Friday, May 25, 2012

Hand-in-Hand

We always begin our walks much later than I think we should. The sun already beginning its slow descent, casting shadows long, and shining golden on the broken glass littering our street. I hurry Jayci along, trying to convince her to ride in the double stroller rather than walk. She is three and insistent, however, and some battles just aren't worth fighting. So we begin our slow procession to the park. Caden babbles in the stroller, and we stop to chat momentarily with neighbors out on their porches. When we get to the yellow house on the corner, there is a tumbling of legs and voices as the door flings open and we are joined by three small friends. Their voices are shrill, each clamoring to tell me about their day more loudly than the other. "Daddy" wears his ever-present rain boots and is eating a grapefruit like an apple. The juice dribbles down his chin, staining his already-grubby-maybe-was-white-long-ago school shirt. "This good," he announces with a grin, and holds up the grapefruit as he grabs Maverick's leash, chattering to Adam about his day. The two girls flank me, wearing their school uniforms and yelling over each other about the field trip they went on that day. I focus hard to decipher their words as they speak loudly and quickly, and I'm distracted with constantly reminding Jayci to stay on the sidewalk. Flecks of orange Doritos are scattered in the littlest one's hair, and her hands are sticky-orange with what smells like buffalo sauce. I cringe as she reaches for my hand, envisioning my own hands stained orange as her fingers entwine with mine. Reluctantly, I squeeze and smile at her, feeling more little fingers slip into my other hand.

We play at the park until dusk deepens into evening and the light of day turns to the cool of the night. Walking back with the kiddos, we drop them off at their house and they yell goodbyes and see you tomorrows as they tramp back up the porch stairs, dodging the diapers and beer bottles strewn in their path. But the next day, their porch is conspicuously empty. The blinds remain askew, the side of their house is still smeared with mud, and the No Trespassing Sign still hangs sideways in the window. But no light shines out, no cars pulse with music out front, and no small children come bounding outside as we walk past. They've been telling us they were moving for months now, but most of our kiddos live this way: threatening to move, yet remaining fixtures on our front porch and at our dinner table. So their absence feels sudden and terrible, like they've been evicted from our lives.

I never quite get used to this part of the kiddos' lives - the evictions, the transience. It seems like every day, I drive by another pile of furniture on the side of the road. Mismatched chairs, tables with broken legs and cracked tops, boxes full of lamps, electric cords, books, and skillets spilling out the top. The boxes get sifted and picked through. Slowly the contents spread further and further into the street until finally the city comes and hauls it all away, the landlord cleans things up, and a new family moves in. It's not long before new kids show up on our front porch and we are shuffling cards and explaining "presidents" all over again. And inevitably reminding them seven hundred times not to knock when the yellow sign isn't out.

I cant help but worry about the kiddos who have moved away. Wondering where they went, who is making sure they eat dinner, who is practicing their reading with them and taking them to drive-in movies on rainy nights (not the best idea we've ever had, admittedly). It's hard for me not to wonder why God would put us in this neighborhood just as so many kids are moving away.

I recognize that transience is a part of this type of ministry (we've been doing it long enough to know that), but that doesn't make it easier for me. It doesn't stop me from letting my heart get attached to kids who I might never see again. And sometimes, I think it would be easier if I wouldn't. If I'd just put up walls to protect myself. Not care so much, just meet their physical needs, give them breakfast and help with their homework, sending them on their way with a snack or two in their pockets. And that would be good, right? That would be loving the poor too, wouldn't it?

But even as I ask the questions, I know the answer. We're not really doing the work of Jesus until we offer our own hands to get dirty, our own heart to be broken. Saying YES to loving the poor, the fatherless, and the widow means standing beside them and allowing their fingers to entwine with mine, no matter how messy my own hands get in the process. Because there's something inside of me that changes in the process. When my hands are clasped together with those who are uniquely loved by a Savior that cares intimately about the poor, I am closer to Jesus than ever before. I know Him more fully by staring into their eyes and CARING about them, by grasping the elusive truth that WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER. And in the giving, in the offering of my hand to those who need love, companionship, food, a listening ear, or a big fat hug, it is in the offering that I am transformed and rescued from myself.

And as I am rescued from myself by a loving creator, I am able to offer something far greater than any "thing" to these kids. I give them Jesus. A Jesus who undoubtedly cares intimately about every single one of their needs. But if we give them only brand new coats each winter or toys at Christmastime, or even hot meals and after-school snacks, we only end up giving them one more thing they will have to leave behind.
I look at the pile of rubble on our street, discarded toys and clothing and leftover furniture, and I am reminded that we will leave it all behind. The computer I'm typing on, the clothes I'm wearing, the van with the squeaky belt, my brand new fancy-hair-do . . . None of it matters in the face of the hurting, the poor, the orphan. At the end, I want my heart to have been poured out for those things that mattered. For justice, for mercy, for grace, for love. And sometimes emptying out our hearts is painful and messy. But the best things always are. Orange-Dorito-flecked-hair, blood-stained streets, nail-scarred-hands, open-heart surgery scars stretched across my baby's chest, and the hole in my Savior's side. Tilled soil and messy dirt grow the most beautiful flowers. And buffalo-sauce stained fingers are but a reminder of how Christ steps into our mess. He picks up the very things we've left behind. The broken, the dirty, the ruined. The things we thought beyond redemption. His grace covers, it heals, and it loves. And even when the shadows grow long and my faith seems weak, He walks beside me, lovingly entwining His fingers with mine and promising I will never walk alone.

13 comments:

  1. Awesome post! I live in the Atlanta area as well, and your blog has been such a blessing to me for a while now, although I've never commented before. You can truly see your heart for the ministry you're called to, and it's such a refreshing reminder to fellow Christians of what our faith is REALLY all about! I pray the Lord will continue to bless and protect your family...and bring you some good solid sleep soon! :)

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  2. Well, this sure is beautiful. In every way.

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  3. Even if you touch those children's lives for only a few moments, it makes a difference for a lifetime. Thank you for what you do.

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  4. Thank you so much for being there. I know the pain of having children you have loved and cared for, gone in an instant. I remember when I first started working in the city, I was alarmed at the amount of transience our children experience at such a young age.

    You are an inspiration. Love you.

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  5. Loved this, Beka. You guys are doing a wonderful work.

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  6. This was such an awesome post!

    What an incredible blessing that those children have you in their lives, no matter how short of a time that may be. Your family is a true testament to what/who/how He wants us to be.

    Hugs and prayers!!

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  8. Thank you so much for this post. As a peds cardiac nurse, I often think it would be easier if I didn't allow myself to fall in love with my patients. If I only did the things required of me (took vitals, gave meds, etc.) then it wouldn't hurt as bad when some of them died. However, I know that is not what God called me to do. He called me to love them as he loves them. I know that we are all better off for having loved and lost than having never loved at all. Thank you again for the sweet reminder of this!

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  9. I'm just getting around to reading this one, but it was worth the wait. It's so beautifully written and heartfelt as usual. Thank you for the parallels between our relationship with others and God' relationship with us. It's a reminder I need often. I pray your blessings always

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  10. I never stop being amazed by you.

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  11. Beautiful words from a beautiful heart. I am sure that no matter how short a period you get to spend with those precious children that a small percentage of them will remember one day the kindndess that you showed to them. Maybe, just maybe, you will have a great impact on the choices they make for themselves when they get older.

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  12. Have I ever told you you're my hero?

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  13. Loved reading your posts and viewing all your gorgeous images. I love how you capture so many of the little things. Such a great reminder! The work you're doing is inspiring as well.

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