Faith and Fear – An Encounter with Maurice

Categories The Early Years

“What’s wrong wid yoo? Why are yas paranoid? Are yoo playin gaymes? I dun like when people play games. Do yoo know what I do ta @#$^!@ # who play games? I don’t mess ’round mayun. Go that way. That way. THAT. WAY. Cigarettes. CIGARETTES!”

This is a note that I wrote back in November of 2009. I hesitated to post it due to whether or not it posed any value, but after reading it today feel that it does possess a great message, especially to myself. I don’t write this to talk about myself by any means. I recognize after looking on it now some four months later that there are a lot of things I could have done differently in this situation. I regret that I still possess such an immature worldview in respect to how I dealt with Maurice. I pray to God that He continues to reveal His truth to me and that I may be a better witness for Him through it.

Significance: I feel this note addresses an important issue of (1) acting out in faith and (2) dealing with emotions of fear. I believe that a lot of the times, we are restrained from acting in faith due in large to a sense of fear. That fear may range from rejection, to humiliation, to personal safety. Whatever it may be, I hope this note helps in addressing that fear in your life. It is something that cannot be ignored.————————————————————————————-

This is how last Monday night went for me. Maurice sat in the passenger seat of my car. Drunk, stuttering, slurring and confused, he worked his words around me best he could. Unrelenting, he pressed further and further to get his way. He wanted cigarettes. I had none, nor money to buy them; nor did he. And so, we were at a crossroads. He began his threats, I listened patiently. This is how it began…

Monday afternoon I finish classes and head to the south side parking lot to go to a job interview. Upon turning the key to my ignition, I hear the sound of my starter sputtering and ticking, failing to ignite the cylinders to my engine. Disheartened, I release the key. I wait a few minutes, try again, and find the results no different. “What am I going to do?” I think about it, pray to God, wait a few more moments, and turn the key again — only to come to the same conclusion: I’m out of gas.

So I walk to the nearest gas station and am able to borrow a one gallon gas tank. I get back to my car, fill it up, and sit down in the driver’s seat, eager to get to my interview. Only, the starter now seems to be shot. It doesn’t even attempt to spark the newly input fuel. My starter is broken. So, I go back to my room, and wait.

Later that night I came to the conclusion that either my starter was broken or my starter was broken. Clearly, there was nothing I could do to make it worse. So, I go back down to my car, and turn the ignition for about 2 minutes. Finally, after much agonizing ticking and what seems like tearing, my car starts! I head immediately to the gas station to fill up with gas. I come back to campus to retrieve the gas tank that I had borrowed (which I had left in my room).

When I arrive back at the gas station to return the gas tank, I park directly in front of the doors to the station. As I walk in, an African-American homeless man is leaning up again the clerk’s counter. He is beaming the biggest smile at me. As I walk forward, his head follows me until I am standing directly next to him. I hand the gas can to the clerk, exchange a few words, and realize that this man is still looking at me with the biggest smile.

As awkward as it was to reach out, shake his hand and ask him his name, it would have been more awkward not to since he was only about a foot and a half away from me. His name is Maurice. I can’t understand a word he is saying. He is ranting about something. He continues for at least a minute or two. I’m able to understand that he’s upset about a run-in he had with someone recently. He sustained an injury to the head of some sort that he is disturbed about. I tell him “Ya know, I know it can be hard sometimes. But, if you put your faith in God, I’ve learned that everything turns out ok.”

He stopped, motionless. His hands are frozen in mid air, where he was moving them to describe his feelings. His eyes are fixated on me. Moments pass by as I just stand there looking at him. His posture begins to relax. His front comes down. He comes closer. For the first time, his words come out as comprehendible English, “I like that truth you speak.” He pauses again, staring at me. I feel it is my queue, “The Bible tells us that in the end days, everything will be hard. Men will be evil doers. But everything is good when you let God take control.” Again, moments pass by filled with silence, “Time after time, I find myself doing things my own way. I try to get by on my own. I figure I know all the right ways to do things. But when I put my trust in God, he takes care of everything I need, whether it be my job, my schoolwork, my family and friends, or my car…”

Maurice moves a little bit closer, “I feel you, I can understand you. You understand me.”

I wait a few moments more, “My car was broken just this morning. I couldn’t drive it anywhere. I prayed to God and I waited. It didn’t start working. I had to wait a little bit longer. And even then, a little bit longer. But tonight, it started working again. And even though my starter was broken this morning, it works now. I didn’t do anything to fix it. God did that.”

