He was stoned the last time I saw him. His eyes were puffy and he had a dazed look. I got the impression he had not slept much.
I was sober, and timid; I had slept in a comfortable bed, in a comfortable house with a comfortably full fridge, and we both knew it.
I had asked how he was doing, but somehow my question, and my very presence had irritated him. He was surly, and slurry and sarcastic. I was overwhelmed and under-caffeinated and out of place.
“I don’t believe in God.” He had said. His gaze was a dare to argue the point. I didn’t. I have had those moments, too, and I could think of nothing to say that wouldn’t sound cliche. In that moment, words would not come…I had nothing to give.
Watching his interaction with others in the community, I realized he had been testing me. Pushing buttons, looking for a reaction, for sport of argument, a real challenge, a real conversation, and I had let him down. In each other’s eyes, we were nothing more than what was expected, and we were not enough.
The next week, I returned to news of another shooting in the neighborhood, and streets were eerily quiet. There was an intangible ache in the community, and it bled into every moment of worship. I sat at the end of a pew and looked up, and there he was at the other end. There was no one between us…just he and I, at opposite ends.
We met in the middle, to say hello.
We stayed there together, and we prayed there together.
And that was a beautiful thing.
Acts 3:1-10 describes a healing at a place called The Beautiful Gate. The Greek adjective used to name the gate (hōraios) can be defined as ‘1. happening or coming at the right time —2. beautiful, fair, lovely’.
I wonder how often we find ourselves, unknowingly, standing before a Beautiful Gate?