The first time I saw him I thought, “This man must be nuts.” He was walking up and down the side of the road carrying his cross bearing signs of impending doom. I didn’t think I would see him again and he was quickly forgotten. A few weeks later, though, he resurfaced with feet firmly planted on the side of the road near one of our town’s busiest intersections. I passed through the intersection several times a day and just looked the other way, embarrassed by the brazen display of what seemed to be a mentally unstable man. As I drove past him day after day, though, he began to grow on me. There was one day in particular when the winds must have been in excess of 30 mph yet there he was still standing strong and sharing his message. As I watched him struggle against the wind to turn and face oncoming traffic with each light change I thought, “Now that is true example of perseverance.”
It was some days later, sitting at that same intersection, when I realized this seemingly unstable man had what I have been trying to find for years: unwavering passion and dedication for something. He has a message to share with the world that he deeply believes in and has found a unique way to share it. He is not worried about what others might think about him, being wrong, or errant in his thinking. The only thing he is concerned with is bringing his message to others so that they will be spared the pain he believes they will face.
I don’t look away when I see him anymore but instead admire him. He serves as a daily reminder that regardless of what others think, I should stay true to myself. Sometimes it is better to step outside the lines that define the boundaries of normal in order to get at and share my true self with the world. This is especially true with my writing as I struggle with where to draw boundaries. What is too much to share? What is too unimportant to share? What is the right and acceptable way to share? What if people don’t like me or my writing? What if I put myself out there and the world rejects me? Every time these feelings rise up within me all I have to do is think about “The Jesus Man” and his tenacity, courage, and raw humanity – he cares more about the pain others may experience in the future than the discomfort and pain he is experiencing in the now. He has transcended selfishness and arrived at a place where many of us (me included) aspire to be.