Maurice starts talking extremely fast again. Though I can’t understand specifically what he’s saying, he’s agreeing with me. Some change in his character happened sometime during our conversation. We begin walking out the doors of the gas station. I note the clerk become extremely confused about what was going on.

We’re now outside the gas station. Maurice tells me, “I like what you saying. I understand that. I can feel you. I trust you. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t do like others do, you aren’t fake, you know what I mean?”

I pause. “You know Maurice, I try my best not to be fake. It can be hard sometimes. A lot of times I’m not successful. I’m glad you can see that I’m being genuine with you.”

“Ya I, I, I don’t like those people, those pe-people that are lies.”

“Well the important thing is not to get caught up with those people. The word of God warns us that there will always be fakers of religion out there, people who make their faith something selfish. It’s important we don’t get discouraged by those kinds of people.”

“Man, I like what you saying, I like wh-what you say.”

I look down at my phone to see that it’s 8:07 pm. “Hey, I have to be back at school in about an hour, can I buy you a cup of coffee real quick?”

“Are you sure?”

“Ya, I’m sure.”

“You trust me?”

I put my hand out to shake his hand, “You’re my friend right? I can trust you.”

He puts his hand out towards mine, “Ya, ya, you can trust me, I’m your friend. But, are, are you sure?”

I open the passenger door as we’re standing right next to it, and motion for him to get in, “Of course.”

He steps closer, “Really?”

“I can trust you, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, you can trust me!”

“Well get in, it’s cold.”

The night progressed. We ended up going to Hardee’s and I bought him a burger. We talked about God a little while as he ate. I inquired as to where he was staying, and he mentioned anywhere. I suggested a few shelters to him, he declined. He kept asking me to make sure I wasn’t going to leave him. He also kept telling me, “You take care of me, I take care of you. You need anything, an-y-thing, and I can get it for you.” Obviously he was offering me drugs, and I politely told him I have everything I need, but thank you. He complained a little bit more about the ding in his head. I gather that he was drunk at a park and cops were trying to get him to leave. He resisted arrest under the assumption that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and they got into a scuffle. He reminisced that he was going to get back at them, “People mess with me, I don’t mess around. If you mess with me, a jack you up. POW.” He motions a gun shot.

I listen to his story for a while. When he seems to be mostly done, I tell him a story of a circumstance I went through with a friend. I tell him how my friend betrayed my trust and took advantage of a lot of things I did for them. I tell him how it would have been easy for me to carry a grudge against my friend, but over a period of several months I finally ended up forgiving them. I tell him that only a week after I forgive me friend, I receive an extra pay check from work that I wasn’t supposed to get, for almost the exact amount of money that my friend had owed me. Maurice listens intently.

He responds, “That’s, that’s hard to do. Why did he do that. Why he do that to you? People do that to me… ohh no, they don’t do that to me. They do that to me once they don’t do it again, POW. That’s how I take care of things. IT don’t happen again.”

“Ya, it can be hard to forgive people for stuff. It can take days to do, weeks, months even. But, when you finally end up doing it, you get a lot of peace out of it. It’s not ever worth it to hold a grudge.”

“I like what you saying man, you got it figure out.”

We converse some more. Maurice finishes his burger and fries. I take care of his trash. I let him know that I have to get to my project pretty soon. He questions why, and I explain. He wants to know if he can spend the night with me. I explain why he can’t. He wants to know if he can come to my group project with me. I explain why he can’t. He asks again. I explain again. I ask him where he wants me to take him. He doesn’t know. I suggest the square downtown, he consents.

We start driving that way, and he asks me if I have any cigarettes. I tell him sorry, I don’t — I’ve never smoked or done drugs. He applauds me. He asks me to stop so he can get some cigarettes. I tell him I don’t have any money, so I can’t buy him any – but if he has money I can pull over for him. As I park at the first gas station, he describes to me the kind of cigarettes he wants. I remind him that I don’t have any money. I ask him, “Maurice, do you have any money for cigarettes?”

“No, no. I don’t”

“Well, I’m sorry, we don’t have a way to get cigarettes.”

I start to pull out of the gas station, and he gets a little fussy, “No no no no, cigarettes, cigarettes.”

