Sunday, August 1, 2010

the Process of Relationship

Relationship is a process. 

Trusting Christ and coming into relationship with him takes time. Friendship and trust between individuals is equally as challenging and requires just as much patience.  So hard to remember, though! When it comes to ministry, most of us want the quick fix. An immediate response to an altar call. A change of heart when someone hears about Jesus' love for the first time. Seeing someone so lost turn from their old ways and change. And not that the Holy Spirit can't create immediate change or display a miracle in an instance - he can and does. But more often than not, it seems that God takes his time with us, and wants us to do the same with others. 

When people come check out Broken Hearts, it seems that if nothing major happens, it's a bit of a disappointment. Like one night of coming to talk about Jesus to people hanging out on the street should result in an immediate conversion. And based on the number of people that come in and out of Broken Hearts, I'd say the process of relationship and lasting change is wearying. I know it is for me.  

But I know I'm stubborn and hard-hearted and change in my own life takes a great amount of learning and time. So should it be any different for anyone else?

This Thursday, however, was a great reminder to me of how far many of our relationships have come. When I arrived, "Ravi" and Big Mama, two of our oldest friends were already there with  the rest of the crew...

The first time I met Ravi, he barely spoke to me. He looked completely disinterested and  hesitant, but I kept plowing through conversation as if I didn't notice.  A year and a half or so later, he and I talk every week and hang out on a regular basis. He consults with me for questions, as well as about concerns for people on the street. He is a big part of the men's bible study and of Broken Hearts each week. He prayed for Big Mama this week and it was so evident to me how much God has matured and changed him. He has been in close relationship with Antquan since we met him, and it is evident that God is using Antquan to disciple Ravi as he becomes more and more like Christ. Lasting change through relationship demonstrated.

The more I spend time with Big Mama recently, I see greater maturity in her as well. She trusts God more, prays more, loves more, refrains from bad habits, and speaks truth to the many people she knows from her time around Santa Monica Boulevard. Watching her react differently, act more calmly and think more clearly is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in her life. Again, relationship with her husband, her church, and those in Broken Hearts have been used to influence her greatly. 

When we split up in groups, one of the first people I saw was Jonas, who immediately got on my case about not calling him that week. We'd talked for a long time about hanging out, but he had just gotten a phone and I could finally reach him. But the hectic week prevented me from calling. And he noticed - he wanted to hang out. Our first meeting a few years ago was brief when I started ministry. About a year later I saw him again, recognized him and remembered his name. The look on his face was confusion and almost fear, wondering how this random girl on the street knew who he was. Again, conversation was a bit like pulling teeth. Now, any given week, when I hear someone yelling, "Holly!!" from across the street to get my attention, I know it's Jonas without even having to look. And on the most basic level, he has a place to live, attends church every weekend, and is one of the most active participants of our Refuge service each Thursday.

We saw another old friend this week who preaches about Jesus all the time...but also gets caught up in the street life. He asked about Krista, saying  that she had such a big impact on him and would call him out on the sketchy activities he was engaging in and taught him so much about the Bible and God. He jumped in on our prayer time right away when he saw us, just as an old friend would.

Today my friend "Jake" prayed with me over the phone for a situation with a friend and his words showed it was clear that he's drawing nearer and nearer to Jesus and trusting in him more all the time. 
These were just a few examples of the evening, but there are plenty more. I often get so used to what our relationships have become, that I forget where they started. When I do, and I think about how these people used to think, act and feel, I see God's hand powerfully at work in their lives.

But it's not easy...and some of this has taken place over 3 years. And I've grown in the process just as much as they have. I think about what my pastor told me about his friend who has lived and worked as a missionary in Hong Kong for over 20 years. She grumbled to him one day about "short-term missionaries": people who stay only about 10 years. It makes you laugh...but then it makes you think. 

"Missions" or "ministry" is not short-term or one-time. It's an ongoing, every day, messy-part-of-your-life-process. But be patient. And look back to remember in order to continue ahead. God is always at work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This post couldnt be more on the level!!!