My mom asked me yesterday if there was anything in this world that doesn’t stress me out after I got nervous over a partially-consumed glass of milk sitting on the dining room table.
“Not really,” I replied. “That’s why I’m on medication, remember?”
She rolled her eyes and I smiled, because there is humor in that answer. Sock seams. Glasses of milk. Dishes that need to be returned to their owners. Laundry. I recognize the ridiculous nature of many of my compulsions and worries.
I am also thankful for them.
The hubby and I had our first official shift at the women’s and children’s shelter last Friday evening. We were introduced to all sorts of things, from operating the security cameras to locking the facility to evening med calls. We helped check in the residents for the evening, read case notes and started the process of matching names with faces. Chris played with some of the kids. When 9 o’clock rolled around, we were both surprised at how quickly the time had passed.
I expected to be overwhelmed at the prospect of interacting with women who have lived extremely difficult lives, but I felt strangely comfortable. I don’t understand addiction and I’ve never experienced the kind of violence that might lead a woman and her children to the streets. But I do have a pill schedule. I do know what it is to feel so afraid that the emotion translates into numbness. I do battle the drive to push things down, to shove them aside, to soothe the pain. Each woman at the shelter, if she really commits to the program, comes in with all of this as her reality. She’s at the end of herself. She has nowhere else to go.
There is a rawness, a realness, to a community made up of those who have no time for bull. I don’t know their stories yet, but I can already sense, even in my limited time among them, that these ladies hunger for what is true. They’ve seen every face. They’ve been every face. They still struggle with playing the game. But they want out of it. They want something more. Something better.
In that, I find the promise of Advent.
There is hope to be found in every bad decision. There is grace to be had in every fear. We surely do live in the consequences, but even there, we do not have to be alone. Consider:
Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. – Genesis 3:14b-15 (NKJV)
Even as the Lord enacted the Curse, the just results of the actions of Adam, Eve and all subsequent generations, He offered salvation. He promised that One would come who would bring righteousness, peace and hope. Scripture is liberally doused with reminders of this promise:
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (NKJV)
The people who walked in darkness. The women who walked the streets. Those who dwelt in the shadow of death. The women who spent their last dime on a fix. They have seen a great light. Upon them a light has shined.
Marie, who walked in darkness. Who nearly drowned in a sea of fear. Who crawled near the cliff of oblivion. I have seen a great light. Upon me a light has shined.
I thank God that He has saved me from myself, but I also thank Him that He has allowed me to identify, in some small measure, with the rough roads these beautiful women have walked. That is the promise of Advent. He came to save and in the saving, leaves the scars that enable us to reach out to others.
Whoever and wherever you are, there is a light. It pierces the darkness of your bad choices, your irresponsibility and the things that were forced on you. It bathes every wound and every secret place in tenderness. The light beckons you.
Jesus beckons you.