Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sticks and stones will break your bones, but the Lord is good forever.

Everyone throws that word around.
I paint paintings with that word.
People have keyrings, tattoos, shirts, bags, shoes, coffee mugs all emblazoned repeatedly with the word LOVE.
It kind of takes away the seriousness and passion of the act of love.
Act of love = Love is a verb.

What did Jesus mean when he said we are to LOVE our enemies?

The NIV says:
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

The King James goes on:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44

This week I was um, blessed, to be able to learn exactly how hard and how necessary it is to, in fact, love our enemies.

It was just a crazy day...Groups of kids were playing football right in the street in front of my work, Sunshine Gospel Ministries. Right in the middle of 61st St, which is a busy street, they were standing there and tossing the football back and forth and holding up traffic. They would move after like two or three cars were stopped on each side. BOLD AS LIONS, for real. Three different times, guys from Sunshine went out to try to get the kids to move, it wasnt really happening. About an hour later, I went out to get in my car to leave. As I pulled out a drove a few feet and BAM! My car got pelted by rocks. I slammed on my brakes out of surprise at the sound and that these young teenagers were just standing a group. STILL throwing rocks at my car as I looked at them. One flew in the open passenger window and hit me. I pulled over and got out. What's going on, I asked. Some of the guys ran away. I called two of the young guys out by their name, for they had just walked out of the ministry center, and said, "Why you throwing rocks at me?" The two I knew stammered that it wasnt them, pleaded with me to understand it wasnt them. They dropped the rocks they were holding. The other boys came back, rocks in hand. They all just looked at me, then started throwing rocks at the buses and passing cars as I talked to the two kids I know. I said, "Whats the point, why is this what you want to do?" They had no answers. One guy turned and swore at me and told me what was the point of me? Go away and threw a rock at me. I froze as it hit me. He walked closer and said, "What you gonna do?" His friends seemed a little shocked and backed up, one told me to hit him. He laughed and asked me if I was going to, then he dared me to. Im not gonna lie, I sized him up. But I did one better, I walked away. He hit me a rock as I walked back to my car. I picked up my phone and called 911 and as I pulled back about 10 feet to the front of Sunshine Min. he hit my car with two more rocks. I told 911 that the kids are in the street, hitting me and cars with rocks. Twenty minutes one came. I called again, and again over the next ten minutes. Ok, we will send someone.
Im not new to this...sometimes the police dont come. I get it. Sometimes they come like one, two or three hours later. I know. But this was hard....
The kids walked back and forth across the street intermittenly pegging cars and buses with rocks and running in the street, but all the time watching me and another guy waiting outside. Another call to the cops from the guy waiting with me. We finally flagged a passing police vehicle down and tell them what happened. The kids are still right there, we point. The kid that hit me and my car was wearing a different color shirt then all the rest of the guys. They genuinely seemed completely disinterested in my situation but drove SLOWLY down the street. The kid splits off from the group and runs into an alley. The police, driving their fancy new "urban tactical SUV", slowly follow his path into an alley. About four minutes later the kid comes running out from a gangway and walks past us waiting outside and he joins up with his group walking down the street. The cops appear minutes later and in plain sight the kid hops on a bicycle and rides down another alley. They dont chase him but pull over and get out to come talk to us. The one officer asks me if I want to file a battery charge, but lets me know its all but pointless since we dont have his name or address or anything. As another man from my work comes out and talks to the cops about the regularity of these instances on this street, with these kids, doing these things I just walk to my car and leave.

Powerlessness. Futility. Embarassment. All of these flood over me and I was so incensed, it took HOURS for me to calm down. Trying to work through these feelings, I realized that at the pit of all of these was fear. I had no recourse of action, no justice would be served here, and this kid NOW knew where I worked and which car I drive and could come back anytime. And it was more than obvious the cops were not overly concerned. I drove to the west side, had dinner, made some pies, and came home. Just as my stomach had finally unknotted and I was thinking about other things, the dad in the house I live in came home. He is also the head of Sunshine ministry. "We just got robbed," he said . Someone got in and stole laptops, desktop computers,the sound equipment, and then set off the fire extinguishers everywhere.

My stomach knotted up immediately. I couldnt sleep very much. Anger and confusion again, and I replayed the actions from earlier with the ideas of people taking the stuff we use to teach kids and minister with. Then, the Lord showed up mighty. He quieted me and gave me His peace, as only he can give.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Jesus came to earth. People hated Him, they chose to kill Him instead of a common criminal. He still willingly died for our sins, because of Love.
If I only love those who can and do love me back, have I done anything? If you give me flowers, and I love you....Have I endured? Have I taken up my cross? No.
To do the work of the Lord is hard. This is real. I tried to pray for that kid a few times that night but couldnt. I was weak. It took until the next day, after we had cleaned and I sat on the floor to pray with a few friends/ fellow believers/coworkers to pray until I could utter a few words asking God for the strength to forgive him, and to make me love him, and when I see him and his friends as I know I will, I asked and still ask God for the courage and the boldness to hold NO grudge..but to love him as Jesus loves and forgives me. This whole thing wasnt even about me, and I dont want to make it about me. This kid is sad and lost and angry, so angry. As I know all too well, hurting people hurt people. Ive done it...countless times. I just got in his way. I hope the Lord puts me in his way again.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.
Romans 5:6-10

God loved me, even when I didnt love him. So thankful am I.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two situations....

i know. Its been months.....Ive been stewing on some things, I'll give an update soon but first this has been all up in my head the past few days and I've got to put it down here.

