Last week was… Well, let’s just say it was weird.
I saw a man pushing a stroller… Without any kid in it. Up and down our street he went. I thought about calling 911, but then I didn’t want to be one of those people who call 911 because their cable went out. So I just thought to myself, that was weird.
I went to look at two potential new places to live. Both were duplex/apartment type homes and neither had a “living room.” Both had oddly long hallways with doors. I picked a door, and it was a bedroom. Picked another door, and it was a bathroom. Picked another, and oh. I guess it was the “living room”? This is so weird! I thought as I kept picking doors and opening them.
I went on the subway. Nothing eventful happened. We hung out with Krista in the city and had a marvelous time watching our girls love each other and play with Gia’s kitchen. Open the oven door, stuff in as many toys as they can, close the door and then open it again only to have toys spill out all over the ground. Maya was in pure heaven playing with her best friend. My heart melted. Krista made homemade chicken noodle soup and we talked like best friends talk. I left feeling so happy, encouraged and grateful for their friendship. On the way home, however, I got off the subway and something eventful did happen. I saw a man get beaten with a stick!
I had walked down the subway stairs through the door to the street. A gentleman was politely selling incense under a tree in the sun. Others were trying to sell limo or taxi rides. That wasn’t weird, that’s just the Bronx. I crossed the street with my girl and passed a group of people waiting for the bus. I texted David so he knew where to pick us up. I took Maya’s hand and we walked towards the end of the street, away from the crowded bus stop.
I remember thinking to not go too far away from everyone, since you never know what can happen and witnesses are always a good thing, right? So we headed back, slowly, since Maya isn’t quite the fastest on her feet yet. I decided to stop in front of a convenience store and sit on the little curb right outside while we waited for David. I saw a white SUV roll up, and for a moment I thought David had arrived. But then a man and a woman got out and began walking towards the bus stop. There was an urgency to their step, even though she was in heels and dressed up. I dug around in my bag for a snack when I heard the first whack.
Suddenly I looked up and the man who’d just gotten out of the white SUV was hitting a guy at the bus stop with a baton! He was beating him badly. The guy was on the ground, alone– everyone else at the bus stop must have retreated. He was bleeding. The man gave him one final blow on the head and then he and the woman got into the car and peeled away.
As it was happening I thought about calling 911. I mean this definitely wasn’t for the cable going out or anything, right?! But I also happened to be right in front of this guy’s getaway car and I didn’t want him even noticing me on my phone at all. I looked away and pretended to be oblivious as they got in the car and left. Maya had no idea what had just happened; she continued to waive and smile at people on the street.
Two minutes later, David arrived. Everyone was back at the bus stop, and everyone was on their phone. 911 I bet, I thought as I made a beeline for David’s car. The beaten man had gotten up and taken off his shirt to wipe up the blood. I tried not to look. I felt out of place. This is so weird, I thought. And so horribly sad.
Weird because I never felt scared. It happened way too fast.
Weird because I never called 911. Maybe that’s not weird, maybe it’s just mean. I feel guilty about not calling.
Weird because no one helped. Not me, not anyone. The crowded bus stop was immediately deserted.
Weird because for some crazy reason, it felt like this might be normal here– like this might not be the worst this subway stop has ever seen…
I wondered what the story was. Was it drug or gang related? Could it be an overprotective brother acting on behalf of his betrayed sister? Was it a jealous lover? Was it the mafia (I know, I’m getting carried away at this point!)? It just seemed so weird, so sad.. So awful all at once. One minute it’s a normal day in the Bronx at a bus stop, the next minute you’re getting beaten to a bloody pulp. What?!
And you know what?
That man who was beaten and the man who did the beating need a savior…
…And before you think I’m totally judgmental, just know that at that moment I realized that as much as they need one, by the same measure I do too.
Sobering, isn’t it?
A few months ago at church our pastor was talking about the chaplain who led Jeffrey Dahmer to Christ. Talk about weird– this guy ate people and was a serial killer! The chaplain explained that he was asked the same questions about Jeffrey over and over again. “Was he really saved? Was he sincere?” He went on to say that many times he felt as if people didn’t want to believe that Jeffrey could have actually changed and seemed to be looking for a way to reject him as a brother in Christ. I’m not gonna lie… I understand that. It’s a hard pill to swallow– that I need Jesus as much as Jeffrey Dahmer does. But I need him just the same. I need Him.
Was Jeff saved? Were his sins taken away? Is he a Christian believer? Did he repent of his sins? Or was the blood of Christ shed on the cross somehow too weak, too thin, too anemic to cover his sins?
~Roy Ratcliff, Dark Journey, Deep Grace
The gospel is weird. It is uncomfortable. It welcomes thieves on a cross, serial killers and beaten men at bus stops. And the same gospel says I need a savior too. Even after I feel good about reading my morning “devotional” (which is just christianese for ‘bible’ or ‘journal’ or ‘spiritual-book-with-verses-in-it) I blow up at my husband over nothing and am harsh with my little girl for spilling juice. And although I didn’t beat up anyone, I am just as in need of a savior as they.
The gospel is weird. In the most amazing of ways.
He came for all.
For men at bus stops.
And even for those who don’t have living rooms and push empty strollers. 🙂