One time someone asked me “So Thomas, what got you into ministering to the homeless?” It’s a question I’ve gotten before and I always give a different answer as there are lots of reasons I feel called. This time I answered “Well, because no one else does.”
It wasn’t till afterwards that I felt convicted for giving the wrong answer. If I could go back to all the times I was asked that question I would answer “Because I want to obey God.” I hate how much the humanitarian aspect of scripture has been overlooked or watered down.
In the past year since our vision for EXO Community blossomed, I’ve almost completely traded my social circle for street friends. I do this because:
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
It’s a controversial book. I can remember sitting up in bed a few nights in a row trying to wrap my head around what King Solomon was trying to get across. It took me shutting my brain up and just obeying it before I understood where Solomon was coming from.
This past Valentine’s Day I was able to hangout with 3 good street friends of mine. First we had coffee with our friend Poony, one of the sweetest women you’ll ever meet. We were able to catch up & then find a wheelchair for her as she’s been without one for quite awhile. I’ve never been around Poony without seeing her schizophrenia kick in or cry because of the way people treat her on the street because she’s odd. This day she didn’t cry, not even a frown only smiles and pleasant conversation..
After we said goodbye we picked up our friends Cliff and Tony and went to the tattoo shop. I’ve never spent time with Cliff without seeing him get flustered over past events or his homelessness, but this day he only laughed and smiled his big cheesy smile (he’s off the streets now!). I’ve never been around Tony without seeing him get depressed or lonely, however this day he was all goofy jokes and happiness. After sharing in so many heavy conversations over our relationships I was happy God blessed us all with a day of relief from the burdens.
However, if I was being honest, most days I hangout with my friends, my happiness is compromised. This is true because they have some heavy burdens to carry and putting myself in someone’s shoes is often an unpleasant but necessary part of the healing process. I personally feel like a fool some days because my yoke is so light. I have a good family, good health, strong faith, opportunities and more and here I am trying to relate and motivate people who are hurdling mountains. But then I think of what Jesus of Nazareth said while teaching in Galilee:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:28-30
I always thought that Jesus was telling us in this verse that being a Christian is not a heavy load to pull but I know from experience and scripture that it totally is. Now I see his words in a different light and I kind of relate. “Come to me all who are tired and weak and I will give you relief. Work with me in loving and healing this broken world and learn from me along the way, for I am not like the self serving persons you’ve known but I am different, and I will do what it takes to help your broken hearts. For my burden in life was made light and I want to use my extra strength to share with you who have none.”
I’ve always chosen my role models by how many scars they carry that don’t belong to them. This Valentines day I got to share in the joy that comes from relief and rest and I got to feel what Jesus and Solomon were talking about in Mathew and Ecclesiastes. God is commanding us to participate in the suffering of the world and bare the scars that would otherwise inflict the weak.
Its going to hurt sometimes, but if you stick with it:
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” -Isaiah 58:8.
Start by making a friend who you know could use one and inviting them into your life and you into theirs. If you’re from a world where everyone has a friend, take a step down into a different world where graceful relationships are scarce. If you yourself are heavy burdened, stop caring your burdens alone and share Christ’s yoke. He will teach you, strengthen you and give you rest.
I’ve seen it.