Last week I went to my interior apothecary, tapped along the rows of shelves looking for labels on certain jars. I knew I would need my jar of “Follow Me” and “Girl, You’ve Got Gall” and without invitation the predictable jar of “Fears” fell into my hands. I gathered “Christ’s Sake” and “Kingdom Come”, a few more here and there and I took them out the door and straight across another line I wouldn’t stay behind. (See above paragraph.)
But what I couldn’t have known was how much of an imposter I would feel like on the other side of said line, even with my thread-worn knit cap pulled tight over my platinum mohawk and my body dressed down in carefully selected grunge clothes. I painted no make-up on my face, added no identifiable frills or flair to my exterior…I went across the line with my soul wide open, bare too and bent on blending in. I look the part, but maybe like dogs and bees they can sniff the fear on my breath, or maybe they can see the refrain of “I don’t fit-in here” playing around my head. My guts are reeling from several strong impressions at once: I don’t need to do this. It’s safer back home. Will they think this is just a lark for me? To name a few.
But none of those sick feelings or thoughts will hold my feet where they “belong”. The unction to press through, dig deeper, love bigger, understand more and change the game yet another time overwhelms my fears and [mind] wars. My fiercest, Holy Ghost-driven thoughts keep these fickle legs moving across the line: I don’t want a sanitary life. I don’t want to be removed from explicit or illicit or stay where society says I should. I don’t want predictable or safe. I don’t want to be just where my economic status and skin color were born. I don’t want to live under the low ceiling of an organized world, I want to blow the top off the damn thing instead – even if I get blasted by shrapnel from today to next year.
But I haven’t told you yet where I’ve been going, or what line I crossed to get there…
I’ve been joining the homeless people on the other side of the margins – those narrow strips on the side of polite society’s page. I’ve been joining the homeless there, not as a volunteer come to fill the ache in their bellies or save the misbegotten day. But as one of them.
(I’m gonna go ahead and say the same thing a few different ways because repetition and I are friends.)
Instead of reaching my forearms and fingers over the line to serve people a spoonful of this or hand them a bag full of that, I started living there. I put all the brakes on doing missional acts for the marginalized because I wanted to learn how to sit next to their feet and just be with them, like it’s Thanksgiving and we’re all pieces of a misfit family sitting around the same beat-up, raucous table.
More to the fact, my husband and I, with our 3 boys like ducklings in tow, have been shedding comfort and convenience in order to stand in their lines with plastic trays balanced between our hands, sandwiched with homeless men and women while waiting to be served scoops of food that taste like the south side of mediocre.
We started to forego the ease of our car in deference to riding the bus or walking where we need to go.
As partakers and learners, we began attending a church service that’s designed for homeless people.
Any way we can, the five of us will go to their turf on their terms; gather where they gather, eat where they eat, intersect our stories on the grounds of their comfortability.
A few short days from now I’ll be laying my head down to sleep at a women’s shelter, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
But none of this is even an ounce of a lark for us, or an adventure for adventure’s sake, or just research to tuck behind our belts. This is the premeditated mission of a family determined to engage with multi-level transformation. To shake the spiritual fabric of our city. To push the boundaries of ordinary. To stretch our aortas to the breaking point. We want to be with people living in poverty because Jesus is there in a way that we don’t know Him yet and how else are we to know what’s it’s really like to live inside their frames and stories unless we put our faces on their bodies?
How else will we be reminded that we are all the same unless we stop being in all the places where we are different?
How else do we “normalize” being with the people Jesus seemed to be so fervent about unless we cusp each other’s dirty necks and press our foreheads together and admit our wholeness is found side-to-side? (Do you believe it?)
How else will we discover that there are no real lines separating us except the ones we bought into because society sold us a whole package deal – buy one get all the rest for free?