Saturday, December 7, 2019

because we all need friendship and hope: life goals today

There are used condoms and needles and empty bottles of Vodka and my eyes are scared of what else they’ll see so I look up into the sky.

It’s blue and vast and open and looks like hope.

I'm waiting for a friend to come out of her tent so I can take her to the bus station and she can get off these streets. Home. Her mom's waiting for her. We've already called.

When I first started visiting my friends downtown, before they were my friends, when they were just "homeless people," there was a ministry feeding them sandwiches out of the back of a truck. I introduced myself.

"Don't come here by yourself. These people are always armed."

That's what the church lady told me.

"These people."

Like they were the infected and the church lady and I were the sanitized. I've never lived on the street or stabbed needles into my veins or sold my body to get another dose of heroin or had my one bag of spare clothes stolen every time I got another bag of spare clothes or stood on a street corner with a sign begging for money because I'm terrified of not being on meth. But if that's how my life was, and if these streets were my home, I think I'd want to be armed, too.

That was months ago, and now when I pull up, I get smiles and hugs and God keeps dumping out hope. And no one's ever pulled a weapon on me. And a couple friends have been coming to church with me and I'm learning what everyone likes at Taco Bell and I know CJ drinks coffee all day, loaded with sugar, and Alice likes chewing on ice and Tony misses his four-year-old daughter in foster care and Kendra's leg hurts her and Jacob's mom died in 2014 and he really misses her.

They're human beings.
Not projects.
They’re human beings. And my friends.

Don't we all know what mediocre and unwanted feels like? And doesn't no-strings-attached authentic friendship help those awful feelings dissolve?

I want to spend my life fighting mediocre and unwanted, proclaiming with my time and my words and my no-strings-attached-friendship--THERE AIN'T NOTHIN MEDIOCRE ABOUT YOU AND YOU ARE SO SO SO WANTED.

Looking into beautiful bloodshot eyes and smelling what happens when we stop showering and immerse our lives into numbing addictions trying to live a pain-free existence, I've been giving some thought to the goals of my life.

To be safe?
To be comfortable?
To never hear inappropriate remarks?
To stay away from "dangerous and dirty" places?

No. Those are nowhere on my life goals list.

To keep looking at Jesus and falling in love. That's my life's big goal. And from there springs all sorts of wonderful activity. Like finding the unsafe and the uncomfortable and the inappropriate remark-ers living in "dangerous and dirty" places and to make friends.

Jesus has enough hope.

When He watches Jay meander through the streets, dazed and dirty and eyes locked on the ground scanning for change so he can collect enough for a bag of numb, what is God feeling?

When Jesus hangs out with me everyday, it's not because He wants to put me in the become-a-more-decent-human-being program.
It's because He likes me.
Friendship is what we've got.
As we're doing friendship stuff, His love changes me.
He's teaching me His ways.

So when I drive downtown day after day in the 2003 Highlander a bunch of loved ones bought me (thank you) and hop out to see who's there and who's hungry and who wants to walk to McDonald's, it's not because I'm running a program.
They're my friends.
Friendship is what we've got.
Like any friendship, there's getting to know each other and helping each other and becoming better human beings in the process.

My friends who are currently homeless, I'm a better human being because I know them. And the brightest highlight--I'm getting to know Jesus better because these friends let me be in their lives. His heart is even better than I thought and we're exploring it down there on East Broadway amidst bodily fluids dried to the sidewalk and spice rolled up into blunts with any sort of paper available and coffee dates at McDonald's. His heart is even better than I know. Bigger and more diverse and stronger and more hopeful and better.

He seeks us out and makes friends out of us.

Jesus said our eternal destinies are affected by how we treat the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned. That means the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned are quite important to this King I'm serving and I'd better make sure to treat them well.

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
-John 5:3-9

It was like a nursing home without nurses.

I can't imagine the stench. And it's where Jesus chose to go.

It's bookmarked in my Bible with a polaroid of me and the girl who was trafficked to Hong Kong but got rescued and moved in with us and fell in love with Jesus and is now back home with her family, living in freedom.

He rescues African women in Hong Kong and He can rescue men from upstate New York homeless and addicted on the street in Kentucky.

I keep crying because life keeps being sad but I keep hoping because God keeps feeling hope.

Jesus reminds me He can do anything and He's loaded with love for every soul. And when we lay in the same spot for 38 years, hopeless and bitter, or decline our bus ride into freedom, or judge homeless people when we drive by them, He can heal us and help us stand on our feet.

God feels hope for all of us. We're all broken humans needing mercy.

Last night, Al started screaming profanities at Cindy and I interrupted him with “Let’s pray.” We stood in a circle and bowed our heads. I asked God to please help us all because we all need help. We said amen and I drove home, listening to “What Child is This” loud on repeat.

“Nails and spears shall pierce Him through,
The cross He bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

My friend didn't come out of her tent that day. She cried to me, "I can't do it. I'm not ready. I'm just not ready." I told her I loved her and watched where I walked on my way out.

But Jesus became a baby then bore a cross so He could help her leave the streets and I'll drive her to the bus station when that day comes.

“Our friends, our enemies, the children of God, and the children of the world are worthy to be loved. Those who are the hated, the ransomed, and the lost, the world as a whole, and every individual creature in particular are all embraced by the love of God.”

-Andrew Murray 

p.s. to the still-concerned-for-my-safety-loved-ones, thank you. I appreciate you. I'm being careful and bringing a friend as often as I can. Plus, I'm surrounded by angels.