Friday, May 13, 2011

The Most Terrible Poverty

In the last year that I’ve lived in Hollywood, I’ve been struck like never before with the issue of relational brokenness. Does the city draw more broken people, or are those here just more willing to share their pain? I’m not sure, but never before have I heard story after story of jacked up relationships.

Whether hanging out with people at church, or on the street in the middle of the night – everyone has messed up relationships with parents, friends, and especially with those of the opposite sex. The only difference is that, with those in the Church, we have the love and hope of God, and support of community.

The issue rose to the surface more poignantly this week…

My friend “Alan” was moving out of rehab into temporary housing, so as I was giving him a ride, was catching up on his life as we hadn’t talked much recently. When asking who he hangs out with, I basically asked if he has any friends that he regularly spends time with. In short, his answer was ‘no’.

He doesn’t have good family relationships, has past trauma, been technically homeless most of the time I’ve known him, and addicted to meth most of that time as well. And he doesn’t know Jesus.

I thought back to similar conversations I’d had with others. It struck me at that moment – no friends to count on or share your life with and no God to put your hope in  – it’s utter darkness. Of course people turn to drugs and alcohol and a life on the street. I probably would, too, with the combination of all of those factors. As Psalm 31 says, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.”

As we talked about forgiveness at our Refuge service last night,  another friend shared that he has only about 4 people he trusts and considers friends (1 being his dad, 2 being Broken Hearts members, and only 1 friend he’s found elsewhere).

After the bible study, I sat on the street, talking to a guy who hangs out with us from time to time but doesn’t talk much. It took a bit of prying, but after a few awkward questions and lack of response, he began to open up. For the next 30 minutes or so, he shared about his terrible relationship with his mother, and her repetitive choosing of criminally-inclined men over him. His dad’s never been in the picture, and he said that his anger is so intense that he knows it’s going to come out in a really bad way eventually (and yes, he did include the word ‘murder’ in that discussion).

He, too, has no friends because he doesn’t trust a single person in the world. He trusts God…but I’m not sure what that means, because he said he’s never read the bible. And how can  he truly know who he is in Christ and the love of a Father? How can he forgive without that knowledge?

David, at Basileia, often says, “It’s all about relationship”…which has potential to sound foofy and emergent, like God’s not enough. That’s not it at all. It IS all about relationship – starting with relationship with God.
As I dropped off “Alan” for housing, I knew he wouldn’t find real love and support there. It’s just a program to help him to the next stage where he’ll be on his own again. The meeting of physical needs alone doesn’t fix brokenness. Relationship doesn’t provide for every physical need. But the two in conjunction is a powerful thing.

Meeting physical and spiritual needs through relationship can bring healing and trust that have never existed - and demonstrate God. Relationship with God changes everything and makes all of the relational healing and physical needs possible.

When it really comes down to it, people just need Jesus.

 Love the Lord with all your HEART, SOUL, MIND and STRENGTH. Love your NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It’s really that “simple”. Nothing else will create lasting change.

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