I continue driving, “Maurice, I don’t have money I can’t get any cigarettes for you. I would if I could, I just don’t have money. I bought you a burger and fries, and a drink, I’m helping you get downtown, but I don’t have any money for cigarettes. I’m sorry.”

“Just, just pull over here. Go right up here. We can get some here.”

“Maurice I don’t have any money.”

He starts looking around frantically in my car, “Where are your cigarettes, where are they.”

“We’ve already been through this, I don’t smoke.”

Maurice begins to become less understandable again, “Everybody smokes where are they?”

“Ok Maurice. I can understand what you’re thinking. But just think about this. Out of all the places we could go, you would want to go get cigarettes first. But had we gotten you cigarettes, where would you want to go second? … The square, right?”

“Uhh, yah.”

“Well think about this. I don’t have any money. You don’t have any money. Cigarettes cost money. There’s no cigarettes to be had by us. The only way we could get cigarettes is if we stole them, and I’m not about to do that. So, given that cigarettes are out of the picture, the next place to go is the square.”

Maurice’s silence signifies he is obviously upset with me. I bring up music to change the subject and ask him if he likes Miles Davis. I turn the radio to a local jazz station and he seems to lighten up a little. We pass another gas station, “Cig…cig..cigarettes! Stop there. Go there.” He points his arm across my chest towards the gas station.

I push his arm away, “No, Maurice, neither one of us have money to get cigarettes.”
He pushes his arm back over my chest, “Go there, that way, I know this town, I know it.”

“Do you want me to take you somewhere else besides the square? I can take you somewhere else, but it has to be close, I have to get back to school soon.”

“Just go down this way.”


“Just go down this way. You play games with me, I play games with you.”

“I’m not playing with you Maurice. I don’t play games. I don’t like games. I don’t like when other people play games. I’m not a fan of games.”

“People play with me and I play with them. That’s how it is. Go this way.”

I continue towards the direction we were heading that he wanted. I’m getting annoyed because Maurice is being very difficult. We get to an intersection and Maurice tells me to turn around. We then turn left and come to a round-a-bout. He tells me to follow a truck around the round-a-bout. I tell him no and go the opposite direction of the truck. He gets very, very upset with me.

“Go THAT way. THAT way,” as he puts his finger across my chest. “Don’t play with me.”
I pull into a gas station, “Maurice, I’m not going to follow that truck, we don’t know where he’s going.” I begin to park next to one of the pumps at the gas station to let him out.

“Don’t let me out here. It’s in the lights. They see me getting out of your car and they think I’m doing something wrong. You won’t be there to tell them. Pull up ahead out of the bright lights.”

I understand what Maurice is saying, but don’t want to pull into the dark, just in case he decides to do something fishy. I want to watch my own safety. At the same time, I don’t want to ignore what he said because I don’t want to offend him and cause him to do something crazy. All at the same time, I’m trying to be a good Christian and love Maurice, and be a good example to him. It’s becoming very difficult to do all of this. I compromise and pull up ahead off to the side, but still in the light.

We have a conversation about cigarettes again. I tell him that I need to get going really soon, and that I need to let him out here. He brings up cigarettes again. I tell him that I think of him as a friend, and that I trust him but that I need to let him out here so I can get to school in time. He starts asking why I’m paranoid again. I tell him, “Maurice, look, I’ve got $5 to get me through the next week. If I give you this $5, you can spend this on whatever you want. If it makes you happy, you can spend it on cigarettes. But if I give it to you, I need to let you out here.”

I put the $5 in his hand, and still holding his hand, I say, “Can I trust that you’re going to get out here if I give you this?”

He replies, “Ya, ya.”

I let go of the $5 and he brings up cigarettes again. I remind him that I gave him $5. He gets real upset about nothing and insists that I keep driving. His behavior is extremely irrational and aggressive. I pull forward slowly to avoid him thinking that I’m “against” him. We have an argument about which direction to go. I don’t want him to think he’s in control and think he can tell me to go wherever he wants. The main reason for this is I start thinking that he might tell me to go somewhere that he has a bunch of friends that might steal my car and beat me up or something. I’m trying to be smart but faithful to God at the same time. I remind myself that the whole reason I’m here in the first place is because my car stopped working and God started it working again. The timing on everything, was all through God. I would have never met Maurice if each event during the day didn’t happen exactly when they did. And normally I would have never asked a stranger if I can buy them something to eat and drive them somewhere. But something had stirred inside of me.

