God spoke through Ezekiel to the Israelites…. In Ezekiel 36: 25 God says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stony heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
That is the prayer of Keith and I, “please take out our stony hearts and give us a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you….” I need God’s spirit in me. I need His spirit to soften my heart that so quickly can harden. I need God in order to handle what happens on North First Street every week. Sometimes I get filled with anxiety and get so nervous before we head down. This week I decided to try something different….I am a speech therapist and have been learning how to write “Social Stories” for kids who are on the autistic spectrum so that they can better understand social situations. Social stories help autistic kids decrease their anxiety in given situations. I figured…hey it couldn’t hurt to try and write one about going to North First Street to see if it helped my anxiety. What came out was as follows:
On Sundays we go down to North First Street to hand out food and clothes. I drive down there and pull into the lot and then people rush around to ask what needs to be done. I tell people where to put things and where to set the tables up at. Sometimes they ask me for things or for help. Sometimes I can give them what they want and sometimes I cannot. When I have what they want, they are happy and hug me. When I can’t give them what they want they walk away with a frown on their face or a sad look. My heart feels sad when I can’t help them. I feel like I am disappointing them, but I am only supposed to hand out clothes and food. I give them everything that we have but sometimes it is not enough and I take on their pain. The pain makes me feel like I want to cry and throw up and it scares me like I don’t want to be in their position. But their position is not like a sickness that you can catch. If I don’t have what they need, they will not hurt me. They will just ask someone somewhere else.
I get nervous because I get scared that someone will be mad and come and hurt me or my family. Or that God will put me or my family in a position like they are in and I get scared of that. I get scared that God might do something like that to me too and I don’t want that. What I need to remember is that God loves ma ND my family as well as the people on North First Street and He did not make the things happen to them. If I can’t help them, I need to say, “I am sorry but I don’t have that today and let God take care of the rest.” I need to suggest to them to “Ask God to show them where they can get help.” I need to love them without taking on their pain. I need to trust that God has the rest taken care of. I also need to remember that the volunteers will be just fine too. It is up to God to teach them what He wants them to see and it is not up to me to make their experience perfect.
Dear God, I relinquish control of the events that happen on North First Street. I leave the people and the events solely in your hands. I know that you have it taken care of and that I do not need to carry it on my shoulders. Please help me to grow in this area. Please lift the weights off of my shoulders. In Jesus Holy Name, Amen.
After writing this Olivia and I loaded up the food and headed down to North First. Keith had already gone down a bit earlier to set up. Little did I know that he was having similar anxiety. When he pulled up in the lot to set up the tables, he saw a huge line of people already gathered in the shade. As he got out of the car, people were pulling him in all different directions, needing instruction on how to set up the tables, where to put the boxes, and numerous personal questions about their individual situations. All Keith felt was a huge wave of desperation and chaos. Everyone seemed so needy today and did not take instruction well, therefore he had a lot of people trying to help but actually just causing a lot of confusion. As more volunteers arrived, Keith started to relax a little bit but not for long because as his eyes traveled back down the line, he saw the huge number of people lined up. Keith stayed at the start of the line shaking hands with people as they received their plates. Waves of panic kept hitting him, “what if we don’t have enough food…” As he was reacting to the fear, he was also trying to talk it out to the ladies who were serving. “We are not going to have enough food,” he told them, “I know that I do not have any faith right now. Lord I am sorry that I do not have any faith but I see these hungry people and I see the food and I don’t know how you are going to do it!” Keith continued to reason out loud saying, “I know that God has provided for almost 2 years now and I should have more faith but I don’t.” He said that as he looked down the line he felt overwhelmed by the heaviness that people were carrying. He felt the sorrow that so many have felt…the oppression and desperation that was thick in the air. This went on for a bit longer until finally Keith gave up. He threw both arms up in the air and said, “I have no faith God and I am so sorry. I give up control and put it into your hands.”
What was interesting was that the women serving had total faith that God would provide and they kept reassuring Keith. Shortly after, a man walked up to the table with 2 more huge pans of food. Yes…. 2 pans of food that we were not expecting. God has such a great sense of humor. It wasn’t until Keith finally gave up control that God was able to make things happen and sure enough…..Willy came up to the table…. The last person in line and received the last 2 scoops of spaghetti… I am so so so thankful to God that He is the God of provision….that He is the God of all things!!! That He carries the load and not us (When we finally give it to him :0) and that He is the only true anxiety buster!!!!!
After I wrote my “Social Story” I received immediate comfort and peace. After Keith gave up control and gave it to God…he also found joy and peace. When we look to God, He gives us new tender, responsive hearts. God lays us out on the table and gently cuts an opening in our chests….He looks to His right and He sees Jesus laying on the other table. He gently cuts open Jesus’ heart and transplants it into ours. It is in this transplanted heart that we receive the ability to love more like Jesus. The beautiful things is that this transplant is available to anyone who would like it!
It is with this heart that I wept for Willy who was jumped by the train tracks and set on fire this last week. Willy is about the kindest guy around. He is always drunk but is very kind. The people who jumped him burned his arms from just above the elbow down to his wrists. Willy was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and his arms were wrapped with gauze which was loose and falling down. Dark black charred skin and huge blisters covered his elbows. Burned flesh twist down his forearms into the wrapping of white gauze. My stomach turned and I wanted to cry. No one deserves torture… it broke my heart. Some of the people by the river said that they have been terrorized over the past 2 weeks. Someone has beat people up with a metal pipe breaking and fracturing bones, burning others. My heart was very tender and responsive. I have never seen anything like that before. Please pray for Willy and for the other people who have enough on their plates without being beaten in the process.
The homeless often take care of the homeless. They check on each other and watch over the ones who suffer from P.T.S.D., anxiety, and depression to the point of not being able to be around other people. They bring bandages, ointment, and hydrogen peroxide around to try and mend the wounds. The medical care at the mission is a blessing for the people who live on the streets. It is so easy to for me to judge as I drive by in my car, but it isn’t as simple as that. There are so many other things that play into “homelessness”.
As I was getting ready to leave, I had a great visit with a man who frequents our Sunday afternoon lunches. He is about 6’5’’ and probably doesn’t weigh more than 170 pounds. He shared about his experiences in Vietnam and how he was spit on and cursed at when he got back home. A few years after returning home from the war he was in a very bad car wreck that left him with traumatic brain injuries which caused seizures. He shared how his memory isn’t what it was before the wreck and it was obvious that his story is like many other people out there…. It is uniquely his…See every person out there has a different story and no story is the same.
God is in the process of softening my heart… of making it more tender and responsive. God doesn’t ask me to solve the problems of North First Street.. He just asks me to show love and He will do the rest!
Lord I trust you to handle the big things and the little things that worry me….I trust You to be my peace and my joy!! In Jesus Holy Name…. Amen! :0)