We have a friend who is fifty-five and homeless and an alcoholic and he just got out of jail on Tuesday.

We didn’t know he was getting out on Tuesday.

We thought it would be Friday.

And we were his call.

Just before 5 p.m., while I’m rushing around, clapping my hands and snapping my fingers in hopes that some dinner will appear and the whiners will surrender, the phone rings and it’s him. Our friend. He’s been let out early. He needs a ride.

He needs a ride back to…his tent, on the bank of the river.

I’m so excited that I almost start to cry, because I can hear it in his voice – he’s been set free.

Cory drives over to the jail and I tell him to bring him back here, because you can’t just take your set-free friend back to his tent with no dinner.

I wring my hands over the meal on the stove: microwaved hot dogs and Kraft Mac & Cheese. It’s so…processed. And dumb. I’m thinking my meal is dumb. If only I had known, I would have made a real feast. I’d have done it up right.

But our friend walks in and he says, “Nothing goes together better than hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.” He extends his hand and I ignore it and go straight for his shoulders and I hug them and I keep thinking, “You’ve been set free.”

I want to weave an analogy out of captivity and freedom and hot dogs and banana cake. I want to stir them and stir them until they become the picture of redemption, the kind that never goes away, the kind that takes the dirty tents we’ve pitched in the dark and stretches them tall and strong into a castle.

homeless tent

But there’s no time for analogies, and he’s not really the analogy kind of guy. So instead, I rub my hand across his back as I say goodbye and I send him on his way with a belly full of odds-and-ends.

At night, I toss and turn over the thought of me under a blanket that heats up, inside a house that heats up, when all the while, he’s in his tent with a bottle of something to keep him warm. I want more for him, but the truth is, this is what he knows, and he probably feels like he’s Home.

I know this first-hand, from all of the nights I chose to take up residence in my own kind of dingy tent, drunk as a skunk on lies and shame. There was only ever one way out.

So, how do we show him that Home is something greater than he’s imagined?

Would knowing that change anything?

It’s not my job, to make his heart see. I couldn’t do it. It’s just not possible.

But we can bring him into our home. We can bake him a cake and buy him shoes. We can show him love, love, love, and maybe his glasses will start to turn all love-tinted and maybe then he’ll look out and see truth and he’ll begin to listen for the only voice that can tell him anything at all.

bob goff quote

We can celebrate this small freedom with him, for now. And when he finally sees the real kind of freedom, we’ll celebrate that with him, too. Big time.

We’ve been told that the heart is just too far gone to save
But grace tells us another story
Where glory sends hopelessness away
Oh grace tells us another story
-Mercy Me Grace Tells Another Story


Shannan Martin / Posts / Blog
Shannan Martin is a writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city. She and her jail chaplain husband, Cory, have four funny children who came to them across oceans and rivers. Having sold their dream farmhouse, they now live entrenched in community on the wrong side of the tracks. They’re surprised every day by God’s goodness. Shannan blogs at http://flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/
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    Your eloquence and clarity of thought never cease to profoundly touch my heart. I tend to communicate deep thoughts from the shallow end of life, but that is my God Given gift. That does not mean I don’t appreciate true depth. Thanks always for your perspective my friend.

    February 13th, 2015 16:45
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    Shannon Evans

    happy to be here reading this 🙂

    February 13th, 2015 20:50
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    Thought provoking. Although we are different, we are all the same.

    February 13th, 2015 21:03
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    Sarah Denley

    Oh, this was beautiful in so many ways.

    February 14th, 2015 2:02
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    Kris Camealy

    Shannan, It’s such a gift to follow your journey of faith. God uses your stories to challenge and inspire me to love like He loves. I can’t tell you his much I appreciate your willingness to share, and extend hospitality to us here at GraceTable. God uses you, friend–in all of the messy-beautiful, imperfect ways. XO

    February 14th, 2015 15:05
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    Dee Dee

    Didn’t Jesus tell us, in a rather direct way, that we should not announce our acts of charity and that if we do announce our acts of charity then we have our reward, and there will be no more reward? Didn’t He say that we should do all of our works of charity in secret, so that our heavenly Father would reward us openly?

