Here is an article that I wrote for the Randolph Church of Christ bulletin last Sunday. It is a reflection on the past week which involved trying to help a young person who is traveling deep into some dark and dangerous territory. What I wrote was pretty much a “from the gut” reflection on the disappointment, frustration, and joy of trying to show mercy to others…and why it’s the right thing to do.
Over the last ten years I’ve learned a few things about ministering to others, especially those who are in need of help from others. One of the things I’ve learned is that the bigger the need, the greater the feeling of desperation is. The greater the feeling of desperation, the more temporal one’s vision becomes to where a person is only thinking about the next day or the next hour. There is also the problem of denying reality. People don’t want to accept the reality of how bad things are, perhaps because it hurts too much. I do know that many times, the reality of their past is too painful or shameful (or both) to be honest about, so they check out of reality because owning the reality (which includes the past) is too difficult to bear.
This makes it difficult to help and even sometimes downright frustrating. Sometimes I feel like I’m being used just to help a person make it to the next day or hour. Often I know there is more to the story that what I’m being told. Yet it is in the stories of the past that help unlock the problems of the present so that redemption can be discovered in the future. So it’s a “Catch 22.”
What to do… I try to remember that people need time to know that I can be trusted before they share something that unveils the hurt. What I want is for people in need to know that I care, to know that I love them as a person made in image of God, and to know that I believe grace and mercy triumphs judgment in any form.
Why? Because I’ve been in their shoes before and so have you. We’re sinners. In one way other the other, we have selfishly thought only of ourselves. We’ve denied reality, pretending as if our sin is really not that bad, perhaps denying the past because it’s too painful…or too shameful. We weren’t sure is we could trust God with the reality of our sin because trusting God means also tangibly trusting God’s people too…and let’s face, sometimes God’s people have given us reason not to trust.
Yet at the end of it all, God was still their waiting. He never gave up, like the father who went looking for his lost and wayward child (cf. Lk 11.15-32), God was not only looking for us but was ready to welcome us back without reservation because grace and mercy triumphs judgment. And that is why, as frustrating as it can be at times trying to help others in need, we don’t give up because we are one of them…people in need of help, recipients of grace and mercy.