I have been gnawing on this and I don't know where to go from here.
She is a very pleasant young lady who is obviously struggling right now. She has been clean for 2 years, has been holding down 2 jobs and re-established herself as the primary parent for a 10 year old boy. Her father died in jail, the day before he was to come home, and she hasn't gotten past that. Her son's father is doing federal time, so there will be no child support anytime soon. One of her 2 jobs ended unexpectedly. She walks an hour to work since her car died. The mechanic told her that it will take a new engine to get it running again. Because she lost her job unexpectedly and then had to pay an old fine, she got behind on the rent. I don't have the money to give her to keep her from being evicted tomorrow. I don't have a little car to give her. I have NOTHING to offer, except my phone number, a prayer for God to give her hope / make his presence known to her, an offer to take her to a meeting Wed in her town.
Everything I touch has dollar signs and I wonder if I have spent well. Then we, as the church, are sending lots of money down to Haiti shortly in the form of a youth missions trip and I am working on the plan to get people to give toward beautifying the church. I have a headache.
In one of the circles of people that I spend time with, there is a saying
"Be careful what you pray for!"
We laugh knowingly when someone is naive enough to pray for patience
because we have had our own experience of wading through some messy situations
where we must practice patience after being foolish enough to pray for it.
Sometimes I forget the old wisdom.
This week's Armchair QB is sort of backwards. I was not present for the message because I had gone hunting with my dog. (Lest you think I should apologize for this, I consider it to be worshipping my Creator in amazingly beautiful fields with a pup who loves doing what she was created for fully connected with the moment, with who I am, and with my God.)
Today's story really begins the Sunday before when the pastor asked us to pray that God's message would spread rapidly in our communities (referencing 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5). We prayed this together in our church gathering. We prayed for this in our small group on Sunday evening. We prayed for this in our Bible study on Tuesday. I prayed for this in private. Have you put it together yet?
Last Saturday, the pastor emailed me a request from a woman who had contacted the church for help. He was requesting me to look into her need, and before I could respond, that moment happened. The one where you say, "Why me? Don't I have enough to do? Do I have time for this?" Still, I had caught the scent of adventure that crept into the moment and I said yes anyway.
I called the woman and we chatted for at least 30 minutes. I surmised that she had a legitimate need-she would lose her house, and maybe her son, if she couldn't catch up on the rent. I could just pass this back to the pastor, right? When I asked her what we could do for her, what she requested wasn't money, tho. It was someone to talk to, to be a positive person in her life. She needed hope. I don't know if it was me second guessing my discernment over the phone or the Spirit of God refusing me to allow such a sterile contact be that woman's connection to His people, but I asked if we could meet the next day and go for coffee. And. She. Cried.
Frankly, I was going against all the precautions that I usually take-not meeting at someone's house, not meeting them alone-but I didn't have much of an option so after offered and requested prayer, I met her.
I found that I liked her immediately. We chatted at a coffee shop. She was losing hope and not sure where to turn. She was fighting to hold on for her son, even thought she wasn't sure she could. In her desperation, she had started to email churches, but only we, at Hope, had responded. I dropped her off since her son was coming home and I certainly didn't want her to worry more. Not knowing what I could do right now, not knowing what the pastor or the church could offer, but knowing that I needed to be able to do something now, I offered to pray for her. As I prayed over her, for God to reveal Himself to her, to repair the broken-ness in her life, to give her His peace, she wept. After confirming plans to meet for Wednesday, I drove away.
The drive home seemed longer than usual because I was agitated. I can get so cantankerous about the church, about the way it can seem irrelevant and our of touch, apathetic to real problems while preaching the good news that we can live eternally. That preaching just seems to take us right out of the reality of the world that Jesus called us to reach. I knew my church probably didn't have any resources for her. I knew that government agencies don't have money right now. I became more and more frustrated with the situation as I drove home. Why would God give me the opportunity to reach this woman, representing HIS church as an impotent institution yet again????
When I arrived home, I wrote that email to the pastor.
After my nap, he called. Not with good news or a band aid, tho. He called to challenge me. To challenge my small group. To challenge US to walk through the door that God had opened. A member of our small group had preached earlier that morning (while I was hunting) and had declared, "If you start praying for open doors, be prepared for God to open them!" Not sure if he thought God would challenge him so quickly, but here we were.
I have to admit, I balked. It felt rude to me. My small group is sending their children on a missions trip out of the country. My small group works hard and isn't necessarily well off by American standards. And I was a little annoyed. I mean, I am not the pastor! She didn't contact me, right? She asked the CHURCH for help.
What is the church but us, the people, the body of Christ? Jesus entered into our messiness of sin. We are being invited into the messiness of her life, bringing Jesus with us. Oh, but will my friends see it the same way?
I smile now when I think of how terrified I was. I was more nervous to meet with my friends about this situation than to meet with a stranger. And I prayed harder for protection and wisdom than I had prayed to meet the woman who was not a stranger anymore.
It is messy, getting involved with humanity. The results aren't up to us. We don't have any control over them. People want to think for themselves, find their own way. They don't live as we do. They make choices that we would rather they didn't. To spread the Gospel, we are going to have to enter into the mess, much like Jesus went from heavenly perfection to a stinky barn. I don't know if this woman will "get it together." But she knows that we care about her because God cares for us. She knows she can count on the church, that body of Christ, and hopefully that is one step toward finding faith in our Father!
On my way to her house to give her the check needed to not be evicted, I was thinking how God showed up, not only for her, but also for me. When I think it is too much, He laughs. When I think it is too big, He finds a way to make it manageable. We pray for God to move in our communities, but then we need to be willing to step through that door as my small group did. We need to BE the church.
I enjoyed meeting this woman and praying for her. She asked today if we could still meet even though I had already given her the check. What I perceived as her biggest need (money) really wasn't. Perhaps she emailed Hope for a reason-she needed HOPE. I was honored to be a part of this activity of God. I love his adventures! I am also grateful for being in community with such a neat group of people who also want to participate in what God is doing and who are generous to share the blessings that God has given them.