What would you surrender…
If it would bring salvation to one lost person – a week’s pay, your house, maybe even your livelihood? Don’t answer yet…
From rainy day investor to homeless landlord,
I was steering the ship from a life preserver with no way back on board.
I cut adrift my family’s dwelling and sentenced them to the street,
but anchored a mansion for my tenant who offered us nothing but grief.
He never took a second look nor would he ever agree,
that through my empty pockets the ground is all that you see.
For a moment we were stuck without a home and our tenant was stuck with out a heart. While considering how to parcel out my family to live with friends and neighbors, we surrendered our home with no assets, income or method of retreat. Yet by some “house-of-card” irony, we were still shackled to a waterlogged investment, a rental home with negative equity and Yosemite Sam for a tenant. With all the sad folks sleeping in alleys and underneath bridges, how many possibly owned a rental home – would I be the first? Could I live in a box while my tenant summoned me to fix the plumbing?
With a cup of coffee and a worried look I shared the news with my tenant. Without a word he shook my hand and headed for the exit. But seconds before he shut the door he said with a stubborn stare “I will sue you mister if you sell my house – just making you aware”. Before any rational response made its way to my lips, Johnny Cash was reaching for the extra-long door of his white Jaguar. The same one I supposed that he’d be driving up to my mattress to pay rent. The news was simple really. I had to sell, so I offered him the house for less than we owed. But I reassured him that if he chose not to buy, his lease was still intact with anyone that did. And other than showing the property with plenty of notice, this wouldn’t affect him at all. The only measure of protection for either of us would come on the hands of a new landlord – not a homeless one. But he didn’t want to buy and he didn’t want me to sell.
Surrender Is One Step Past Commitment
When a rainy day investor begins to chase a storm, occasionally that storm reverses course and begins to chase him. It certainly wasn’t the odd rationale of my tenant that caused our circumstance, but now it sat like a heavy object directly on top of our escape hatch. His rational was a mystery to me like a thousand piece puzzle with no picture or box. I didn’t know where to begin or where it might end. But it didn’t end there. Yosemite’s belligerent bag of tricks included legal letters, bitterly critical emails, intimidating potential buyers, and late, partial, or unpaid rent – which by that time wouldn’t cover our cost. This was the climate of our relationship for the next several months.
There are differences between considering how it feels to be homeless and thinking through how to live without a home. There’s the immediate confrontation of the “how to” and the urgency of your answer. But the big difference is realizing there is no retreat. It’s not about selling wedding rings or living with friends for a moment, but looking out ahead of you and seeing nothing on the other side. It’s the nightmare that looks simple through a keyhole but entirely different through the holes of empty pockets. Every hopeless glance at the bed of a tired friend looks more like the back seat of your car… and eventually… the alley where it was parked. Not saying I’ve been there, but we HAD to go there in our mind. You can only watch it through the keyhole until the bank changes the lock – and they were on the way.
The Miracle Between Surrender And Captivity
It seems that miracles most often occur in that blink between surrender and captivity. So we had to be homeless in our mind before appreciating the home God had in mind. And from the smallest most unassuming place, He opened the window of humility and blessed our willingness to climb through it. My wife had previously checked on a few small rentals. Amazingly, in spite of our having no credit or income, we got a call from the motherly landlord of the smallest one. She said God had spoken to her about us and the place was ours for the next year. She broke all the rules and took us in based on her faith and our word. So the new landlord we’d been praying about was meant for us, not my tenant. We moved in without the slightest idea of how to pay the rent. But within a week God provided a small project that covered our living expenses for the next few months. At last we’d have a place to hunker down and untangle the mess.
Through this blessing our tenant had no further influence on our living arrangement. But that declining influence brought more frequent and desperately sharper criticism from him. So we praised God for giving us a place to breathe but we praised Him even more for the revelation we received as a result. Our battle wasn’t defending against the barrage of criticism from our tenant, but in learning to forgive him for every ugly word. Continued forgiveness is unwillingly attached to ongoing persecution – but it’s attached for good reason. As we approached the home stretch of our tenant’s lease (final month) things got very quiet– no more nasty emails or threatening letters, just silence. With a month to go and curious concern, I emailed to remind him about vacating. A few days later the response email arrived from his address:
“My husband was diagnosed with liver cancer this year and it has now spread throughout his body – advancing to stage four. He’s lost 50 pounds in the last two months and is no longer able to walk. His business has suffered, and because of pre-existing conditions, our medical insurance is not covering the costs. There’s not much more we can do”.
My overwhelming impression was concern. I wasn’t shocked or feeling shame for having been frustrated – just concerned. Somehow it was terrifyingly beautiful to recognize that a dizzy man was about to fall, yet God had His hand in the small of his back for an instant. It’s that moment when He leaves the ninety nine for the one – the one who’d already lost his balance by the edge of a cliff.
“I want to tell you that Jesus loves you my friend, so much more than you will ever understand. He made you to be loved and you are the jewel in His crown. He gave you his heart by dying for you as you are. He is our only hope, the only one who can lift the weight of our sin and remove it forever. If you haven’t given Him your heart the time has come.”
“-Praying for you “
He sent me a brief response just saying thank you, and how much those words meant to him. Weeks later the place was emptied with many personal things left behind. We don’t know for sure but believe that something happened. It appeared that his family had moved their things for them. I may never know if he accepted the Lord but at least I know he had the chance. And maybe now we both had a heart, and hopefully… an eternal home.
What would you surrender if it would bring salvation to one lost person – a week’s pay, your house, maybe even your livelihood? Maybe it’s easier to dismiss the question than attempt an honest answer. We may never have to answer that question, but maybe we should live like we already have. Jesus is the one who saves but we are the ones who point the way – unless we let other things get in the way.
When I look back on the frustration and hurt this man caused, I have to remember that it must be only a fraction of what he was feeling himself. If we hadn’t suffered the loss of our home, or forgiven his anger, we might never have known his pain, or taken the time to share the good news. If the One who inhabits us considers one lost soul as priceless – shouldn’t we? I love this powerful verse because it reminds me just how much value God assigns to the lost, and the joy He finds in their rescue. Paul clearly understood this and meant exactly what he said. Even though God would never require this, it shows the heart of Christ for the lost, through the one He inhabits. Nothing on earth is more valuable to God and nothing should be to us.
“I am a follower of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a witness to my conscience. So I tell the truth and I am not lying when I say my heart is broken and I am in great sorrow. I would gladly be placed under God’s curse and be separated from Christ for the good of my own people”. (Rom 9:1-3) CEV
Meditation: Luke 15
Note to self – Poetic style:
Good news falls with greater purpose on the spot where God takes aim,
But evaporates on that empty surface if we’re chasing bigger drops of rain.
Yet even an ocean of stolen drops won’t drown that still small voice,
As it calls for all the drowning lambs to at least be given a choice.
And every martyr bleeds for what each brick in every church demands,
That we stop dragging the wealth of Egypt across the desert sand.
Making every provision a tool for harvest distinctly where we stand,
And watch the good news honor God for the sake of one lost man.
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