SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 215: “The Gate That Leads To Life”

It’s been another nomadic night of auto travel. Twenty-miles up Ventura Blvd. Several stops and double digits of rejections are behind me. 9pm is approaching and hampered by the pending onset of rain from a blackening sky, the streets are clearing.

To continue in my in car-stalking of the area is transforming my presence to that of Creepy Abductor, and not wanting to bear that title, I submit to my now becoming regular fall-back plan, The nearest Starbuck’s Coffee house.

“Hey Starbuck’s, you owe us a few for the exposure you’re getting!”

And readers “I promise that I am not trying to do any product placement on a regular basis. Just an easy stop for WiFi, hot beverage and a place where there are friends to meet.”

The rain is starting to drizzle, and as expected, the store is filled with people. I order my drink and standing back from the counter to wait I take in the culture of the room.

Against the south wall, three senior citizens are engrossed in a mini backgammon tournament, through the window to the north the last of the weather-fighters sits at a table applying polish to her fingernails, and to the west corner are the couches of leisure, filled to capacity with a diverse cross-section of society.

Even though there are a few open tables to sit at, and tens of strangers to approach, I find myself stupored in thought. My brain waves are blurred and the depth of the diversity has merged into one big mass of indecision as to whom to approach.

I stand vagrant in the center of the establishment, again beginning to feel like a stalker. I relax my thinking for an instant, “Perhaps I am trying too hard and have put myself in a state of profiling my potential friends.”

“Time to let go Richard,” overpowers the radio like static that has captured me and as it does, one gentleman, buried in study, comes into complete focus.

“Great! Thanks brain…! You’re pointing me to the most-engrossed-in-study person in the room. He’s gonna brush me off for sure.”

This subconscious finger of direction has been very active this week and I’ve learned by the school of hard knocks that when it points, I must listen… without pause and unconditionally.

It has proven to me that whether dark circumstance to the easiest of meetings, it has never been off-base. And to ignore the blend of powerful presence and peaceful countenance that my un-introduced stranger is radiating would be a sin to 365’s mission of extending a welcoming handshake to all, even no’s as well as the yes’s.

“OK risk it, so what if he turns the offer of 365 down, you at least followed the prompting you felt,” I conclude.

“Please forgive me from interrupting you, I was standing in the center of the room and a feeling told me that I must introduce myself to you.” My still unknown friend listens to me babble.

“214 days ago I embarked on a project to meet the world around me, and to blog the stories of those I meet. It has been an amazing journey and I am learning that we are all really in this thing together.” He begins to break a smile, and I am unsure if it is a smile of skepticism or acceptance.

Yet, he listens on, “The premise of it is, we are in this thing together and should put our feet in the shoes of the people around us in passing on any goodwill we can. Would you be interested in contributing? It will take us only about five to ten minutes?”

“Sure, you can interview me. And you promise it will only take five-minutes? I’m busy studying,” my new friend comments.

Brent is his name, and shortly into our conversation I am brought up to speed as to the magnetic aura that first drew him into focus. Brent is a man of God, and his study… the Bible.

By no means let me misdirect you in thinking that he is clergy; just a fellow human, doing his best in doing his part to reach out to the world with his words of faith and conviction; a shining example of a person following his belief in a loving God throughout all that he does in profession, family and personal life. And a man courageous enough to not hide his spiritual views under a bushel.

“My advice,” Brent shares, “is that we seek God.

“We are precious to God in that he created us, He knows us down to the number of hairs on our head, and He desires an active relationship with us.

“I believe that we are called to care for his creation, with special emphasis on caring for each other, the creations God loves the most.

“We are insignificant in that God’s plan will be done, his will will be exercised, with or without our individual participation. His desire is that we take part in his good work, and that we are reconciled to him, but we are free to focus elsewhere. Indeed, many fall away. Following God requires sacrifice and may not be easy. However, ‘Easy is the road, and wide is the path that leads to destruction… Narrow is the gate that leads to life.’ (Mat [7:13])

“My pastor answers the question of whether things will get better or worse for mankind with the answer, ‘Yes.’ In this he means the world’s troubles and bad human behavior will increase just as God’s church grows in number and in good deed. Ultimately, our good God is sovereign and we are encouraged to take strength in that fact.”

The brain static that began tonight has departed, and Brent, thank you for the spirit you emit. May your example grow forward.

To “the gate that leads to life…” however we choose to follow. And to paraphrase the thoughts of Brent, “May we choose to care for each other and embrace a loving God.”