My car is old and sad. Last week, it kept dying. It would start the first time in the morning but if I stopped anywhere shortly after starting it up (i.e. to get a donut, to get gas, to run into Sunshine..etc) it would not restart as the battery was not charged or some craziness. It had to sit for awhile between startings... So sometimes I forgot and would stop places and shut the car off and then OHHH SARAH! Really? Yep. Thats the background you need for this story.....and I always have jumper cables.

I left home (currently the South side, Woodlawn neighborhood) and drove to get on the expressway to go to my grandmas house. There is a gas station in Englewood right next to the entrance to the expressway. I had to stop to put air in my tire and shut my car off without thinking. It would not start back up, I needed a jump. I put my hood up and within seconds a man approached me. Do you need help? "Yes, I need a jump, I have my own cables, " I said nervously. I hate HATE hate asking for help, I know its a weakness but having people help still me makes me uncomfortable. A woman at the gas station overheard me tell him I needed a jump and she asked if I was ok. I said yes thanks. The gas station owner recognized me as I stop there often and came out to see if I was cool. The man took my cables and hooked up our batteries but still my car would not start. He kept tinkering with my car and the cables but my car would not turn over. He pulled out his phone and called someone, "Im sorry man, Im gonna be a little late today." IT WAS HIS WORK! I told him it was fine, go ahead, Ill figure it out, etc but he just kept adjusting the cables and told me to try to start it again. Finally, he pinched some cable thingy and it started. He told me what exactly I should get fixed and then sent me on my way. I was so thankful, I had tears in my eyes. He drove away and waved. The gas station guy came out and double checked on me again. I drove away feeling blessed.

I went to my grandmothers house on the far North side of the city. In the morning I went to get some soup from a bakery in a strip mall in Skokie. Guess what? My car wouldnt start. I was so sick and I couldnt imagine having to deal with this right now. I got my cables out and put my hood up. This was a busy outdoor shopping mall, it was Saturday, a beautiful day...I thought my chances were pretty good of getting some assistance. Two women walked over who were parked directly next to my car. I sighed with relief, their car was right next to me! I greeted them and pointed to my car and said it was dead and I needed a jump. I had my own cables and could they help me? The woman looked at me and my car, and said "I dont Do that, honey." As she actually brushed past me, I stammered that it would take like 30 seconds, I was very fast and she could sit in the car. She and her friend got in and drove away. I asked a man that was parked close, he did not even stop walking but instead mumbled that he was in a hurry. I asked another lady, a man and woman, a guy...NO,not today,you should call Triple A, Im in a hurry, I can't. Ok I started crying.....I felt so sick, I had a fever, What was I going to do? All these shiny cars, a patio of people drinking coffee about fifteen feet away, and no one was able to let me jump my car. I asked one more lady and she FLAT out ignored me. Then, a rusted old van lumbered past me. I just watched it go. It circled the parking lot and drove past slowly. I was standing there with jumper cables around my shoulders. They stopped and both climbed out the passenger side door. They did not speak very good English but gestured to my car and said "Help?" I nodded and they pulled as close to my car as they could but my cables wouldnt reach. They had some cables and they rigged it up and jumped my car. I was so touched.

So heres the thing....
In the first situation, I was in a poor neighborhood. Older cars, people in hard up situations. Not everyone has a car, most people, I would venture to say, use public transportation. People were stopping in getting gas and then on their way.
In the second situation, I was in a very wealthy area. The cars in this parking lot were nice, shiny, mostly brand new or a few years old. They people were dressed nicely and were either frequenting the coffee shop, bookstore, bakery, party store or sandwich shop--- so leisure activities on a Saturday morning.

Why was it that no one in the second situation could help me? Race/Ethnicity was not a factor here. As a sociologist, I thought about the variables and constant factors. African American/Black and Hispanic was represented in both situations. The persons of an ethnic minority were no more willing to help in the second situation. So race/ethnicity was a constant. The people that did help in second situation were of either polish or russian decent so visibly white, but minority nonetheless. The only variable was economic class affiliation.

I was trying to grasp this...I went in academic/sociological circles with this unplanned foray into culture of help based on class affiliation. I came to the conclusion that perhaps people of a lower economic/poor background could empathize/understand with my problem and my situation because they have been there....stranded, no help. So for you all reading this who dont know what I just said,,,,People who have little or no money UNDERSTOOD what it was like to need help of someone else to get by. They were able to empathize as perhaps they have been stuck in some way. People who had money to spare, could not empathize with me so did not care. If something breaks and you have the money, its no big deal. A man in situation 2 told me to call Triple A for a jump. Yeah, because I can afford that.

In my Health Disparities class, we are discussing how being low income contributes to a constant level of stress because you know if something breaks, goes wrong, get do not have the resources to remedy it. So, knowing that reality in your own life you perhaps are more willing to lend a hand to someone else? I mean I have always thought that, but here is an experiment to back up my hypothesis.

So on to the biblical application and lessons learned....There is a verse that says it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle. So many interpretations of that verse....I have heard it used to justify a prejudice against the wealthy, I have heard it used as a reason people should give more/everything to the church, etc but I saw a whole new light to this verse after this situation. Perhaps, money makes a buffer, creates a division...I mean money gives you this security that in this situation, did not allow people to understand or come to my level and help. Money makes you feel independent and infallible, it empowers you and lessens your need. Money can make you proud. All these things are roadblocks on the way to deep relations with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our savior and God's son. Perhaps, Jesus was not condemning the rich for being rich but warning against the ability of money to harden our hearts and separate us from others and Himself. Im no preacher or superior exegetical bible scholar (im a woman after all...ITS FUNNY CMON)but i just felt God teaching me something with all this. This was a long post. Its nice to be back.