So I’m sitting there, knowing God is in control, and leaving my fear behind. I follow the direction Maurice tells me. He asks me again why I’m paranoid. I tell him, “To be honest Maurice, I am a little upset. You’re my friend, but I feel like you’re betraying my trust. I’m frustrated because I told you up front that I have to get somewhere by a certain time. I’ve been kind to you, I bought you dinner, gave you $5 for cigarettes and am taking you wherever you want me to. But, you keep changing directions. I feel like you have me on a wild goose chase. I don’t feel like you’re respecting me right now. I’m not mad at you, I’m just a little frustrated. I feel like you’re playing games with me.”

Maurice is thrown a’back, “whaa? I don’t play games, I, I don’t do that. Look, right up here.”

He has me turn left and I’m starting to get really nervous as we’re getting into the bad part of town. He has me do a U-turn and I get even more nervous as we’re going towards darker areas.

“What’s wrong wid yoo? Why are yas paranoid? Are yoo playin gaymes? I dun like when people play games. Do yoo know what I do ta @#$^!@ # who play games? I don’t mess ’round mayun. Go that way. That way. THAT. WAY. Cigarettes. CIGARETTES!”
I remain silent except for assuring Maurice once more that I’m not playing games with him, and I don’t have cigarettes. Maurice continues to become extremely more aggressive, cursing excessively at me, and describing what he “does” to people who play games with him. I see a cop approaching from the other direction. I seriously consider flashing my brights at him twice to signify distress. After a nerve-breaking, sweat dripping 12 seconds, the cop passes, and I didn’t flash my lights. Maurice has me turn left, and then right. I stop on the right side of the road, pitch black.

I tell Maurice that I’m his friend, that I’m not upset with him, but I really need to hurry back to get to my school project. He questions me again on why I can’t take him. He doesn’t believe that I can’t. I reassure him. After a debilitating 4 minutes, he finally begins to reach for the door handle to get out. I once again let him know that I’m glad I met him and appreciated his company. I thanked him for spending the last hour with me, wished him a good night, and reminded him to not be discouraged by people who call themselves Christians and don’t always act like it. I apologized for anything I might have done that might have made him think I was playing games with him, assured him it was not my intent, and shook his hand in a guys secret handshake sort of way, that ends with a fist pound before he got out of the car. He thanked me for the dinner, and said we’re still friend, then disappeared into the dark.

Almost to my surprise, no old gangster cars were following me. I watched my rear view mirror all the way back to the dorms to make sure no one was anywhere near behind me. I was extremely relieved to get back to my room.

It was a very interesting night. I don’t regret it. But, it did put me through a huge test of faith, to be able to firstly invite a stranger into my car, and to go through the whole night abstaining from judging Maurice or even turning him into the cops. It was a struggle to remain free of fear, but not at all a struggle to say the right words at the right time. I never felt at a loss of words. I know God was with me.

Looking back on it, it makes me think. Maybe it should be some sort of normalcy for us to feel fear as Christians. Peter, Paul, Stephen, Barnabus, Simon, and all the other disciples of Jesus felt much fear as they taught Jesus’ name. They mingled with some of the most dangerous people to preach the word of God. They lived in fear. It makes me think. Are we doing something wrong if we don’t have that healthy sense of fear? If we’re acting on the word of God and actively preaching it to all people, we’re preaching it to the people who might cause us the most danger – and don’t they need it as much as any of us, if not more? It seems to me that this healthy sense of fear is good to us as Christians. Experiencing that kind of fear forces me to rely on God to get me through that situation, and brings me much closer to God. This brings revelation, understanding and a better relationship. This emboldens me as a Christian, strengthens my faith, and reminds me of my need for God. I’m so grateful God gave me the opportunity to be just that, a witness, to Maurice. Even though I was scared out of my wits, and still sort of am, I would do it all over again. I don’t know if I affected Maurice, I hope I did; but if I didn’t, I know I was at least a good example to him of what a Christian should be. If nothing else, he felt the love of God for a mere 45 minutes – and that’s more than enough to make a change in even a bad man. I hope that I’ll be bold enough in the future to take God up on opportunities like this that he presents to me. I also hope that you can be encouraged to step out every now and then to do something simple and be built up by God. It’s something you have to experience yourself, not just read about; so prepare yourself, God’s coming for ya.

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