One Is the Loneliest Number
“ONE is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. NO is the saddest experience that you’ll ever know.” – Three Dog Night.
Ask this guy. He knows. A short time ago he came into our dining room hours before the noon meal was to be served, laid his head down on the table and slept. Even after the dining room filled up with guests, he still slept. He was alone in a crowd of people. But we didn’t say NO—as in, “No, you can’t come in here. We don’t want your kind.”
Guys like him are used to hearing that.
There’s an old expression that says, “Home is where you go where they have to take you in.” Believe it or not, the secret yearning for most homeless people is a home. I’m not talking about a four-walled structure complete with furnishings, a backyard to mow and a monthly payment.. The home they need is buried deep in their subconscious. It’s called family—a place of refuge, safety and unconditional acceptance.
Acceptance, of course, doesn’t mean the absence of boundaries. Rather, it means being permanently connected to people who always have your best interest at heart, people who see in you what no one else can see—even through the fog of addiction and the armor of self-protection.
To find that home—that place of connection, the people who God misses the most need to be given a chance. Maybe several chances. Perhaps even a last chance. But it won’t be the chance-giver that drops the ball. Love doesn’t give up on the addict, the street bum, the guy behind bars.. Nobody. Not while there’s still hope.
No one can be certain when that last stop on the way to No-More-Chances-Left is. After all, who can know with absolute certainty when someone has crossed over to that place of no return. You? Me? We don’t know, because it’s not our job to know. God rarely will tell any of us, “Stop helping this person … he’s a lost cause.”
Until and if He does, we need to invoke the God of the second, third and a thousand chances to intervene—to be that proverbial Hound of Heaven running relentlessly after its prey. Love does that. It hunts us down until we’re too exhausted to run anymore. And when it finds us—the object of Love’s pursuit—we finally collapse under the weight of our own illuminated sin. That’s when we cry out, “Oh love, that wilt not let me go … I rest my weary soul in thee.”
This young man at the table is indeed weary. But is he weary enough? Has he come to the end of himself? We don’t know. All we know is that when the prodigal son was mucking about in a pigsty, his fortune spent and his relationships ruined, there was one—the only one—who was faithfully standing at the end of the road eagerly waiting for his son’s return. And return he did.
Let’s be that proverbial father. Let’s be “armed and ready” with the enfolding arms of Jesus to say, “Welcome home, son!” when our own prodigal—be it son or daughter, sister or brother, mom or dad—finally raises their head from the muck and the mire and says, “I’m tired. I’m ready. I surrender.” It will be infinitely rewarding. – jenni keast