Today, I am afraid.
Yesterday, I found out that one of our friends in Clarkston, I’ll call him “G,” texted my husband to see if we could help him find a job. My heart tore a bit when Doug told me that news. You see, this man is a man of dignity, quiet strength, and deep service. He came to the United States in a state of humility – a college educated science teacher who was scraping to survive in his homeland, coming to my native soil to find a better way to provide for his wife and daughters. He arrived, alone, and got a job at a chicken plant, doing manual labor for minimum wage…living with a family member…intent on supporting wife and children from thousands of miles away. Within a few days of starting the job, he slipped on a wet floor, fell, and shattered his hip. He is now incapable of working manual labor. He needs a job and even has skills that are transferrable…but jobs are so very hard to come by. So, he humbled himself (again) and reached out to my husband, his one American friend, to see about finding a job. I hurt inside for this brave man. His dignity is being compromised, and there is so little I can do.
Last night, I felt so disturbed by the juxtaposition of my evening at the private school junior high band concert, with extra refreshments, unbounded optimism, and amazing community. In my heart, my friend G was home in an apartment, hurting in his body, and wondering how on earth he would keep forging ahead – after so many hard knocks and dead ends. Why? Why me? Who knows? Why is the skinny white lady so charmed, while the gaunt African friend is so pressed by life on this beautiful spring/summer night?
As I drove out of my manicured neighborhood, I remembered Isaiah’s words, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). A man of sorrows. If I follow Jesus, if I walk that path behind Him, will I not, too, be drawn into a path of sorrows? If my one refugee friend (of…say…5 refugee families in Clarkston who I really “know”) is hurting so badly, and his hurt is hurting me so badly, what will happen to my heart when I know 20 families, or 50? Will my heart break? Will I become a woman of sorrows?
I’m not that lady.
I’m a careful friend. I measure things out so that there is enough for me left at the end of the day. I give in controlled ways so that I know how to breathe even in the giving. I don’t want to drown in sorrows that I can help, fix, or mitigate.
Now, I know the spiritual answer. The Jesus one. He will go before me. He won’t give me what I can’t handle. His grace is sufficient.
I really do believe all that stuff. BUT.
…What if I fail? What if I can’t appropriate the grace, the power of the Holy Spirit, the surrender that is necessary? What if I end up bringing something to Clarkston that looks like pity or hard charity or lukewarm relationship because I want a way to define, touch, and then back away from the sorrows that are there?
Honestly, I’m not sure what the Gospel looks like in these places. My hunch is that it looks much less like “helping” and much more like “friend-ing.” My hunch is that it is much more process-messy than it is solution-neat. My hunch is that the “me” part won’t add much, but that the Jesus part will bridge the gaps. I suppose I will find out.
But, the fear is not small.
Lord, may my fear of You be bigger.
May my thirst for Your glory and my wonder at it’s fullness eclipse my shame at not being able to fix, solve, or help where the sorrows touch my heart. If I am to be a woman of sorrows, I pray that I would be a gracious one – holding close to the hem of her Master’s garment.
And, Lord, please provide for my new friend, G, whose dignity can only really be carried and restored by You.