Long Walks and Whiskey

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/6799330916/in/photolist-bmQmco-8vGnwi-qnWf5z-4DfAci-cEQdcG-ckvEZQ-nKmXBt-2AhPuw-wFGADQ-6zJfkD-dMkXEu-hNy9JZ-pcX4qg-npnVg3-DpmuXG-sgzrj3-SdXzQu-ejLVyq-p7ogU-fhEztX-apu319-e3zitm-2vVkpu-dR36NZ-aq9J3A-8mnkPW-zp3W4X-bsVaTP-cvW2Wy-fDyvTV-nD3wqF-eD4YUL-8pYagL-gPuh5F-bn7sek-dHktYV-phQuxD-qoWxDa-nkVsBC-RMipD7-ahePfs-55tJTQ-obAu6z-5Td3A2-R5VwKP-cGNimu-83CTkp-8knxwW-6cgv5w-71enAx

When Sherman showed up

It’s not uncommon for homeless people to walk into our church’s office unannounced.

The church hands out hundreds of sack lunches to those who are hungry every week, maintains a clothes closet, and is an extension of other helping ministries. A lot of people pass through our doors each week.

So it was no surprise when Sherman came wandering into the back office where I was sitting Wednesday night. You could tell when he was coming down the hallway – he wore his whiskey, not just on his clothes, but in the way he walked.

And with a smile stretching from ear to ear, he lit up the room.

“HOWYOUDOIN’ TO-DAY.” he stated. Sherman turned to a pastor perched piously in a chair. The pastor was visiting, waiting to walk into a meeting.

As Sherman approached him, the pastor shot out of the chair, a look of fear on his face. He sputtered the words: “I-I don’t work here! I d-don’t work here.” And searching the room, he spotted me, pointed in my direction and said: “Him. That guy! That guy works here…”

And somehow I wasn’t surprised. I mean, how else was a well-dressed, white, Christian pastor supposed to respond to an inebriated black guy?

Let’s go for a walk

I reached out my hand and introduced myself to Sherman. He greeted me and asked if the church could spot him a few bucks so he could put gas in his car. “My car’s parked just up the street,” he said.

We have a rule that we won’t hand out cash, well, at least that’s my rule. So I told Sherman I would walk with him to help put gas in his car. He stumbled over his words, trying to tell me that it wouldn’t be necessary. Just a few bucks would suffice.

But I insisted. “I want to walk with you,” I said.

To no surprise, it ended up being that Sherman didn’t need money for gas. In fact, Sherman didn’t even have a car; he was just trying to get enough money to get a cab home. The truth came out before we were even halfway up the church’s driveway.

We should walk with one another

And I’ve been struck by that phrase ever since: I want to walk with you.

I think that’s the heartbeat of ministry, the secret to doing life together well. Sometimes we just need someone to walk with us, to journey with us, to help guide us toward grace and truth.

I love that the church is a place you can walk into baptized in whiskey and leave intoxicated with grace. But as with any good drink, it’s better when it’s had with other people.

Who are you walking with today?

About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.

7 Comments

  1. People come to church baptized in all kinds of stuff. Whiskey is the least of the problems. It’s the stuff you can’t see or smell that is often most destructive. At least you got to honesty.

    1. Agreed. But I think not judging them upfront and choosing to walk with them toward grace is where something meaningful begins. Can you move back to Atlanta already? THANKS!

  2. So good… SO SO good… And I’m so thankful for a culture where you step into journeying with someone instead of being terrified of them. Not gonna lie… praying that your response transformed not just Sherman but also the pastor…

    1. Haha, it took me a second to process that pastor’s reaction to Sherman. But I think he embodied the response most of us give 99.9% of the time, even to our ‘friends’ who need help. We hesitate, we scramble for an excuse. All kinds of things. We can learn a lot from that pastor. In a way, he DID pastor, haha…

  3. Yes to all this, including MDP’s contribution. AND, there’s a need for us to not only tell Sherman, “I want to walk with you,” but to actually go for a walk with Sherman, as well. Thanks for doing that and for the encouragement.

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