Stuck Like Glue

annettes_diner-_tableI’m sitting in a diner on the outskirts of Chicago’s south suburbs. Al and I made the 45-minute drive to visit “Gary,” who is in the booth across from me. He has a warm smile that carries a hint of mischief, but right now he is dead serious.

“I guess my biggest question is …does God really forgive me every time I ask, even when I don’t feel sorry?” Gary’s voice is anxious, his brown eyes questioning, and in that moment I can almost see Jesus plopping into the booth next to him, smiling, and saying, “My son, you are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Gary is a new believer, and his history with Emmaus is long. Al would tell me later that Gary always seemed too kind to be a street hustler, yet he spent years selling his body to support his drug habit. The scars on Gary’s forearms tell of years of heroin usage, a habit that he recently quit cold turkey.

In his years of friendship with the staff of Emmaus, Gary heard much about Christ’s love. But he never believed in it.

A few years ago, Gary moved to Texas for rehab, then ended up in Indiana with his mom. Unfortunately, his mom is also using and, while living with her, he relapsed. Then, a few months ago, while high, Gary had a strange experience in which he met Jesus. He suddenly no longer felt high, and he realized that his whole life had to change. Through social media, Al found out about this experience, and he and Andi were able to visit with Gary. Soon thereafter, he moved back to Chicago, and I got to go along with Al on yet another Gary visit.

And so here we sit in the booth of a quiet diner – me, Al, Gary, and Jesus. As I listen to Gary and Al talk about forgiveness, video games, and funny stories from before my time at Emmaus, it occurs to me that what I now see is what we hope for every man who walks through the door of Emmaus: a broken and contrite heart leading to genuine faith and true life change.

The men at Emmaus can leave you dizzy: soaring joy one moment, crushing disappointment the next. But when you glimpse the end result of sticking with them, it’s all worth it.

Of course, our “sticking with” isn’t what rescued Gary – that’s all on Christ. But because Emmaus stuck with him through his highs and lows, we get to be here to celebrate his new life in Christ, to watch him grow, and to grow in our own faith because of him.

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