He came out of nowhere and offered me everything. I had to wonder if the cost that I would have to pay would be worth it all.
The man sat in the back portion of the children’s train ride. He should have been out of place, but for some reason he seemed to belong. I watched him for a while from my own perch on the bench by the pond. I often came to the spot to listen to the water lap up against the bank. He caught me looking and we shared a smile.
His ride ended and he walked over to join me on my bench. It was probably rude, but I had to ask about the train.
“Why were you riding the children’s ride?”
His smile beamed and I could see laughter in his eyes. “Actions of a child will help me keep the heart of the child. The heart of a child will help me continue to believe that everything is possible.”
I nodded, but tucked away his words to think over later. We continued to talk and I enjoyed the conversation. I found comfort in his presence.
“Excuse me a minute.” He walked over to a vendor and came back with two bags of peanuts and two drinks. “These are for you.” He handed one drink and one bag to me. Every third peanut he threw out to the squirrels and birds. I followed suit and we continued to talk while we snacked.
We parted ways, but his words followed me. It made sense to find a way to keep the heart of a child. Imagination would fuel just about any possibility. I just could not find the courage to ride the children’s rides in the park.
The thought of his smile combined with his words of wisdom. I spent several days looking for ways to capture my own attitude of childish joy. Singing along with the elevator music or doing a little spin while I walked helped but people kept staring. I struggled to continue down that same path day in and day out.
The man showed up again just when my efforts were about to wane. He was renting a bike at the stand up the street from my apartment.
“Care to join me?”
It had been years since I took a ride on a bicycle. Perfect weather settled in the afternoon. A casual ride through the park might be the perfect ending to my day. I looked at the bicycles with envy.
“You know you want to.” He was smiling that smile he wore after the train ride. I wanted that smile.
“I haven’t ridden in years.” It was an excuse. What I was thinking about was the others around me and what they would be thinking.
“All the more reason to come along.”
I noticed that he was not the only one getting a bicycle. There were about a half dozen men and women in differing types of clothing. They all looked as nervous as I felt and that made the decision a little easier. “I think I will.”
We peddled slowly around the trail that wound its way around a nearby pond. Each person became more comfortable in their seats and soon we were all chatting while we rode. We made our way back around to the rental location and turned in our bicycles. The man pointed at a diner. “Anyone hungry?”
A few in the group excused themselves but several of us nodded and followed him into the diner. The waitress greeted him and guided us all to a large table in the back of the place. “I have your table ready.”
Her words did not get past me. I started wondering how often he had to visit this place with this many people to have that special table referred to as HIS table.
We all ordered and continued the light conversations we had while riding around the pond. The meal was wonderful and the food was also good, but it was getting late. I motioned to the waitress and asked for my check. She nodded towards the man. “He took care of it.” He looked over at me at that moment and smiled that same, calming smile.
I left the diner thinking about his gifts. They were small when looked at individually, but they had to add up. I stopped and looked back down the street towards the diner. “He paid for the bikes, too.” Some of the people walking past stared at me as I talked to myself there on the sidewalk. I wondered the rest of the night just who this man was that had the heart of a child and was so eager to give everything away to anyone that would receive.
It was a week before I saw the man again. He was in the park behind an ice cream cart handing out cones to anyone that would accept. He smiled and I was aware of how much I had come to need that smile. “Want a cone?”
I shook my head, but he stepped around the cart with two cones anyway.
“I’ll have one if you have one.” He offered one of the cones to me.
I could not let him miss out just because of me. “Thank you.” I had so many questions for him, but he wanted to talk about me. He asked about my job and my family. The conversations with him were always so easy. By the time we made our way out of the park, the cones were gone and felt surprisingly refreshed.
We parted ways at the corner and he was lost in the crowd before I realized I knew nothing about him. I spent that night in my room staring at the ceiling and thinking on the man from the park. He seemed to have nothing, or at least he was just an ordinary man, but he gave so freely and with such abandon.
“He has to be rich.”
It made since that he would be a wealthy eccentric just throwing away money on anyone that he saw. But he did not seem like a rich eccentric.
“He has to be crazy.”
It made since that he was a man that had lost a grasp on reality and was just floundering through life without a care to hold him to reality.
Both answers seemed plausible, and I was sure that there was only one way I would ever know for sure.
The next several days I went looking for the man. I checked the train ride, the bicycle rental and the diner. Just when I was about to give up, he showed up still smiling. “Are you looking for me?”
I wondered how he could possibly know that, but did not want to get lost from my focus. “I have some questions.”
“I knew you would.” He motioned over to a bench and we sat down to talk.
“Every time I see you, you are doing something unexpected. Most of the time you are giving things away to anyone that takes them. Who are you?”
He smiled and for a moment I thought that was all that I was going to receive as an answer. He watched me and then spoke. The answer that he offered left me with more to think about than before I asked.
Jesus is either crazy or has it all and is willing to give it freely. It is that simple, but I want there to be more to the equation. There has to be.
I find that I struggle to accept His giving sincerity more than I want to admit – even to myself. I am not sure if I am willing to pay the price to receive what He has even though I know that the price has already been paid in full.
Jesus does not require that I make a payment for what He offers because He made the payment in full on the cross.
Jesus does not demand that I change to receive what He offers because He knows love will call me to that place in my own time.
My only requirement is a choice – to follow Him – and even He paid the price for me to be in a position to do that.
He did the work and I receive the benefits. Jesus either has it all or is crazy. Each person has to make the choice.