Oh My God

I’ve come to figure that stories seem to be breakers of division and catalysts towards solidifying relationships. They draw attention, allow for listeners, create bonds, and set up for another moment of continuance in life’s grand story. They spark imagination, give advice, sever insecurities, and call for repentance.

No wonder Jesus spoke through parables.

At the shelter stories are created day by day, and I only get to collect a few, but of the ones I had the honor of hearing, I’ve decided I’d like to share.

Frankie was a white ol’ chap living in Mexico with his wife and kids for a couple years as he owned a coffee shop and did whatever he could to make their lives comfortable. Unfortunately, and by knowing him now this seems like a stretch to believe, he became addicted to heroin, which resulted in the loss of his family and home. He wound up here, in Seattle, and entered the rehabilitation program so that he may one day go back home to regain and renew his life. In order to be admitted though, one has to go through a 30-day isolation treatment from the outside world in which they cannot speak to anybody, but must stay within a block of the shelter under strict supervision. Once this is done, they go through the program, which takes about 3 months (I had always figured I’d be longer), and once they’re clean, they’re free to carry on with life. It’s been 5 months and Frankie is still here. However, it’s not because of failing the treatment, but so that he knows he’ll never revert to his old lifestyle. He decided it would be best to stay here for a year to eliminate any possibility of going back to drugs, all so that he never loses his family again. He’s assumed the role of chapel aid as Christ has entered his life, and as we were talking yesterday he was adamant in making sure that he’d never said or done anything offensive towards me since I started working here. Although I said “No, you’ve been gold, buddy “ he still sought repentance and stumbled out the door still locked to my eyes. I can only do my best in describing his mannerisms to better paint you a picture of who this guy is, but to receive full understanding you’d have to meet him. I think he’s got some sort of speech impediment, which sometimes jumbles his words; he has tattoos all over his left arm; his hair reminds me of the prince in Beauty and the Beast after the transformation; he wears the same clothes every day (untucked green dress shirt, tie, and khaki pants); is about 6.2 with some muscley girth; but his most defining quality is his peaceful, loving face that tells you there’s more hope in this world that you previously perceived. How great a gift he has in that you are filled with delight upon the luxury of being in his presence.

And I don’t believe this gift to be exclusive; so I wonder, what do I need to change in life to become one who inspires hope to those who are looking; who understands my need for repentance before sinning; and who prepares himself for excellence before making that last stretch to the place we call Home?

Brian was also a heroin addict, but started while in high school and dropped out, spent years and jail, and continued to repeat the cycle for the next 10+ years. Each time his mom would bail him out, but once he got out at the age of 27 she finally said no, you need to figure things out before I let you back into the home. Surprised and discouraged, he moved from Lynnwood to Seattle and spent his first week sleeping outside of 2nd Ave. Eventually swallowing his pride, he bowed his head and signed up for a mat at UGM, ate some meals, attended chapel, and spent his first night in the shelter. The next day he signed up for the rehabilitation program, graduated, attained his GED, and is finishing up classes before applying for a job outside of the shelter to start the next chapter of his life. He gets two nights off a week, Thursdays and Fridays now, and usually takes a bus up to Lynnwood to hang out with his mother. She’s the only person in the family who will talk to him; who will give him the time of day despite his past with drugs and alcohol. His siblings don’t associate themselves and he and his dad had their first conversation in over a year just last week.

So what is Brian’s inspiration and joy of the week? Knowing that come his days off he gets to go home and see a movie with his mom. Simple as that. That he gets to see a freakin movie with his mother, the last person who loves and hasn’t given up hope on him. What a beautiful and heartbreaking joy! You know what tears me up even more, though? The fact that him telling me his story brought him just as much joy because somebody actually cared enough to ask him how he was doing.

This reopened my eyes to how lonely the world is, and that the simple pleasures of life we all take for granted, such as friendship, conversation, and love, are none other than driving forces that give a person the basic will to keep living. Where would Brian be if he didn’t have the face of his mother as something to hold onto as he was sleeping outside and then recovering in rehab? Who knows, and with the deprivation of love this world is suffering from, I think the question society currently asks is, “Who cares?”

When I think of this I’ve overwhelmed with how great an endeavor Christ has left us with, or better, has called us to. Being a light to the world no longer means sacrificing a couple hours of your week to care for the destitute, whether it be a friend or homeless guy, but has been transcended to the point where being a Light To The World is an all consuming conviction that travels with you to the ends of the earth. I pray that we even have the ability and strength to still see that calling amidst our travels and don’t lose sight of the mission we have each been bestowed.

As Christians we understand, to the best of our ability, our love and worth in Christ, yet we still seek that affirmation from other people. However, and I’m not sure if this is hopeful wishing or a fortunate truth, this affirmation from other people may be none other than Christ Himself that dwells within us. If this is true then we have a gift and responsibility to give to the world, and it starts with the person right next door. You hear about people in the dorm or at school who are surrounded by “community” yet still suffer from depression and loneliness and ask, “How is that possible? There are so many people live here, how can they actually feel alone?” Well, good sir, when was the last time you sought that person out to see how they were doing? Real community goes farther than the casual hello and the mere acquaintance.

Lord, I pray we may see others not obligations but as beings of affection and merit. Forgive us our unwillingness to commit and convict us of missed opportunity. Cleanse our pride and take our hearts; give us the wisdom to see our days not as a time of personal devotion, but as moments to respond to the promise and gift you have given us.

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9.10-11

Although we may be tired, give us the vitality to endure.

Today I experienced generosity beyond my expectation for the weekend. When I went to work this morning the father called me into his office and said that he had some free airlines miles and wondered if I’d like them to fly home for free this weekend instead of having to suffer through 16 hours of driving to and fro. Reluctant to take such a gift I first declined, but after further considering accepted and now I have a ticket to Boise for tomorrow morning. They said it’s their pleasure to give me such a blessing because of my work for the summer, but I can’t help but feel like I’m the one being given far more than I deserve. Thank you so much, God, for I am not worthy.

So here I am. A kid who’s counted his blessings, seen how much he’s been given, and excited to give back sevenfold what he’s received in the past week. I praise God for showing me just how tangible His presence and love are, and beg that I may do the same for my brother as this weekend carries one. God is good, my friends, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the LORD weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the LORD
And your plans will be established.”

– Proverbs 16.1-3

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~ by Chris Kyle on July 23, 2009.

One Response to “Oh My God”

  1. i appreciate you.

    and i’m glad to hear there’s no chance of a speeding ticket.

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