I saw K on the track a few weeks ago. It took until about half way though our conversation, when she mentioned her last name actually, for me to remember having met her about two years ago. Two years. Two years and she’s still out on the streets. Drunk. High. Wandering around, not making any sense.
I guess I’m not surprised. She was there long before we met her two years ago – and she very well may be out there for many more years.
But it was the conversation I had with her the other night that was different and stuck with me.
She told me that she knows God. She gave her life to Him, prayed a prayer, went to church – she did the whole thing. But she’s still here. NOTHING has changed. And she’s tired. “So that’s it,” she said. She gives up and she’s just hoping it is enough. Because she’s tried to be a good person but there’s only so many times a person can get knocked down before they can’t take it anymore. “I better be going to Heaven, cause I don’t know what else to do. And I’ve got nothing else to give.”
I told her I thought she was. Maybe you would have said something different. But I honestly believe it. She gave her life to God – and it’s been a shit life since then. Doesn’t that go against everything we preach to people? We tell them to give their life to God and he will turn it around! But it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes, the circumstances of life are just hard! Sometimes, God just walks with you through the pain. But I am beginning to realize more and more that it takes a whole lot of practice to recognize God in the midst of that pain and hurt. It is easier to self medicate.
God LOVES you, just as much as the day he created you. And he’s never left you. You’re frustrated, and you want to give up on the whole thing and hope it was good enough – well, it was. But don’t give up, cause God won’t give up on you. I know it sucks out here, but no one understands abandonment, mockery, loneliness and judgment like God.
I didn’t say all of that. I wish I had. All I said was “I think you are. God loves you. Don’t give up on yourself.” But she wasn’t really with it. She just shook her head and got more and more frustrated.
In Gary Haugen’s book “The Good News About Injustice” he talks about the simple concept that his friends “knew that they could never understand the deepest part of me if they didn’t have some understanding of the hard things I had seen.” This was such an easy concept for me to grab onto. And then he related it to God. We can’t truly understand the deepest parts of God until we have some understanding of the hard things God has seen. And God sees EVERYTHING! God knows the deepest pain of each individual heart.
I think I understood God just a little bit better after talking with K. Wanting so badly to help and love her, her wanting desperately to receive it as she clung so tightly to my neck in a hug she didn’t want to let go of, while at the same time saying she was better off alone and didn’t need love or help.
I keep reflecting on K as we move into Advent this week, I think interactions like this bring the season into much greater clarity. They help me understand with greater depth the God who so desperately wanted to move among his people by sending a baby, a king, to radically shake up the Kingdom empire and shatter the politics of religion. They help me understand the hope of a people, waiting in eager expectation, for the one who would come to reconcile all their oppression. Only it didn’t look like they thought it would. And they felt they’d been cheated! And so they continued to walk through the oppression and confusion and loneliness and darkness for a while longer – because Christ didn’t come to remove it, but to reconcile it.
K is waiting too. For the baby, for the King. He didn’t appear like she thought he would – but he came. And it changed everything.