When I started working with Celebrate Recovery, one of the men who started this ministry in our church told me it would be the hardest ministry I had ever done. I didn't doubt that. But I had no idea how God would open my eyes to things in such dramatic ways, and how he would use the women I was ministering to in ways I could not have imagined, to change my heart and bring healing to me.
Recently one of the ladies I've been mentoring for a few weeks moved out of the transition home she has been living in since being released from prison into an inner city ministry home. The day she was moving I picked her up along with her meager belongings. We spent the day together along with my youngest daughter. We ran errands, had a nice long lunch together and then moved her things into her new home. While we were running errands I took her by to see the home that my husband and I moved out of almost 2 years ago after 8 break-ins. The last year or so that we lived there I never walked out my door without being armed because of the crime all around us. I had become so angry with the whole situation that I lived with the constant thought that eventually someone would break in our home while I was in the house, and I would probably shoot someone and kill them. The pattern the criminals used in my neighborhood was for 3 minors to break in, one adult to drive, and another person to be the lookout. Knowing that if I ended up shooting someone, it would probably be a teenager, bothered me at first. But by the time we moved, I really didn't care any more. When that reality hit me, my husband and I knew it was time to walk away from the home we loved.
As my new friend and I were driving up to my old neighborhood, about 3 blocks from where I used to live, she interrupted our conversation to tell me that a rundown, now abandoned store we were passing used to be her address. She was homeless and lived under the bridge behind the store and they let her use their address to receive mail. I was a little more than startled by this news, and my heart just melted to think of all that she has been through.
As the home I had loved so much came into view, I pointed to it and told her a few things about it. I showed her the camellia bushes that bloom so beautifully in the winter. I told her about the sweet smelling wisteria that grows up the big tree on the patio. Then we rounded the corner and I showed her the abandoned houses and the crack houses where the crime was coming from that the police couldn't seem to control. As we passed by some of those houses, I noticed she was looking out the window. Then she quietly spoke and told me that she didn't think she remembered my house, and she didn't think she had ever broken into it, but if she had she was really sorry.
It was much later that night when the full irony of the whole situation really hit me. This woman, who is now my friend, is someone that just a short time ago I would have shot without blinking an eye, without even knowing who she was or what her story was, had she dared to break in my home while I was there. Granted, I probably would have been in therapy for the rest of my life. But in the moment, I would have aimed and shot to kill. And I'm a good marksman.
I don't write this to open a debate about rights or laws or obligations when you are a victim of a crime. That's a whole different subject. I can't explain why we were victims of so many crimes when the homes around us weren't plagued as often. I can say without a doubt that God's timing is impeccable, that saying he works in mysterious ways is an understatement.
It took about a year for my heart to heal over feeling like we were forced out of our home. I can say now in all honesty that I don't miss my house any more. I can also say that I believe that God knew where he was leading me. He knew that there was no way I could work with these women with the anger and resentment that I held toward crime, those who commit them, and the system that constantly releases them back onto our streets. He knew I needed time to work through the resentment and anger. I had no idea.
So, with those things in mind, this question has been burning a hole in my heart. WHAT IF . . . ? For a couple of years now, I've been asking myself, 'what if I really lived what I say I believe?' But this week it has been so much more prevalent in my mind.
We live in a culture where words don't always mean what we say. God's word calls us to obedience. It seems to me that most of us call it obedience if we just look like we are following the rules on the surface. He didn't say to obey when it is easy, when everyone else is doing it, when you aren't being challenged, when it goes along with the culture. He called us to a life of holiness that defies our limited understanding and ability. Then He equips us to follow that call.
With that in mind:
What if . . . the next time God tapped on my heart I just ran to the thing he was showing me?
What if . . . when God asks me to do something I responded with an immediate YES, before the enemy
had time to put a hundred excuses in my head?
What if . . . I personally ministered to the poor, the prisoners, the homeless, the outcasts, instead of just
sending my money hoping someone else would do it?
What if . . . I quit making excuses for why I don't respond to those tugs on my heart? I don't have time,
money, strength, passion, desire, you fill in the blank.
What if . . . I broke down some of those safe little walls I have built and actually listened long enough to hear
What if . . . I really lived out what I say I believe?
IF you do any of the above, you may find yourself running toward someone you just heard say she wished someone would just kill her because she doesn't have the courage to kill herself.
You may find yourself with your hands on the side of her face looking right into her eyes and telling her to just CHOOSE LIFE!
You may find yourself making new friends that look nothing like you, act nothing like you, and have habits and lifestyles that you completely disagree with.
And you may find yourself discovering that you have just realized what real obedience looks like. And you might even enjoy it.