    I don’t know how to respond to bloggers whose words have an underlying tone of “Look at what I’ve done. I cooked a meal for a homeless man.” or “I rescued a child from the streets.” or “I sold my house to be more like Jesus.” or “I gave away my best coat so someone wouldn’t be cold. Look at me!”

    February 15th, 2015 23:36
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      Kris Camealy

      Dee Dee,
      It’s a fine line, between gloating about our actions, and sharing stories of faithfulness. Sharing our stories can be a beautiful testimony of the work God has done in our hearts to lead us into the service of others for His glory. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story”. We are invited to share how God is working in our hearts and lives, because when we do, others can see HIS goodness and grace. This story here, this opening of a private table to a homeless man is a story of grace and generosity worth sharing.
      I’m just sorry you didn’t read it as such.

      February 16th, 2015 0:14
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        Dee Dee

        Thanks for your reply, Kris. I believe Psalm 107:2 is speaking of sharing our personal story of redemption and salvation, and I didn’t mean to come across as having a problem sharing “how God is working in our hearts and lives.” I think it is needed, esecially in this day and time. I just don’t know how to respond to bloggers who consistently announce their various acts of goodness. Such stories come across, at least to me, as self-glorification, subtle though it may be.

        Jesus said, in Matthew 23:12 that anyone who exalts himself will be humbled. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth.” I believe acts of charity should be done in secret and kept in secret, except to the parties involved. The Good Samaritan didn’t tell his own story.

        February 16th, 2015 17:27
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          Kris Camealy

          Dee Dee, I understand the tension you feel over this issue. I think for those of us who love Christ, and know the danger of prideful proclamations about our good works, we constantly wrestle with how to share, what to share, etc. But I think you can look at the heart of the person sharing, and at the tone and manner in which these kinds of stories are told. And then always lean on the side of grace–grace for the storyteller, and grace to believe that we cannot know the heart and private conversations people have with Jesus before opening up about their lives. As a writer, I know I too struggle with this, but I also know that when I have prayed through an experience, and God prompts me to share it, then I can share it freely, knowing that it is about Him, and what He has done.

          Thanks for reading, I pray you are encouraged by these inspiring stories here at GraceTable about learning to love and be loved like Jesus loves.

          February 16th, 2015 18:22
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    Debby Hudson

    Beautiful, Shannan. My husband and I work with men who have been in similar situations and some would be in that tent but have finally surrendered to “coming in” if only for a moment. You are so right that while we can help the outside of a person, and should, only the moving of the Lord can change a heart. But isn’t our call to love part of that changing? Yes, you are are showing that love and that is our call. Wonderful story and thank you for sharing.

    February 16th, 2015 13:29
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    Traci Rhoades

    Shannan, I appreciated this post very much. God has me on this journey of deciding what I’m supposed to do with all the “other people” I find outside the church. Like what I’m called to do with them. This helps me in the process. Thank you!

    February 17th, 2015 16:59
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    Lisha Epperson

    “So, how do we show him that Home is something greater than he’s imagined?
    Would knowing that change anything?”
    Hi Shannon! This question hit me like a ton of bricks. I do all the right things and worry about the results. I have to constantly remind myself that God alone does the heart work. All I have to do is show love through obedience. You loved him well. God will do the rest. Happy to meet you at #GraceTable.

    February 18th, 2015 0:43
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    Wendy Speake

    So blessed that I was sent here by the allume ladies. Truly. Thank you for reminding me that grace is found in everyday hugs and hot dogs. It is not elusive. It is everywhere around me and I get to share it with those who have eyes to see and those who do not… yet. Thank you for this reminder.

    March 7th, 2015 0:19

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