It was going to be one of those nights.
Our unexpectedly seasonal weather was taking its toll on tempers and, within minutes of starting the bible study, the noise levels were rising. Two of our quirkier guests were shouting, one in praise of God, the other decrying Christians who were stopping him having contact with his fiancée who's in rehab. At least I think that's the gist of it: both were a little difficult to understand. Man B was also telling Man A to 'shut the f*** up, excuse my language.'
It was mildly ironic that the topic under discussion was about being judgemental. Sean came up with this brilliant idea for a series of studies on 'The hard things Jesus taught'. Last week Steve led the first on loving your enemies. In a room full of people abused physically, sexually or verbally, that went down a storm as you can imagine. 'If someone slaps me, I'm sorry, but I'm going to slap him back.' I suppose progress has been made in that an apology and prayer for forgiveness would follow in due course. On second thoughts, forget the apology.
I don't think I imagined just the hint of a smirk on Steve's face as Sean struggled to bring some order into what was rapidly becoming a free for all.
But then, in one of those turn-arounds that only God can accomplish, the evening changed from a potentially ugly situation to one of beauty.
The talk had moved again onto forgiveness and how hard it can be to forgive those who hurt you or those you love when one of our other rough sleepers began talking. As he stuttered and stumbled through his story of anger, pain, revenge, death, guilt and the blackness of the past silence fell. By the time he'd reached the end all that could be heard was snuffling and the wiping away of tears.
No excuses, just a truth that lingers, achingly, desperately in a heart weeping, not daring to ask for forgiveness.
Just another night at Zac's.