Christian Living · Grace

Seeing Beyond Mere Words

Day after day, he arrives at his post. He is both weathered and unwavering. This is his job. The intersection hosts continuous traffic as the main artery to a major highway. He knows this and so assumes his stoic position between the lanes. His tattered sign simply reads, traveling.

My husband refers to this gentleman as “Father Time”, and the name fits. He could probably tell stories for days, and they would likely be laced with adventure and struggles. As my car lunged to catch the green light, I found myself speaking these words aloud, “where {exactly} are you traveling?” He can’t hear me because I’ve raced past him in the hustle of my morning. Though my car is miles from him, my mind lingered in the intersection.

Father Time

Cynicism weaved its way into my thoughts about Father Time.  To be cynical is to be distrusting of the motives of others. I didn’t trust that the man behind the sign was actually traveling. I mean, he had been standing at that corner for months, if not longer. This was his job. My cynical spirit had already sized him up and drawn a different conclusion. I wondered why he wouldn’t put something else on his sign, because clearly he wasn’t traveling. And what about his clothes, weren’t those too clean for him to be stranded out on the road somewhere? While each of those things could be true, they could also be terribly wrong. Cynicism has its own way of distorting perspective.

By the time my car pulled into the school parking lot, a growing conviction filled my thoughts. I could see myself in the man with the sign. His sign said traveling, but there wasn’t physical evidence that made that seem true. I began considering all the times I’ve presented a false picture of myself to the world. The times I’ve smiled and laughed when I was really spiraling downward toward deep loneliness, or the times I held the sign that read confident, when I was wildly insecure?

There was a season of my life where the desires of my heart, and my outward actions were grossly misaligned. I was showing up at church, but wrestling with hidden sin. Living a double life is exhausting. I can’t imagine that anyone wrote this as what they hoped to be/achieve when they grew up. It happens, though. We might be standing at the intersection of hope and defeat carrying a sign that reads, see me when we really mean love me.

What is written on the sign is NOT the point. Cynicism is the true struggle. It keeps me from seeing the person behind words on a sign. It prevents me from feeling anything below the surface. It steers me away from compassion for people in my path, and chokes out any extension of grace. I heard someone say that grace doesn’t make sense until you need it. Ouch.


I felt convicted for not rolling down my window and engaging the man. He has a story worth hearing. Unfortunately, the past few times I’ve driven through the intersection, he has not been there. The limited view I have, on this side of heaven, leads me to make quick assessments and rash judgments. He certainly traveled somewhere, and I didn’t even take the time to find out his real name.

Please Lord- Extract cynicism from me and give me discipline to see others through the lens of grace. To extend to others what you’ve freely given to me.

It is, after all, how heaven sees me.

3 thoughts on “Seeing Beyond Mere Words

  1. Great post, Alyssa! Isn’t it so true when we see these people (panhandlers, my mom would say) you know there is a deep story behind their circumstances. I so appreciate the transparency in your writing.

    Love you, Cheryl


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, how many ‘intersection people’ do we pass every week not giving them so much as a second glance or a thought (certainly not a positive one anyway)? You have reminded me Alyssa to start SEEing these folks are children of God the same as me. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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