There is a country song about “Springtime in Alberta” where a cowboy complains about his moody girl friend. Her moods are just like nasty winter storms that blow in when the weather should stay warm.
There is probably truth in that song, on both sides. I never met the woman, but we do have interesting spring weather. This Easter weekend is the coldest since 1940, with wind and snow, but it was nice a few days before.
We had another surprise early on Good Friday morning. Someone started pressing all the call buttons for our apartment building and begging for help. I had the job of dressing in warm clothes and going out into the storm at four in the morning, to see if I could help. A muscular young man ran up to me and begged me to phone a cab so he could go home. I phoned the police first, and a taxi drove by as I was talking. I waved, but the cab driver didn’t even slow down. Also, the police never came. They offered to send the “Hope Mission” van, which is a converted ambulance from a Christian charity. The van picks up homeless people who might freeze to death, and delivers them to a shelter, which the Mission also runs.
It’s a great concept, but the young man did not want charity. He started ordering me to get him a cab and started swearing at me and telling me I was a bad good-Samaritan. I was stuck with a problem no-one else wanted, and I was starting to get cold.
One problem was his appearance. He was very fit and muscular, and he wore expensive blue jeans pulled down low, which showed most of his underwear, and he had a muscle shirt. That’s a look, I guess. The muscle shirt had the shoulder straps torn out, and he wore it upside down like a strange tube top. He complained about a fight he had just been in where he ‘got his face stomped.’
No vehicles stopped, including taxi cabs, and the police were too short-staffed to bother with him. That left only me, and I had no solution. My truck was far away and covered in snow, and the police warned me to stay away from him in case he turned violent. I was also forbidden to let him into any warm building. The apartment residents were afraid of him.
The police finally told me to walk away from him. I realize now that I had to leave him because I was a false hope. He would stay if I did, and the weather was cold enough to put him in the hospital. I think the temperature was minus twelve, and the wind chill made that almost minus twenty. Those are severe temperatures, with possibilities of hypothermia and frost bite.
After I walked away, he pounded on some doors and shouted for help, and then he ran south. I hiked through the snow to my truck and drove around the neighborhood to make sure he hadn’t passed out in a snow drift and I saw police lights flashing in the distance. Possibly the police picked him up, or he found a warm gas station, but I think he found help.
My biggest problem was that I had to watch a fellow human being suffer. Severe cold is painful, and that young man put himself in a position where no-one wanted to help. He probably got into a fight at a party, and was chased away without a coat, and his young life was already filled with self-destructive choices. There are many like him, but I’m usually sleeping when the party animals start wandering home. I don’t know if he was worse than other people, but he was worse off.
This was all a painful lesson for me. Human beings can wreck their lives, but I don’t like to watch them do it.
If I ever doubted that people need God in their lives, the doubts were erased in a snow storm at four in the morning. Most of us carry an appearance of success in daylight hours, but the truth always comes out. Isaiah in the Bible described us “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Somehow, in the conversation, I got blamed for the other man’s misery, and I was cursed for not getting him the help he demanded. He sincerely believed that he knew the solutions to all his problems. I could have given him a different perspective, but he was not interested in that conversation.
And that was my Easter lesson. Why did Jesus come, and why did He die? We are lost in our own terrible choices, and the end is never good. The cowboy song about springtime in Alberta is really about someone who foolishly destroys a loving relationship. I saw my own failures, years ago, and I made a decision to trust God, and not myself. That is how I became a Christian, and I was reminded on Friday, that my choice was a good one.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40: 28 to 31)