Lesson Learned Through an Unexpected Teacher
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
Her hair was matted, bits of trash littering the curb upon which she sat.
As I approached, I paid particular attention to the crosswalk signal beyond her. Realizing it was not yet safe to cross, I slowed my pace, not desiring to stand idly beside the distraught woman, afraid to be too close.
The light changed, and I walked quickly. Stepping past her, she pleaded, hands open and outstretched. “Please, please help me.”
And my heart was struck, though, honestly, I didn’t know how to help beyond offering up a prayer on her behalf. I had no loose change, no food. I’d witnessed the ploys of at least half a dozen other homeless men and women within the span of one San Francisco block.
Some held signs with bold promises, like, “Will work for food.”
Another held a pair of kittens on his lap. Sitting in a wheelchair, his sign was propped up at his shoeless feet. “Please help feed my cats.”
Still, another man held a sign brazenly proclaiming, “Who am I kidding? I just want to get high.”
At least he’s honest, I thought as I scurried past
But this woman? My heart hurt for her as I continued on my way, her loud pleading following me as I stepped on to the adjacent street, only then to be drowned out by the honking of a cab and, finally, the city’s din.
Even so, her desperation echoed in my heart. The Holy Spirit spoke to me in her resonating cries for many days after. It wasn’t until I’d returned home to South Carolina, however, that His promptings began to make sense. As I journaled—
While there were others who asked for help, even some brutally forthcoming, only this woman begged without any real regard for herself. She was simply and utterly desperate, and her pleas have persisted, her cries ringing in my ears. Perhaps there’s a lesson that I, too, need to learn from her.
And it was true. I’d been too much like the others, either selfishly negotiating with God or pleading with Him to give me what I believed was rightfully mine. But honestly, my clenched fists had grown weary in holding so tightly to my dream for children, and my heart ached more with each passing day.
Only as I grew quiet, leaning in to listen to the Spirit, did I hear Him speak truth that not only brought clarity but soul-piercing conviction as well.
Where I’d once understood Psalm 37:4 to mean God would give me anything my heart desired, I came to better understand these words written by David.
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (CSB).
This passage has a call to action. First, we’re to take delight in the Lord—that is, enjoy His presence through Bible study and prayer. Only then are we able to discern what His desires for us truly are. Then, as we press in to Him, He will give us our hearts’ desires. That is, He’ll reveal His dreams for us by planting the seeds of what are first His desires that they might grow and come to fruition in His perfect time.
This truth as revealed by His Spirit was so contrary to what I’d been doing, and my heart was convicted. Where I’d once prayed “Gimme! Gimme, God” prayers, fists clenched tightly around my dreams, I came to realize it was only in releasing them to Him—unfolding my fingers to hold hands up and open to God—that He could remove any fleshly desires and replace them instead with His good and perfect will for my life.
Like that homeless woman, He whispered to my heart. She pleaded for help, her hands open and outstretched, with no selfish regard but with utter desperation.
It was as I began to intentionally pray with my hands, too, outstretched and open that my Savior replaced my selfish desires, with all the preconceived notions of how I believed things should work out, with His sweet promises. Only then were the genuine fruits of peace and joy birthed in my life, despite unchanged circumstances. Where I’d once felt my womb was but a tomb for the death of my dreams, I came to understand that I was truly blessed—yes, even in my barrenness.
Still, it is easy to grow weary as one waits for the fulfillment of God’s promise. More, the enemy desires to rob us of joy, infiltrating our minds with lies. Though God had indeed spoken promises regarding the blessing of one day becoming a mom, I had to wait. Many days were a battle as I wielded God’s Word in my fight with the one who tried to steal my faith.
One passage that brought comfort and reminded me, too, to pray for my homeless San Francisco teacher was Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (CSB).
Much like the desperate woman, I was weary at times, weighed down by the burden of awaiting an unfulfilled promise. Furthermore, I longed for rest from wrestling with what were, quite frankly, my own imperfections—impatience, selfish desires, and fear, to name several.
Over time, however, as I claimed this passage, Jesus—the humble One who Himself was without a home, who understands the greatest suffering—did offer me rest as I waited, and, years later, He indeed made me a mother. Through the miracle of adoption, my husband and I are the parents of two sons and a daughter—each who needed a home, placed into our waiting arms by beautiful birth mothers.
And although I’ll never know her name, I’ll never forget my homeless teacher who lived on the streets of San Francisco.
Humble Savior, we thank You for being present in all our impoverished places. Help us always look up, with hands open and outstretched, that You might reach out and remind us with Your promise—“Come to Me, you who are weary.” It’s only in You that we’ll find rest for our souls. Amen.
What dreams are you keeping behind clenched fists? Remember—it’s only in releasing them to the Lord that He’ll replace them with His best.
What passage of scripture is a sword you can wield against the lies of the enemy? Claim it, and just see what God will do!