I closed out the first week of my Dallas trip yesterday. This has been a week of intense and graphic change in my heart – I have peace about things that once bothered me, and greater clarity to the human condition and how to help those who are displaced in society: or specifically, those who are homeless. Maybe this is a true change, or just the fact that I have been thrown into a city where I have little physical support and only knew one person when I came to it.
Yesterday I sat in the office at Our Calling and was talking to Tammy, formerly an addict on the streets. The Search and Rescue team came and talked to her for years, persuading her to turn to God, to come from this life of addiction – to leave the streets. She sat before me a changed woman – not perfect, and the passing of time left its marks, but in her eyes there was still an innocence, a heart that was growing: damaged, but not destroyed. She told me: ‘It’s because of people like you who come to people like us and persuade us not to go back to those lifestyles.’
“That’s not true, Tammy. Not at all. You’re ministry is just as important as ours – as important to me. You have a ministry too. See, it’s easy for people to come and get help and go back to the streets, but it’s equally easy for people like me to come in contact with that humanity and then go back to my comfortable life. We’re all broken, but we just go different ways. We need you to be who you are a remind us why we are here – I need that.”
Genesis was not written for Adam and Eve, nor Abraham, nor Jacob – in fact, it was written first for the Hebrew people after they left Egypt. This means “Let Us make man in our image” was first read by those slaves who lived under the Egyptians: those also who believed their ruler to be divine in nature, and now this concept is broken by a simple truth – all men are created in God’s image; there is no god-man, as the Pharaoh.
Even today there are really only two ways to understand this: A) I am made in God’s image and therefore am valuable, or B) If I am made in God’s image, what is He like? and perhaps the two are not dissimilar and we cannot make it to the latter with out beginning with the former, yet one makes me the object o affection, and the other puts the importance back to God as God and calls me to action.
All calling in our life is to draw us back to God. Every truth brings us back to life by beginning where we are. My biggest blunder in approaching homelessness is that I approach them as though they were simply homeless – a dollar, a little something, would fix it. The truth is way darker and much deeper. Stuff will fix them the same as it fixes me, it doesn’t. Food goes way further than dollars because it does not feed their addiction, but meets a need. They don’t need my stuff, or me, but my Jesus. If I take on their burdens, it will not heal them. They need to give their burdens to God. It’s that simple.
I see the story of the Lost Son in Luke played out – both were lost. I get lost in my apathy and they are lost in theirs. My purpose is not to save them, but to reflect the One who does. My things don’t make me superior or inferior, or should make me feel guilty. I should feel guilty when I am unusable because I don’t care to actually understand people, any people, and sink into the waters of apathetic living that skip from day to day.
This truth – the cornerstone.