Where’s the church? Is a frequent lamentation of my soul here in the 9th circuit of hell. I’m not alone, others say it too, and we say it in the second most secular county in the nation. It’s a terribly unfair complaint, because every time something goes awry, somebody falls through the cracks, where was the church?? Where’s the entity that’s supposed to be caring for people’s souls??
That’s a good thing. As painful as it is to constantly see that lack, to forever be confronted with the fact that something is missing, it helps you to see the importance and the value of the local church. In America we can be kind of complacent, church can become more like a club we belong to or a social event or Sunday entertainment. She is actually a bride, a body of believers, a living organism that serves a vital and necessary purpose in the world.
And of course, “…The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The need is huge, overwhelming, it’s a bit like being confronted by a crowd of thousands needing to be fed and all you got is five loaves, two fish, and a few guys. “Help wanted” is definitely hanging over the door.
We are the church, we people, it’s actually not a building or an institution, not a government entity, it’s us, we are it. Either we do the work or it doesn’t get done. So “where’s the church” can be a terribly unfair complaint, because the real question is where were you?? Why are the workers so few? Help wanted.
A woman died out the cold, in one of our homeless camps here, and it’s such a tragedy, something so many of us have seen coming and worked very hard to try to prevent. Hundreds of us. There’s such a tendency here to just assume nobody cares, to make everything sad that happens part of a victim narrative, a tragedy that happened because nobody cares. That’s politics for you, this never-ending mantra, see, nobody cares, that’s why you need to vote for me, pay more taxes, support my agenda.
Often when you are on the outside looking in, it appears as if no one cares, because you don’t see the work that is being done. And often people fall through the cracks, not because no one cares, but because they are unable to receive love. Addiction can be a huge problem too, because it’s like anesthesia, you can’t receive love that you can’t feel.
I know this truth because my own sister is often to be found sleeping in that very same camp and she actually has family and friends right here that care for her, but a lifetime of drugs and alcohol, mental health issues, have made her very challenging to help. She, like the woman who died, actually have access not just to family, but to a shelter that is open 24 hours a day in the cold weather. She has access to several soup kitchens and free meals provided by various churches, every single day of the week here.
And she has access to “the church,” as a whole. I know this because I’ve watched. I’ve watched Christian people pick her up, work hard to get her stable and into in housing. It never lasts very long, mostly because she simply cannot receive love. Whatever is broken within her is compelled to just sabotage anything that is in her own best interests.
For those who have poured so much time, money, and patience into her, it’s maddening, frustrating, heart breaking. My own hands are now empty, I cannot help her, I cannot reach her, I cannot rescue her, but it is not from lack of trying or a lack of will. People really do care.
I wish reaching out to the homeless and the addicted was a simple matter of, “here’s a warm place, come in from the cold,” but it often isn’t like that at all. The woman who died had family here too, and an army of strangers passing out blankets, hand warmers, food, an invitation to come in from the cold.
Try not to buy into that mindset that says “nobody cares,” because it just feeds a narrative that fuels a cycle. My sister, bless her heart, showed up at my house the other day, so I knew she was not the one who died, not this time, but she arrived as she always does, nurturing a deception about how “nobody cares,” about how mean the world is, and that darkness in the world is the precise justification, validation, excuse, she needs to just drink more, to drug more, to anesthetize her soul. It’s a cycle, a pattern, one I’ve born witness to for nearly 3 decades.
I gave her hand warmers, it’s all I ever have to give her, but others give her money and actually fund her addiction. I wish they wouldn’t, but they don’t know any better. And those who tell her, nobody cares, the system is out to get you, the church hates you, they too don’t know any better, but they fuel the problem too, they feed the disease.
The woman who died had family too, and I’m sure they cared deeply, as did the army of strangers I saw reaching out to her, so just know that wounded souls are complex, that we can care so, so much but we alone cannot heal the broken-hearted, nor can we ourselves rescue those who are trapped in bondage.
The harsh truth is, you simply can’t receive love that you can’t feel.