Caleb the Supertramp.

This past weekend my wife and I went on a three-day weekend getaway to Duluth, MN to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. The time was great-we were able to have some honest conversations, dream together, work through some issues, and maybe one of the things I will remember most was meeting Caleb.

On Saturday we went to Takk for Maten, a Swedish cafe, for some authentic lefse, Swedish pancakes, and ligonberry juice.  The food was good, and I mean unbelievably good. At the table next to us was this dude, about my height with long dread-like blonde hair, wearing a few layers of clothes, a hunting knife on his hip, and a burlap sack stuffed to the brim. And this dude was also enjoying the Swedish pancakes.  And his unmistakable ESV Bible, furiously scribbling in his journal with his ink stained, scrawny fingers.  I seriously thought it was someone actually living out Into the Wild, and I got excited. Then jaded a millisecond later. Why? Because I’m a jerk on a romantic getaway with his wife, I don’t have time to talk to a dude that stinks a little. Right? Wrong.

I didn’t start a conversation with him, so my wife did.  Ouch.  Turns out he’s a sweet guy, and a brother in Christ.  Three years ago he was in an accident (automobile I believe) and broke his neck. He had a miraculous recovery despite what doctors said, and reprioritized his life. He realized he wasn’t living the life he wanted to, wasn’t doing the things he wanted, didn’t have the friends he liked, and had more he wanted to do before he died.  Unfortunately he didn’t turn to Christ, instead he hitch-hiked to his hometown (Chula Vista, CA, which by the way is where I am from), and got into mystics, living as a tramp, and enjoying his new found freedom.

Then he realized something amidst all that a year or so ago–he was searching for the answer to life and he knew it wasn’t magic, but Christ.  Everyday since that point he’s been studying the scriptures and writing lyrics and poetry and trying to share the God of the universe with his fellow homeless folks.  I was inspired–and also ready to leave and go on with our day.

But God wasn’t done showing me how selfish and unlike him I was. Here was a brother struggling to eat day to day, and he was able to eat this meal only because he spent the previous day begging for money.  And there I was smiling at him, loving the fact he’s a fellow Chu-V guy, and wanting to shake his hand and leave.  I am pathetic!  So God graciously used my wife to say, “Hey hon, do you have some money to give to Caleb here for his next meal?”

Then the words of James 2:14-17 convicted me of my selfish attitude and unwillingness to reach out and love a brother (geographically and spiritually) in a practical way.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17, emphasis mine).

Lord forgive me for my selfishness and unwillingness to show love you one of your children, one of my brothers.  Have you had a similar experience? How did you react? How could you (and I) react better in the future?  It’s not easy.  Everyday since then (four days) I’ve thought about Caleb and how I wish I could have a second chance. Somehow I think God will give one to me–even if the next supertramp isn’t named Caleb…

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2 comments

  1. It’s interesting how: 1.) Our wives are like mirrors that show us our constant failures, but then also act as the kindness of God that leads to repentance; and 2.) when our faith in Jesus actually comes to the test, how often we fail.

    I am thankful that we will say to God when we are judged by Him:
    “Am I guilty?”
    He wil say, “Absolutely.”
    “Will I be saved?”
    He will say again, “Absolutely.”

    1. Jimmy-how right you are! I praise God that he has placed my wife to challenge and support me through life. It is so true that marriage is for our holiness-a process of our sanctification, not happiness. As we four have discussed, community is essential (whether marriage, friends, church) in order to spur us on to show the love of Christ practically. Thanks for the additional perspective!

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