But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?
“Who will love them, Mom?! Who will love them??” I sob into my pillow as I hear my mother praying for me through my phone’s speaker.
The JUSTembrace house’s lease is up the end of June. We’ve known transitions were ahead: two young women have been seriously considering moving in and a few of the guys are preparing to move on after 12-18 months in the house. This summer has been looming as I hate saying goodbye, and the decision to move in is one that requires dozens of conversations, goals, expectations, and a good bit of prayer, fear and trembling.
Today the future of the house took a deep hit with one of the girls being forbid by her college to live off campus next year and the other one facing sincere doubts due to a very hectic and committed senior year. Tonight, as I question the future of this house – I feel overwhelmed with possibilities and insecurities, lies from the enemy and a weakening – but not dead – fight inside. I know how my critics will interpret this, but I also know that I’m in the company of so many of my heroes who have gone before and suffered tremendous uncertainty and loneliness.
Even if this is “normal” – that doesn’t make it any easier.
In addition to the transitions in the house causing a huge amount of stress on us all, I am feeling the deepest loneliness I have ever felt. The impact of the loss of Anthony is nearly impossible to articulate. While so many knew Anthony, there’s no one in this house or current extended JUSTembrace community who knew and loved Anthony like I did. His loss has made me painfully aware of the emotional stress this life is having on me. It’s not that I mind the suffering or the joy – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just wonder sometimes how long I can carry all of this while being so lonely. I am not alone – but I am lonely. I long to share the weight of the glory of living among the poor. Each smile, each conversation, each story shared, each new friend and sometimes each and every word are moments of pure miraculous grace. I feel like I’m encountering Christ so intimately every time I walk out my door or open it, and that no one has really been able to enjoy it like I do. It takes time to learn how to receive Christ among the poor – especially when we are so caught up in our culture’s systems of power. I want so desperately to enjoy this life with others who can rejoice in the joys and sufferings of this lifestyle.
While I am so grateful for the MANY people who have joined me from time to time in this house as housemates, or in this house as guests or as learners or as committed neighbors – none of these relationships has created the stability of a long-term team yet. There have been so many transitions in the last few years, that the girl who thrives on transition is getting weary of making new friends who will most likely move on to greener pastures one day.
This is why I blog. I used to blog for influence, back when I cared about that, but now I blog to try to keep my sanity.
Today has been a day with buckets of glorious fruit. So many spirit-filled encounters with neighbors, and I just don’t know how to cope with all the profoundness alone.
The final encounter happened moments after I came in from dinner at the soup kitchen, having collapsed in my bed, exhausted from a day of emotional roller-coaster rides of love, compassion and spiritual warfare, as I began to unpack my filled day, the doorbell rang.
It was Warren at the door. “Charlie is very sad. His friend died today and I thought you could come pray for him or something!”
Warren is the man I wrote about in my last blog, and Charlie is an autistic 19 yr old Vietnamese high school student Warren knows from the local diner, where they have both been almost daily customers for years. I had just met Charlie a week ago. That day he told me all about Canada and sang the Canadian anthem for Jordan, Warren and me. Warren has been telling Charlie about us for months, even inviting him to our home. Charlie always told Warren you shouldn’t go into a stranger’s house.
I quickly grab my keys and walk with Warren the block to the diner. As we walk, I warn Warren that Charlie might not want to talk to me, since he just met me, but I’d be glad to try to offer any consolation I could.
When we got to the diner the owner greeted me warmly and I realized I’m becoming a regular too! I just asked for a ginger-ale (Warren offered to buy, since I forgot my money). I sat next to Charlie at the bar, and greeted him. Warren leaned in close to Charlie “You can talk to Sheryl about anything!”
Charlie said he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and I respected that. I told Charlie that Warren was a good friend who cared very deeply about him. Charlie’s dad sat at the bar too, engaged in conversation with the owner and her son.
Warren and I sat as I finish my soda; a few times chatting with Charlie about different current events, or the owner’s son about Warren’s notorious notes (I have a kitchen drawer full of hand-written notes about “interesting topics” as Warren calls them).
We finally walked home, and Warren said he’d see me on Sunday.
Within moments, I was back in my bed, sobbing on the phone to my mom as I recounted the days events.
“Who will love them, Mom?! Who will love them??”
If we can’t build the partner base to fund the house during this transition time, if we can’t renew our lease, if I have to live alone again for a short time, or if I can’t stand up under the loneliness and I snap…..
I can second guess my leadership skills, I can question my stability. I can listen to my critics and I can accept the judgement of my foes. But the truth stands – there are hundreds of people in my neighborhood who know very few – if any – friendly faces. One simple house of hospitality in a neighborhood provides an echo of the Good News deep into the souls of hundreds. Just one. If we lose this house, who will love them?
For those who follow JUSTembrace with love and support – please continue to pray for us. Please ask God to guide us in His timing in His will. Please plead with me for God to raise up folks who will truly give their lives to the lonely and isolated – not just in Uptown, but around the world. Please pray for my direction and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as I lead JUSTembrace, but also as I offer my life back to the Lord each day.