The more I stay here the more I realize that I am tired, I am selfish, I am resentful. I am being changed—yes—by entering the lives of people in poverty and seeing the grace of being invited into their lives. Yes, I am learning from them a simple faith and a simple life. But it is difficult, and it’s a place I do not know how to inhabit.
I don’t know how to give grace to the people who drink on our doorsteps. I get resentful of people who have entitlement attitudes, and sense a creeping sense of dread of answering the doorbell to give food to folks who ask for it. I’m tired of cleaning up human shit from our sidewalks and parking lot. I’ve come to realize that my biggest fear is that I will annihilate myself in service, deeds, good works and on top of that nothing will change.
Once Dave and I busted out onto the entranceway where homeless folks sleep on our doorstep because they were making a drunken racket. We yelled at them, hard: pointed at their beer bottles—don’t you ever drink on our doorstep again!—gesticulating angrily, adrenaline flaring—don’t you lie to me! You can’t sleep here anymore. Yes, it was a power trip. No, we couldn’t tolerate the noise and racket they were putting up. Yes, they were annoying the entire neighborhood. No, we weren’t doing it very lovingly. Who’s right? What was the right thing to do? Where was Jesus, and what would he have done?
They returned the next night.
I think we romanticize urban ministry sometimes, serving the poor, but have forgotten to count the cost. I often feel like that rich young ruler who, having heard Jesus’ call to sell his possessions and leave a comfortable life, leaves sad. Because honestly, I do not know if I want to be here.
Lord, help me. Jesus, show me where you are right here, right now. I don’t like dwelling in the tension of the brokenness of my neighborhood and the peace that is far away, already promised but not yet here. I know the answer is somewhere in hearing the inner voice of Love, in simply being a son and being Loved. Right now, I just feel stuck.
Last night I went back home to the quiet streets of Saratoga and I knew I couldn’t go back. It didn’t feel real. But I don’t want to stay here either, swimming through the garbage in my soul and not knowing how to be well. Do I want to be well?, the Healer asks. Yes, but help my unbelief.