About the Author

Michelle Reyes, Ph.D., is an Indian American pastor’s wife, writer, and activist. She is also the Vice President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative and writes regularly on faith, culture, and justice. Michelle lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two kids. Follow her on IG @michelleamireyes.

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  1. I love that you called Clarence by name here, and I’m sure the gift of your attention that day was at least as nourishing as the sandwich you bought for him.
    I am also a woman who rushes to judgment. Thank you for this exhortation to let my default lean more towards listening and love.

    • Hi Michele: you gave me my words and desires all in one fell swooping thought. I think I may write your words on a page, say them often and a lot and memorize them like scripture: “let my default lean more towards listening and love.” This is the recipe for active listening like Jesus emulated. When I do that, it is so much more relaxing than going full speed ahead trying to “find the words or solutions”. Since I am such a thinker. My natural inclination is to offer solutions. Or to help. Or to assist. Or. or . or. I think that I will slurp up your sentence and “let my default lean more towards listening and love”. Repeated your beautiful recipe for listening on purpose. Intentional memorization of the process. In the brain first and then, to the heart. Thanks Michele. I even like your word “lean” because our body and our facial features are such an important part of active “loving listening’ too – aren’t they?

      • I’m thankful, Janine, that my little thought here has been helpful to you. As I read your comment in my in box, the word “inclination” kept popping into my head, because my natural inclination, like yours, is to Do or Advise. Isn’t it wonderful that God can do the incline-ing for us and we can lean into a gracious response because of the inclination of our New Hearts?

        • Michele:

          Really – I didn’t have time to respond to you earlier but as soon as I read your response, I felt the Spirit nudge me. Do you ever have that experience of God enlightening you as you were speaking with someONE? He uses others and their thoughts and experiences to transcend our awareness into Him.

          For instance, you actually said that the word “inclination “ kept coming up for you. And as I was reading your response, I was thinking of the word INCLINE – a word which is actually imprinted onto my yoga mat! I had been having a prolonged treacherous 2-day spiritual “battle of the mind”… an exhausting “stay focused on faith” battle.

          I quickly scoped the dictionary today for some words expressing ‘INCLINE’ and the ones that practically came dancing off the screen were:

          ascent & rise. (God was giving me His two thumbs UP and I felt spiritual vigour surge into my soul)

          I was so grateFULL to be hearing some ‘firm Spirit direction and directives’.

          Right after that, I went to stretch and strengthen in the heat at yoga.

          As I unravelled my mat, the word INCLINE took on a special meaning. Yoga is a place I meet Jesus – on my mat. It is a place I have experienced wellness – intrinsic physical and spiritual connection and healing.

          Later, I was investigating your “inclination” word and reflecting on how we were speaking of our strong tendency to “give answers or solutions” in our listening journey – I was met with this:

          Inclination:

          “Latin from ‘inclinare’ – bend toward (see incline)…

          and straight away I thought of Proverbs 4:20 :

          “My (daughter), attend to my words ; INCLINE thine ear to my sayings. 21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart 22 for they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”

          Thank you for your response to me today Michele. The Living and Loving Lord does use all and anything and anyone to transcend a message that will cause us to grow in Him and even, to rise and ascend “through Him”.

          We are blessed. To
          engage in community and a platform to share, encourage “(IN)courage” and invigorate one another in our faith.

          I truly feel like those men who Jesus first appeared to after his “ascension from the tomb” (Luke 24:32-45 – they experienced Him so profoundly when they were personally awe-struck upon recalling: “did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures.

          In us “opening up and sharing with one another”, He causes us to experience Him and open up the scriptures that pour water on our hearts and into our parched or thirsty or unclear path -His abundant Living Water is poured forth.

          Thank you Michele that I could share my experience of the Spirit walking – and dancing with me to hear his loud quiet Voice…as I spoke with you today.

          I wish you a blessed week!

      • Janine – your words about facial expressions are so true! We have to lean into someone’s story with our whole hearts and bodies. Amen! It does no good to listen to someone if your posture is disgust or disinterest. Thanks for that reminder too.

        • Yes Michelle…yes: I think the most powerful thing of listening is our body language…intentional listening and compassionate listening eyes. Not wavering or looking down or away – and especially being attentive to focus and not let ‘any’ distractions (especially tech – like in this instant and constant tech-infused confused society!!) interrupt a person’s personal sharing. And didn’t Jesus do this for us in every single way – every interaction Jesus had as reflected to us in the scriptures was intentional and meaningFULL ; He used and knew names and others became joyfully GLAD (Jesus seeing Zacchaeus in the tree is coming through for me) ; He looked people in the eye ; He told them He saw them ; He made them feel special and loved ; He waited for them ; and best of all…He ran to them when they came home and needed the full forgiveness and Grace He offered (Prodigal Son) His Compassionate glance is splashed all over scripture and our names are written in every interaction too! So we are blessed to be received by Him in many ways, beyond our imaginings. What a Compassionate King we belong to.

