Excerpt from Margaret Feinberg's Hungry for God (eBook).
I'm always amazed at the ways God can use someone else's story to shape us. Years ago I read a story by Jim Cymbala (@jimcymbala) that affected the way I thought about those in need. After the final service one Easter Sunday, the pastor of the famed Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City felt exhausted. He took a seat on the edge of the platform. When he looked up, a man with matted hair and ragged clothing was walking toward him.
As he drew closer, the homeless man offered a crooked grin, revealing two missing front teeth. And his smell — alcohol, sweat, urine, and garbage — took Jim's breath away. Though Jim had worked with the homeless countless times before, this stench was worse than anything he'd ever encountered. Instinct compelled him to turn his head sideways and inhale before looking the man in the eyes.
Jim asked the man his story. David shared that he'd been living in an abandoned truck for the last six years. Jim knew where the story was heading, and reached for the money clip in his back pocket.
The man protested the offer; he didn't want any money. He wanted Jesus. Jim describes closing his eyes, asking for God's forgiveness. He felt soiled and cheap. Though Jim was a pastor, he'd wanted to get rid of the homeless man as fast as possible, this precious individual crying out for a relationship with Christ — the Savior whose good news Jim had preached all day.
The man buried his filthy face in Jim's chest. Jim talked about Jesus' love, but rather than just saying the words, they were alive inside him. The odor that turned his stomach now became the loveliest fragrance.
Jim felt as if Jesus was saying, Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work — it has to do with this odor. This is the smell of the world I died for.
'This is the smell of the world I died for.'
Though I've heard and read many stories, I've never forgotten this one. The words, This is the smell of the world I died for, have echoed through my mind and spirit on numerous occasions, reshaping my attitudes and responses to situations and people.
-Margaret Feinberg (@mafeinberg)
Learn more about Margaret Feinberg's Hungry for God (eBook)
Visit Margaret's blog at www.margaretfeinberg.com.
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