On Inner and Outer Needs

Late last summer I took my children to the dentist for their pre-school-year checkups. One of them had some kind of procedure done, and the usual “thirty minutes before you can eat solid foods” was extended to two hours. So I decided to treat everyone to milkshakes from Scoobys.

On the way there I stopped in at Walgreens to pick up a picture order. The kids began to troop in with me, but a voice behind made us all stop.

“Hi m’am. Hi kids.”

We turned. “M’am, I was hoping to get some lunch at Subway. Do you have something to spare?”

He had big eyes and a mouth that grinned wide.

I pulled a bill from my wallet and handed it over.

He said it before I could. “God bless you, m’am. And your children.”

“God bless you, too,” I told him.

We picked up the photos, got back in the car, and headed to Scoobys. The children talked about the man. “I wonder what he’s ordering at Subway?” one said. “Do you think he has a home?” said another.

No one was in the drive-through at Scoobys, a good thing since my kids suddenly couldn’t make up their minds about flavors. I stopped about a car length from the order board so we could decide.

Suddenly a loud honk interrupted our deciding. A man in a large, shiny SUV, parked in the small lot to our right, was trying to back out, and we were in his way.

We weren’t keeping him from getting out of the lot. His was the only car in it. He could have moved straight back and had clear access to the road. We were in the drive-through lane, exactly where we would have been had another car been in front of us. But he wanted to go where we were.

And he was angry we hadn’t noticed.

Very angry.

Our windows shielded us from deciphering his actual words, but the volume of his scream penetrated the car. His face had turned deep red and his mouth twisted and distorted as he screamed. He jabbed his left hand up, middle finger skyward in a clear gesture.

For a brief second I froze. Then I eased the car forward.

He screeched back and rocketed out of the lot.


I tried to bring back the celebratory mood. “So, you guys know what you want now?”

There was no more banter, no more fun in deciding. “Two chocolates, one vanilla, one strawberry,” I told the woman at the window.

The quiet persisted until one of the children softly asked, “Why was he so angry?”

We talked about it then, and Emily eventually cracked a joke that eased the tension.

But my kids haven’t forgotten. The other day I asked Patrick, “Hey, do you remember the man who yelled at us at Scooby’s?”

Patrick’s eyes went wide. “He was scary,” he said.

But he’s forgotten the man who asked for money just minutes before.

I have not.

They were so different—the one with his well-worn clothing and cracked shoes, the other with his giant, shiny car.

Yet they were also alike—with matching inward needs that stretch to the soul.

Would SUV man able to admit this inner need? Subway man admitted to his outward, obvious one. SUV man didn’t have Subway man’s obvious, outer needs, yet his angry outburst was evidence of something broken within him.

As I’ve thought about these two people, I’ve wondered which one would be more open to Christ. If God were holding out His hands to both men, which one would be more likely to grab hold? Could outward vulnerability make people more able to admit to an inner need as well? Could this hint at what Christ meant when he called the poor in spirit “blessed”?

I don’t know, and honestly, it’s not really a valid question as it pertains to those two men. I know nothing of them. I don’t know if Subway man was conning me with charm or if SUV man had just experienced something horrific and was simply overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve never seen either man again.

Will you acknowledge your soul-deep needs and cling to God’s hands?

I don’t need to know their answers to that question.

I need to know mine.

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