Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Barefoot Lady.

Sometimes God has to send us to other places to do ministry so we can be more wide-eyed at the opportunities that arise daily right here in our own backyard. If you've ever been on a mission trip, you may have experienced this phenomenon as well.

Last week Seth and I did ministry in Kentucky, where the beauty of the Appalachian mountains is in stark contrast with the ugliness of poverty. People are hungry. 
There's no industry. 
The next generation is growing up in the same painful cycle as the one before it.

I had the opportunity to work inside the home of a woman named Joyce. Joyce, who had lost her husband and both her sons, began to hoard physical possessions. 

At first we weren't sure Joyce would let complete strangers dig through her prized stuff, but slowly we began to build a relationship that led to trust.

Her things made such good company...she never had to worry about those records and lamps and globes and 10 years of old catalogs up and leaving or dying on her. 

The treasures tangled with the trash until the day we came and asked God to empower us to get her dignity back. 

{She was living in filth and squalor, but it didn't seem to bother her anymore.  She had lost far more than her dignity.}

"Everything I ever loved has died," she said. "So I won't tell ya I love ya. I'll only tell ya like ya a whole lot."

It cut us to the soul to see this deep emotional pain which mired Joyce in a hoarding lifestyle.

My Father reminded me quietly as we "twirled" cobwebs with a toilet brush (!) called "The Twirler" -- it turned into something resembling Shrek's Cotton Candy, which proved to be quite the morale builder-- that there are people in my own city who are just as quietly desperate and isolated and as broken as Joyce in Kentucky.  

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the needs of my own community and become discouraged instead of doing what I can do through the power of Christ in me. 

After all, our God never reveals a need He won't give us the courage and grace we need to go about meeting it.

Yesterday morning, while driving with the kids in the van, I saw an exhausted-looking woman walking along the highway in our town. At 11 AM it was already a scorcher, and I realized God was giving me a chance to see the needs once again, but without getting overwhelmed. I rolled down my window and hollered.

"Do you need a ride? It's so hot outside and I would be glad to take you wherever you need to go!"

She shook her head and simply said no.

I have to admit I was surprised. If I were her, I would have jumped at the chance to have a lift. Disappointed, I kept driving for a second but then braked and turned around again to ask her one more time.

It was then I realized she was barefoot. I could see her feet, blackened with the remnants of the hot asphalt.

I winced, imagining the pain her trip caused her, and I told her again I would be honored to give her a ride, that I had my children with me and wouldn't hurt her. She declined again.

I can't get the barefoot girl out of my mind. I can't get Joyce out of my mind either. They both remind me of myself and how I have often refused to trust the pursuit of a God who cleans up my messes. A God who offers me a refuge when I've walked so far on my own that my feet are burning, and even beyond a lift Home, He is glad to wash my dirty feet as well.

He never gave up on me. He is calling you and me to keep pursuing these hurting people: our friends and neighbors, our co-workers, the children we see who need encouragement.

All He asks of us is to find ways to creatively whisper His love to a world desensitized to His voice.

What can I do in a community where there are close to 4700 unchurched people?  These people are not just numbers, they are names and faces and hearts and stories in need of Him.

So I can keep doing what I've been called to do.
Love them Home.

I can get to know their stories. I will share a grin and care enough to ask why they don't wear one. I can take the opportunity to surprise them by remembering their names and their kids' names. I will pray for the one behind me in the checkout line and I take time to treat the waitress like she is a real person with a real heart. I will clean up after them, especially the biggest messes. I can meet real needs especially when it seems inconvenient to me. Most of all, I will delight to wash their feet through my words and more powerfully, my actions.

Jesus used the same act to show His people the full extent of His Love.

I have been challenged deeply to love better right here on this street in this community because i was reminded so illustratively of the broken, barefoot, messy heart in each of us until we run into the Healer. 

Is there a memory that draws us more clearly into servanthood than the picture of us before we met Jesus? 

Joyce's house and the barefoot lady's feet brought me back to my own need for Jesus, which gets stronger every day I serve Him. His love has been ridiculous in its generosity, and because of this love, I can afford to be more generous than it is wise or practical to be.

"Love doesn't try to be efficient, when it's extravagant it's least wasted."
Bob Goff

Looking for ways to show Jesus?  How about these verses?  Or this song (someone on our trip brought it to remembrance)?

Let's pull up our sleeves and get busy washing the weary feet.

Join me?


Whitney Dyer said...

I'm the same way about those that are less fortunate....can't get them out of my head or off my mind. I just pray for them, wishing I could do more! Thanks for your post! You are such a God Send and I'm glad to call you my friend!