1 Corinthians 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love. I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understanding all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, I am nothing."
I have heard this verse so many times but it was not until I heard it sung by the group For King and Country that I really connected with it. In the lyrics from their song "The Proof of Your Love" they sing, "If I give to a needy soul but don't have love, then who is poor? It seems only the poverty is in me." At the end of the song, it changes from singing to speaking and paraphrases 1 Corinthians 13:1. Wow was that powerful!! I can do all the volunteering that I want to, but if I don't have love in my heart for the people- then it is all for nothing. I can cook up all the food that I want to for them, but if I don't really love them... then it is for nothing.
Today on North 1st Street it was great! I felt God's love percolating like a coffee pot in the morning. It seemed like the volunteers had their hearts into it and that they were really enjoying reaching out to our North 1st St. friends. The line of people snaked out to the sidewalk again as we set up pans of piping hot "Que Bueno" cheese sauce and chili. The menu was "nachos with cheese and chile" along with other wonderful sweet yummy things to eat. I don't know if it was the fact that there was a lot of hot food to go around or if people were thrilled with the sunny day.... but people on both sides of the tables seemed extra happy. Sometimes there is an overall feeling of solemness or hopelessness, but yesterday most people seemed to have a little extra warmth in their hearts.
It is a lot of work getting prepared for a Sunday.... a lot of organization of clothes, boxes, shopping for the food, food prep, etc.... but what hit me so much was that if I don't truly love the people.... it is for nothing. With the lyrics of this song ringing in my heart... I saw North 1st St. with different eyes. Chris- my friend that lives under the bridge came and filled up her bag with clothes. Between her food, the garbage bag filled with clothes, and her normal bag she carried- Chris had too much to carry. She asked if I would give her a ride home. Right away I knew that she meant a ride to the bridge.... and for right now it is home. Immediately I replied, "Absolutely!" As we were getting ready to leave- she saw the stack of bibles that we were giving away and she said, "Hey can I have a bible? I've never read one before. It sure couldn't hurt to give Jesus a try." After 8 months of knowing Chris.... my heart leaped!!! Yeah!! I handed her a bible and told her to start in John "The Old Testament isn't the best place to start.. just skip right to the gospel of John to start with."
Chris, Kaecey, and I jumped into the car with bags in tow and headed off to the bridge.... Again Chris said, "Well the bible will give me something to read under the bridge." Once we got to the overpass, I parked the car along the side of the road so that we could help Chris with her bags. She brought us to her "home". It was the underside of the freeway... with cars racing overhead... muffled engines roaring off to their next destination... drivers unaware of the lives that reside under the asphalt that lines the road. We used a rope to help pull our way up the steep incline only to find four long cement chambers made by the trusses of the highway. Each opening was draped with a blanket hung to allow for privacy and warmth to the resident inside. Chris proudly showed us her place and explained how she had cleaned it out for her roommate who she shared the space with. A wooden posted homemade bed sat towards the back of the living space. Odds and ends were lined against the wall... it was amazingly quiet which totally surprised me... but had the heavy smell of urine. ( I wouldn't try and get down the steep incline in the middle of the night if I had to go to the bathroom) Unfortunately that only left the entrance to each living space as an area to relieve oneself. Old tattered clothes and garbage were strewn along the entry ways of each space.
Inviting??? No... but the love that I felt in my heart for Chris went beyond the shock and smell.... I gave Chris a big hug and told her that I hoped that she had a great week. She told me she was going to go into her place and change into some comfy shorts that she had gotten from the clothes give away. I told her I loved her and then made my way down the incline with the help of the rope so that I didn't wipe out... As Kaecey and I walked back to the car, I shared with her that I felt like I could vomit... she agreed, but it didn't really matter because we both feel the same about Chris. She is a special lady with a whole lot of strength to withstand her daily conditions. God is revealing to us each week more of what he meant in 1 Corinthians 13:1.
It is so easy to love my husband and my children... I adore them and would do anything for them. This week, I was able to feel the tender love of a person that I barely know. David is a homeless person that we have known since the beginning. He was the guy that scared me so badly the first time I saw him because he was so tattooed all over his face and looked so scary. David has softened over the months and has become a favorite amongst the volunteers. He usually stays around until the end and prays with us. David has problems, he has a degenerative neurological disorder as well as a fried brain from so many drugs (our best guess), but David also has a heart. This week he actually reached out to hug Keith before Keith hugged him. This is the guy who would not even have eye contact with us in the beginning. Before I left I went up to give David a hug because I hadn't been able to talk with him. I gave him a big side bear hug and then held his hand for a moment. David squeezed my hand in the sweetest way. It was not in that yucky lecherous way... but more like a little boy holding onto his mom's hand because she felt safe and nice. David grinned his sideways grin and then it was over. For a tiny instance in time... God showed me a peak of His great love... it was that unconditional, sweet love that says... "I don't care what you have done... I love you for being you." Thank you God for letting me experience more of your 1 Corinthians 13:1 love for the lost and the broken. (It is only You God!)
Casting Crowns has a new song out also... "Jesus Friend of Sinners".....First off.. I am a sinner, so this song is not only for me, but about me. In the song lyrics it says, "Open my eyes to the outcast..." Lord Jesus... thank you for opening our eyes each week to the outcast and for helping to break our hearts for what breaks yours.
I am so thankful for the wonderful bunch of volunteers that show up each week. We never know who will make it down and who won't, but it never fails... there are always enough people to serve... God always provides the people, the clothes, the food, and the love to reach the lives of the outcast... the lives of our new friends..." Please continue to grow my heart... to help me love like 1 Corinthians love....and to see people more like how you see them.... Please let my life be the proof of Your Great Love... In Jesus Holy Name.. Amen