          Michelle: The Spirit of God really spoke to me through your sharing and I am grateful. Many abundant blessings to you – and may Christ be “with us all” during all future times we take to “be still and know others” as Christ lovingly did. May He be our Majestic Mirror on how to “love others as He does”. Sincerely, Janine

    • Hi Michele! There’s something about knowing a person by name that changes how we see him/her. I am grateful that God taught me that lesson on that cold day in Panera.

  2. Michelle,
    Too often I am like the Pharisees, I judge like they judge. They showed disdain for Jesus hanging out with prostitutes, tax collectors (aka loan sharks), lepers, homeless, criminals, etc. I look at who He chose for His disciples, and I get a fast lesson on don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Thank you for the reminder to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and take the time to get to know their story. We ALL have a story, and if someone took the time to get to know ours, it could be a story of healing, comfort, and redemption. Well said!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  3. Oh I am so thankful you introduced us to Clarence. Thankful you took the time, spent a little money and invited him in. If you hadn’t, I was going to be real mad LOL

    • Mardi, your comment made me smile 🙂 but in all truth, how cool would it be if we, as the body of Christ, did more to hold each other accountable, challenge each other and push each other to love others better? If I’m judging my neighbor, I want my sister to call me out! Amen!

  4. So very true, we never know what others are struggling with and we see a small glimpse of their day and make presumptions about them. I tell my kids all the time to not judge a book by its cover for when we do that, we lose out on meeting the very people that can change our lives or whom we can change. It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind and most people just want to be heard. Thank you for reminding us to allow our hearts to be open and filled with compassion for our fellow human beings. We are all here together to walk this life with and although we do not see eye to eye or even have the same beliefs, if we all work together and understand each other better, this world would be a better place. Lord, allow us to be that light for someone, better yet allow their stories to change us.

    • Thank you for your words, Maylee. You’re so right – it doesn’t cost a thing to be kind. On the other hand, it cost Christ everything to love us, redeem us and adopt us as His children. Me reaching out to one man for an hour pales in comparison to Christ’s great sacrifice for me. I always remind myself of that when I feel like I’m too busy or caring for someone might be too “inconvenient”.

  5. My mother used to say…”….there but for the grace of God go I”. It is a sweet reminder to my soul today as I do not offer help readily in a culture that has pan handlers, door to door beggars, and people wanting something but not work. How hard my heart has become, and judgement, and not realizing there is more to their story and I need to open up more to God’s love for he wants to use my feet and my hands. Thanks, this is a wake up call.

    • I love your mother’s phrase, Janette! I’m grateful that my words resonated with you today, and I appreciate your words as well! I live in downtown Austin, and seeing and engaging with the homeless is a daily reality for me (sounds like it is for you too). I see it as part of my ministry and faith-lived-out to care for them as God does.

  6. Thank you, Michelle! This reminds me of the Good Samaritan also. In fact your devotional this morning blew that parable wide open for me!

    Can’t you just hear the Samaritan stopping and saying, “My friend, what has happened to you?” as he helps the beaten man up, and puts him on his donkey. Jesus doesn’t tell us anything about their conversation as they travel to the Inn where the Samaritan pays for the man’s food, lodging, and medical help…and tells the innkeeper he’ll cover anything over that on his way back through…but surely as they went along the Samaritan listened to this man’s story and gave the man the love of God in all he did….even though he was a hated Samaritan! This is the prodigious love of a neighbor, and Jesus wants us to be like him…but as you shared your story, it made me realize the Samaritan didn’t just give of his money and his time, he gave of himself as helped the man and listened to the man’s story, not judging the man for anything that happened to him.

    How often, not only do I judge, but I’m “too busy,” or “don’t want to get involved,” however, God calls me in my heart to do more than to cross to the other side, but to step out of my “cozy” life (I really like your use of that word), and like the Samaritan, share myself and my resources, that is, HIS resources, no matter how limited I perceive them to be, with those who are hurting around me; but even more than that, now I see I need to“learn their stories.” Unfortunately, there are too many times I suppress that nudging from the Lord in my heart, not because of judging (although sometimes it can be that, too), but because of excuses like “I don’t have the money right now,” or “I’m already running late.”

