After 10 years of living here, you would think that Diane and I would have a better handle on how to respond to crazy situations in Glenwood. But today was another test, and we left feeling helpless and confused.
Our neighbors (boyfriend and girlfriend) have been estranged for weeks, and last week we were awakened by a fight in their front yard. We had not seen the woman in weeks aside from that night, and then today she showed up on our porch wanting some water to take her medicine. For the next two hours, Diane and I fed her and listened to her cry, shout, curse, and pray. We watched her emotions go up and down and back and forth, and we heard things from her life story (past and present) that we had no way of knowing were true. Her side of the story with the man across the street is (of course) much different from his.
She has no income, no job, and her daughter (one of Psalter’s best friends) is now living with her godmother. All she wants, she said, is a place to stay for her and her daughter and the chance to get her GED. But how do you get a place to stay with no income? And how do you get people to take you in when you seem mentally unstable and tell violent stories of what you’ve done in recent weeks?
As the conversation continued, she said she felt like she was going to pass out but didn’t want to go to the doctor, and she stumbled across the street to her boyfriend’s house to break in (seriously – since she is a legal resident of the house, she could break in through a window and not be charge with B&E). She eventually stumbled back across to our house and lay her head down on our front porch table.
During much of this conversation, our kids were getting ready for a Memorial Day pool party, excited to go swimming for the first time this year, excited to go somewhere with us. And that’s where ministry got even more confusing. Would God have us cancel our plans and try to care for this woman (and we have no clue on how to help her)? What does it communicate to our kids if we drop this time with them in order to help our neighbor? When do they need to know that they are a priority over neighborhood ministry, and when do they need to know that sometimes plans get canceled to help someone?
We made the decision to let her sleep on our porch (she would not wake up when Diane tried to talk to her and neither of us felt comfortable being at the house alone with her), and to go on with what we had planned. I couldn’t help but feel guilty as we left, wondering if we were not loving her like Christ would, wondering how to balance family and ministry, especially a ministry opportunity that seemed so hopeless.
There is often no formula for how to love your neighbor, especially in this context. No easy answers. And I couldn’t help be jarred by the promises that our kids’ VBS CD sang to us about being able to trust God, all the while knowing the wreckage of lives within 50 yards of our house. It’s hard to reconcile the truths of my faith with the destruction left by sin in this world; hard to believe that God is indeed at work when I see so little change in those that we love; hard to see the limits on my own ability (and limits on my willingness) to love others .
As I said in the title, this is not the most encouraging post.