His bony finger poked me sharply. “They will crucify you!” He stabbed me again with his sharp finger, his nail cutting into my shoulder.” You are a truth-teller…and that’s what they do to truth-tellers…this church will crucify you!”
Those were the words of a homeless man some thirteen years ago. I ran into him after a meeting at a local church. The meeting was a collaboration of people who were interested in the rights of homeless people. I had just spoken the truth about a situation that was less than helpful to our (as I called them) “guests” in the homeless community. There was, at least an attempt by the church to try to do something about it. Telling the truth, as I saw it, was part of the process.
At the time, I had not had the privilege of learning more about how to interact with homeless people who struggled with mental illness. I had no clue how to respond to this man. I simply thought to myself (and I’m ashamed to admit this now that I’ve learned more about mental illness) that he was just crazy and in desperate need of meds!
I should have listened. Something inside of me whispered, “He’s right…you’re on dangerous ground.” I should have listened…but I didn’t. I continued to tell the truth over the years in times and places where the “truth” would not be heard. In fact, the truth, as told…would come back to bite me in the…well, need I say more?
Interestingly enough, there were more homeless folks with mental illness who told more “truth” to me over the years, than the “helpers” in the community. There was a desperation in them, a desperate need for healing and an overwhelming re-offense by some in the community who were “supposed” to be helping them, at least according to the Gospel I know.
The bottom line was, this man knew something. He was, as I see now in hindsight, displaying the prophetic. He knew something as he stood on those grounds and repeatedly jabbed me with his sharp fingernail. He knew something and was trying to warn me and thank me at the same time. I should have listened. Little did I know that twelve years later, his words would become reality. It was then, that he became the sane one and I was tossed into the world of crazy.