I see her eyes downcast and an unwillingness to even meet my gaze. She sits and fiddles with her hands as they clench and unclench between her knees. Fingers cross and uncross. Never still.
I see the marks up her arms. Some raised and thick with scar tissue. Some fresh with scabs just barely formed.
I want to ask why. Not of her, I know why from her. I can barely dream I’d be doing anything different if I were her. If I’d walked the road she’s walked. If I’d seen the things she’s seen.
I want to ask why of God. Why was this the life given to her? Why has she had to endure atrocity? Why can’t she just catch a break?
I roll my eyes at myself as I hear the trite conversation starters come out of my mouth. I keep telling myself to just shut-up as I ask trivial questions about her day. Her week. Her weekend.
For God’s sake, she’s hurting! Who cares what she did on the weekend! She cut her arms, that’s what she did! Is that what you want her to say?
I cringe inwordly at the constant sound of my own voice. The chatter. I sound like I’m talking to the lady scanning my groceries at the check out and I’m pleading with myself to just stop. To wipe the smile off my face and let her see that I hurt for her. No, that I hurt with her.
I’ve been told point blank that I go too deep too quick. World knows I’m awkward at small talk and I just want to get to the heart of it. To the what makes you ticks and the where you came from’s and the reasons why you believe what you believes. I’m not good at weather and I’m certainly not good at what’d you do this weekend because my answer is always the same. Lazed around. Hung with the fam. Y’know.
But for some reason I can’t do it with her. I can’t ask her the hard questions or the in’s and out’s because I know enough to know that’s probably not what she wants to spend her days talking about. Why would I want to trigger points of pain with her at this very moment or bring up things about the past that maybe she’d rather forget. Maybe she’s tired of people digging and prying and feeling like there’s something wrong with her. Maybe I can just be that light -hearted friend who can make her smile or laugh.
I know I’m wrong. Even in the moment I know I’m wrong. Because more than likely she’s never actually had someone to listen. Someone to feel her pain along side her. Someone to weep with her and nod in agreement that it’s just not fair. Maybe she’s never had anyone actually validate her feelings and let her know that while I don’t fully understand I want to. Maybe she’s never sat across from a healthy mother figure. Maybe all she knows is people who don’t give a damn and are just looking out for themselves and are seeking to get what they can from their relationship with her.
So why can’t I do it?
The truth is I’m scared. I say I want to help and serve and be there for the youth in my community in really tangible ways but right now, sitting in this room with her, it’s so much easier to offer her a pack of Kraft Dinner than to really go to the place of allowing her to speak her pain. Because what then? What if she tells me? What if she let’s me into her life and shares more than I know what to do with? What if she needs me more than just here every other week handing out food and sweaters? What if she needs me outside the walls of this place? This room where it’s safe and there are professionals around and after closing we all go home?
I say I trust God. I say that I will follow where He leads. I say that it can be anywhere.
Except when it gets scary I start to talk about the weather and the weekend and what we’re having for dinner. When it’s about to get real some weird shift happens and suddenly I’m not sure I can follow this path. I’m not sure I’m qualified or prepared. In fact, I’m certain I’m neither.
I say I trust and will follow but then the doors get locked up and I go home to my beautifully simple family who hug altogether too many times in a day and I sink into my life and I’m really comfortable here. We sit on the couch, legs all tangled one over top of another and we sip on our tea and we talk about the harsh realities I’ve seen and then we flip on an episode of Suits and let the cares of the day be gone.
This is it. Us vs. Them. Us with the beautifully easy life and the whining about how expensive the braces on the children’s teeth are. Us with our Costco stocked fridge, oh and the one in the garage too, and let’s not forget about the deep freeze. Them with the fridge empty and no means to buy toilet paper.
The question begs to be asked – is my time volunteering really what I’m called to? Is my every other week, few hours of duty really it? Because scripture says it’s my life that is supposed to be given up, it never draws a line. It doesn’t ever say that we are to leave them when our time is done and cozy back into our posh life.
The question begs to be asked – am I volunteering my time to earn the social justice checkmark on my report card? Am I doing just enough to make the grade but nothing too much so that it actually costs me something. Anything, really.
The question begs to be asked – at what point am I going to be brave enough to say, why don’t you come to our home for dinner, without worrying that something might be stolen. Without worrying that it might be unsafe. Without worrying that maybe the people they’re connected to will find out where we live and damage something.
When will it stop? When will I stop? When will I actually live like I say I want to and believe what I say I believe?
When is it going to cost me the way Jesus said it should? Until it does, I’m afraid I’m just not getting it. I want to, but I’m not sure I am.
Here’s what I do know, though. I know that I’m going to continue to fall on my knees in the middle of the living room floor and beg God to show me. I know that I’m going to continue to let the tears fall as I pray for the cuts up her arm and the wounds on her soul. I know I’m going to keep engaging in trivial banter until I recognize that Christ is with me and in me and I let His words be mine and I love in a way that is beyond Kraft Dinner. When it starts to cost me. When it starts to squeeze a little. When it’s a bit scary and so it brings me back down to my knees in prayer that He will deliver on His promises.
Because I know He will. In my mind, I do. It seems my heart has some catching up to do and so I pray earnestly that He will push me out of the comfortable place. That I may be an empty vessel without contrived ideas but simply hands of love. That the love will break beyond the trivial and will move me to actions that are hard but that I will simply place one scared foot in front of another because I trust deeply, oh so deeply, in the promises of God.
The journey is slow. The process is long. But I know He’s with me and so we’ll move forward together, one awkward conversation at a time.
**I process through writing and so you, my friends, are privvy to my process. The details mentioned here are many stories melded together to make one and not specific to one person for the sake of privacy. My questions are simply that – questions.