    You helped me to remember what’s really important in this world: to be a neighbor to those whom the Lord puts into my path as a reminder to me that the world will know us by our love, and now I see that listening to other people’s stories is part of sharing His love with my neighbors.

    Thanks so much for this devotional!
    Sandra Jo
    > > >

    • I love your exposition of the Good Samaritan here, Sandra! I’d never thought of the story in that way, but you’re absolutely right – from now on, when I read this story, I will “hear the Samaritan stopping and saying, “My friend, what has happened to you?”” Thank you for that perspective!

  7. Dear Michelle,
    But for the Grace of God go I.
    I live in an area of the country where the homeless number in the thousands. In a real sense we are all homeless without the saving Grace of our Lord.
    Thank you for your eyes to see and ears to hear Clarences story!

  8. What a gift this story is and to the Glory to God for all in any house even our house under the stars. Thank you for these words and your kindness and compassion. Gods blessings on all who walk in a weary world.

  9. Oh! How I needed to read this today! Personally – most days I feel like Clarence. I live each day with 2 chronic “invisible” diseases. To look at me you wouldn’t think I was struggling most days. I am desperate to share my story – with some more than others. My desire to be heard, accepted, and valued is great. Unfortunately, I learned early on not to say anything to anyone. When I felt brave and safe and people asked (these people ranged from family members to neighbors to acquaintances) I had been called a liar and been told “you look too healthy” to have those illnesses. Many times this was soul shattering and heart breaking. Who would make up they were just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

    I admit I have found myself judging others at times but really work hard daily (some days are better than others) to remember I don’t know their whole story. My personal experience with judgment has given me an opportunity to interact with people differently – I may not know their story but everyone I meet is worthy, deserves kindness and a smile.

    Thank you Michelle for sharing a post that really hit home for me and I wish you were my neighbor! 🙂

    Karen

    • Karen, thank you for your honest openness with your own story. My heart breaks for you as I have friends with multiple sclerosis as well and I know the struggles they face. I pray that God will wrap you in His arms and strengthen and protect you with a loving community of believers to live life with! May brothers and sisters in the Lord shoulder your burden, know your story, and may you be able to love and serve in kind. Wish we were neighbors too!

    • Karen,

      I hear your heart. I live with 5 chronic illnesses and a torso that is deteriorating on top of that. I also have a new invisible medical challenge that may require surgery. People do not see, so they assume. And some, when they do see, disbelieve. A medical professional told me to my face that it was impossible to have all of the things wrong with me that are wrong with me. It helps to focus on the truth–what God sees and thinks–and learn what He wants you to become in your new season of life. I am sorry for your struggle and I will pray. I want to share a website that a friend has about invisible disabilities. She and her husband are currently writing a book about it and interviewed me. I was also asked to do a guest post on her site. It is entitled “Re-Purposed Lives.” Her site address is http://www.navigatingthestorms.com. If you would like to connect with me, you can contact me through my email franceestrain@gmail.com

  10. Thank you so much for the reminders. I too can relate. I am a woman in recovery, and people love to judge me. They seem to forget I am working hard on my recovery and never see the progress I am making. Yes, I used judge too. But God has given me a second chance on living a better life today. I look for the good in all people and I love listening to their stories. There is good in all people, why? Because God is good, God is love.. Lynn

    • Lynn, praise God for second chances! I’m encouraged to hear the work that He is doing in your life and in your recovery. You are so right – “God is good, God is love”. I’m teaching my son right now that we love others because God loved us first. The truth rings just as true for us as adults, no matter how unloving others may be. Praying for your today, sister!

  11. What a wonderful lesson in humility I was taught by your story. It touched my heart so deeply, and I will never look at any homeless person through my own eyes, but through the Lord’s. Thank you for sharing such a heart warming and eye-opening story.

  12. Michelle,
    At the beginning as I thought about Clarence I had a heartache, but then your actions resembled hope. Not only did you take notice you acted upon it, thank-you for that, and for reminding us that we all need to do this.
    have a blessed day all,
    Penny

  13. I try to remember to see everyone as a masterpiece of God and see them through His eyes. My mom used to say we never know when we might be entertaining angels so, always treat everyone as if you were. I try to do that. Being human, I don’t always achieve my goals but I do try! This was beautiful about Clarence, I hope we all learn from it and thank you for sharing with us.

    • Linda, aren’t moms so wise? I love that phrase that “everyone is a masterpiece of God”. Beautiful. That is exactly how we need to see the people around us, whether it be the homeless, the immigrant, the “unloveable” (whoever that might be in our life). Thanks for sharing that.

