I've been trying to put words around these thoughts, emotions, scriptures, and images passing through my mind. I'm struggling to articulate it, but maybe as I type, it will come. I know it needs to. God hasn't set this on my heart for nothing. It's big. It's important. We need to get it.
I need to get it.
I just got home from hanging out with my kids tonight. We went to eat at Chickfila, to the park, and to Barnes and Noble. I tell you this because I want you to see how normal I am. And how naive.
I got off at the exit on the way to my house. My house is very near the ghetto. On the edges really. A new subdivision in an area covered by the shadiness of drugs, crime, and poverty. A neighborhood where my skin color is the minority. It's important to me and to us that we're here and we know that God placed us here intentionally two years ago. We've been crying out to Him to show us how to minister here because it's hard. Not hard because of the crime or drugs really, but hard because our skin color keeps us on the fringe. Many African Americans won't give us the time of day because they think we think we are too good, or we aren't really interested, or whatever. And we're alone in this. There aren't any other people from our church who live near us. But we're here. And it's important.
So I got off at my exit and as I approached the stoplight I saw a figure standing on the corner. I knew they were homeless because that is a common place for people to panhandle.
My response? I locked my doors.
It was dark and I had children in the car. (Isn't that what everyone does?)
As I came to a stop I saw that the figure was an African American lady, maybe in her 50s-60s and she was asking for help from the car in front of me. They didn't give her anything.
I've seen this lady before. A couple of months ago actually, asleep on a park bench near the exit. I contacted a local nonprofit that helps the homeless about her.
As she approached my car I knew I needed to help. I had nothing but change in my wallet but I was willing to give it. Her voice is tiny and she is missing a few front teeth. It's possible she has a slight mental illness. I asked her if she had been to any of the shelters and she said she didn't know where any were nearby. She said she had heard that the Mission (Union Rescue Mission in Little Rock, I suppose) would help you find a house. I ashamedly told her I had no idea. I asked if she had tried to find work and she said she gets a disability check but has had a hard time receiving it, because she has no address. She sleeps in a pavilion near the river. I had seen her before there too. A year ago when I was taking pictures of my sister.
A YEAR AGO.
I gave her my change and I looked her in the eye and said, "Use it for food okay?" And she said she would. A young black man had walked up nearby and looked at me and said, "She doesn't buy drugs. She will use it for food." She told me her name is Diana.
And I pulled away.
And I started to weep.
I wept because she's been on the streets for a year. I wept because I've never helped her before. Because no one is helping her. I wept because she hasn't bathed in days and her clothes are dirty. I wept because she's a woman and I can't imagine what that is like for a woman to be on the streets. I bawled my eyes out all the way home while my kids sat in the back in shock and saw what the "other side" looks like. It was good. It was important.
I can hear you already. You, like me, have likely landed in one of two places. One of them is the place of: "Well how do you know she isn't addicted? How do you know she doesn't have someone helping her? She probably got herself into that situation." I'm guessing the majority of the population lands in that place. It's freeing really. It allows us to brush people off without a second thought. See, if someone has helped her or if she got herself into this predicament, it frees us from responsibility. And God knows we don't need more responsibility and that's why He wouldn't give it to us. Yep.
The other place is: We. Need. To. Help. I'm going to say that's where I am right now. We need to help. But here's the thing, friends, it's not just Diana that needs us.
There are others. Many, many others.
And this is the crux of it...
This is where something similar to anger rises up in me and I have fleeting images of Jesus turning tables and saying, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers."
What are we doing ya'll? What the heck are we doing? I'm talking to Christians. Christ followers. Believers. (If you don't fit that calling and feel convicted about this, then let's talk about that.)
My brothers and sisters: What on EARTH are we DOING? I am ashamed of how I spend my days. Facebooking. Texting. Watching TV. Oh yeah I homeschool and I minister here at home, but what about those others hours of the day? How many hours am I squandering while Dianas sit in a pavilion wondering where her next meal is coming from? How many moments am I not praying while drugs are abused and children are neglected all around me? How many dollars am I wasting on another scented candle for my house?
I haven't even touched the edge of it yet ya'll. Not in me. Not even the edge of it.
Do you realize that if the Church would be The Church, that we could completely eradicate food stamps, medicaid, homelessness, foster care, and more? You know that 10 percent that God told us to give? What was that for guys? It wasn't to build bigger buildings and have more programs and pay huge salaries (although I do believe there is provision for those ministering full time). It was brought into God's storehouse which supplied for the Body.
And that's just the Old Testament.
Here's what happened in the New Testament:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2).
Do you realize that you have people who live next door to you, who sit next to you in church that are literally fighting to stay above water financially...or drowning? We have been there friends. Living in a place and working as hard as we knew how and scrimping and pinching and not able to make the ends meet. We have been on food stamps. It doesn't look like you think it does.
Do you realize that there are people sitting next to you in church that are in this place? Too ashamed to ask for help or not knowing who to ask? Or maybe they've asked and were judged. Maybe the person they asked was all bug-eyed and like, "Umm, you need to work harder, or get two jobs, or sell something else, while I drive my brand new car and live in my brand new house and wear my Ralph Lauren." Been there. Heard that.
I'm literally ill thinking about it. I'm ill too because I know I'm stepping on toes, but I can't even handle it anymore. I can't handle it that I have so much in this 1200 square foot house with our super tight budget and our 10 year old cars and we're about to adopt three kids and...
It's. Not. Enough.
It's just not. Not when I'm spending an exorbitant amount of time on Facebook. Not when there are people that are hurting that bad. And I can't help them all, but, by gosh, I have a voice and I can tell people that this is the world we live in.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." (James 2)
Three times I have encountered Diana now in the last year and just now I am truly feeling the fire to help. God please don't let it die.
Two weeks ago I found out that dear friends, who we go to church with, were about to lose their home to foreclosure. These people live their lives to love on people and spread the gospel. They have spent themselves emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally to help people in a neighborhood much more difficult than my own. My friend simply asked me to pray for them.
And I couldn't.
That's not enough.
That wasn't faith.
So I used my voice. That's all I did. I just told others that there was a need. Just like I know others have told others when we had a need. And now their house payments are caught up.
But it's not enough. This is too important.
Don't you see?
It's just starting to come into focus for me...
We are missing it.
We are missing Him.
Our churches are missing it.
Our churches are missing Him.
We need to become houses of prayer (because that's what He told us to do). We need to give ridiculously of our time, our resources, our energy and not just to those who already know Him, but to those who don't. We need to stop being afraid of our neighbors and the lady at the check out counter.
We need to put on the God-sized glasses and look around because we are missing it.
Oh God help us. Please help us stop missing it.
If you read all of that, you are longing for this too. Let's pray. Surrender our lives, our will, our resources, and pray like we have never prayed before. Are you with me?