" It's not a question I often jump to, but trying to make sense of the mania going on in front of me had me wondering. We ended up walking away with continued insults hurled at our backs after concluding that continuing to engage this person right then was not helping anything. I had already been feeling a bit discouraged that day in general and such an antagonizing experience weighed heavier on my spirit--though it did sharpen my awareness.
Later that evening at the Love Feast, out of nowhere, an older, scruffily-clad man whom I've never met before came right up to me with compassion in his eyes and said, "Hey! You're not alone. You're carrying a lot of weight right now, and God wants you to know that you're not alone." I stood stunned for a minute as his words struck something deep in me--an encouragement that I really needed to hear that day, but from someone I'd never met. He proceeded with some further prophetic encouragement, as well as a challenge to make sure that I give both of my kids the attention that they need their current life stage. "Who is this guy?" I thought, "A wandering prophet of the West Side?" I joyfully received the encouragement and sensed it was from the Lord.
I have bumped into this prophet-in-question a couple of times since that night. He shared with me then, in tears, some of his own struggles going on right now, and we prayed together.
The demoniac-in-question from earlier in the day ended up coming to dinner at the Love Feast that night as well--brought his family with two kids in a stroller! We didn't know what to expect at first, but he was calm and collected as he aided his kids in eating their dinner, a side of him that was comforting to witness. We found out later from his sister that he had just lost his job the day before, and in his stress, hadn't taken certain meds that morning which might have prevented him from acting the way he did with us, and that there were many others on the receiving end of the antics that occurred. She apologized on his behalf and asked for prayer for them. Jordan offered a handshake of reconciliation, but it was not received.
I don't know at this point whether or not this man happens to be tormented by spirits, or if this other man lives a wandering prophet existence, prophesying daily to those around him. But I do know that that night I was encouraged deeply by a neighbor I hadn't met, who cared enough to tell me something God put on his heart to say to me--and I am thankful to receive it from him. And I am confident that as we share more meals with this man who lost his job and is raising his kids while battling some sort of mental illness, our shared life around the table will develop into a healthier, positive relationship. We pray that Jesus, His Kingdom, and the Gospel will be encountered undeniably in the midst of it.
:: tim ::