  14. Love that you didn’t just hand Clarence some money, Michelle, but that you bought him lunch and then brought him to your table. Beautiful reflection of Christ. ♥

  15. Nick. His name was Nick. Dirty, disheveled, and sitting on the curb outside of McDonald’s in 30-degree weather on a December 21st. I had things to do. It was my adult daughter’s birthday, and she was coming home for dinner. I was currently on my way to the Christian bookstore to pick up a Bible for my son’s unsaved teenage friend that I had ordered to be engraved with her name. But when I drove past that man, my spirit began to pound. I bought a chicken sandwich and walked it over to him. “Yes.” That was his answer when I asked him if he was hungry, but he had a deeper hunger that day, and God blessed me with the opportunity to help him fill it. I plopped down on the cold cement beside him and led him to Christ. We chatted for a while, and before I left, I gave him a pair of gloves from my car to cover his exposed to fingers. What if I would have continued driving, focused on Christmas shopping and birthday cake, focused on keeping my schedule? I would have missed a look into the beautiful eyes of a man named Nick, who was made in the image of God. And I would have missed an opportunity to be rejoicing along with the angels at the same moment. Amazing things happen when we follow God’s direction in our lives. Thank you for sharing your beautiful testimony and for sharing the love of Christ with Clarence. God taught you something that day, but you probably taught a lot of other people something that day, too, because you allowed God to use you.

    • Francee, what an incredible story! Thanks for sharing it. And praise God that you were also able to share your faith with Nick too. It reminds me of the story in John 4 of the Samaritan woman. Jesus cares for the woman’s physical needs for water, but also points to Himself as the true, living waters that will always satisfy. May we do both when we care for others – not just tend to their physical needs, but seek out their soul as well.

  16. God does send people our way doesn’t he? My mother once prayed for a man at a gas station, we looked around to see where he went, he was gone way to quickly, I think that was an angel unaware.

  17. Michelle,

    All to often we tend to judge people. By how they dress, look & act. We as Christians need to look at people the way Jesus did. We need to get to know them first. Ask them about their life. We may be surprised to find out they are more like us. Just had a few setbacks in life. My first thought would be to offer help to that man. Give him money or like you buy some food. God calls us to be Christ-like. That means spending time with those different from us. I heard a story about a homeless man who held a sign up saying will work for food. Pastor Greg Laurie happened to be going by the man & offered him a job at his church. Fast forward a few years. The man has a full-time job, brought a house & now volunteers at that church. All he needed was a little love & a helping hand. We should all start looking at people as made in the image of almighty God! Let’s go out there, help people & stop our judging.

    Blessings 🙂

  18. Michelle, I almost don’t know what to say in the confines of a comment box because your post touched on so many vital subjects — surrendering our plans, making space for another, accepting those different from us, and on and on. But I think what it boils down to most is what you said about seeing people the way God sees them — made in His image, loved, valuable. No matter what road we walk, every person deserves the dignity of being known and seen because they are known and seen by our divine Creator.

    My heartfelt thanks and blessings to you and Clarence today, wherever he is. xx

  19. Michelle,
    You demonstrated the love of God in true action with Clarence . We are God’s conduit , doing what he wants us to do each day. He left us his Holy Spirit to do what is right and that’s what you did . We should strive to serve one another each day. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  20. Thank you for your post! It was beautiful and perfect! In our current society and culture, many of us tend to deviate from things or people that are different. If it’s not directly impacting us, we sympathize with their situation and keep it moving. However, I have learned that if we take the time to talk to someone, hear their story, and truly listen to them, we oftentimes learn that our rush to judgement was wrong. Just because someone is different than what society deems as normal or acceptable doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Thank you for learning his name and humanizing him rather than just seeing his situation! When someone “has a name” I honestly believe it makes them feel valued and like they matter.

    There is a song by John P. Kee entitled “You Don’t Know My Story.” It always resonates with me because I judge and make assumptions (not proud of it and I am making more of a concerted effort not to) based on what I see, but the song reminds me that there is more to a person than meets the eye. And when you hear their story, you may realize they are not that different from you or you jumped to the wrong conclusions. Thank you for your stirring and thought-provoking post!

  21. Miss Michelle,

    You’re heart is beautiful! Thank you so much for letting God use you and for sharing His truth and work in you in a genuine and authentic way! Your words have offered me some much needed encouragement and nudging today. What a true blessing. Our God is so good! I pray that you and your family have a blessed day as you seek to draw closer to our Almighty Heavenly Father!(: