Posted by: Jessica Wilson | June 27, 2009

lessons from a bag closet

On Thursday I decided to work in the bag closet. After a couple of hours, when all the chaos had died down, I was finally able to sit down and take a breather. I was content sitting there just reading a book to myself when I glanced out the door and noticed Chad, a regular guest at the shelter, taking his time rummaging through his suitcase. A couple of days prior he had caused a scene, verbally, after becoming agitated at another guest for standing in his way… so, I guess I just felt a little uneasy about him being there and wondered why he didn’t just take what he needed for a shower and that day and move along. Why in the world would he just stand there and pick up every item from his bag, stare at it, and place it back exactly as he had found it?……..

As I am sitting here typing I can look around me and see all of the things that I own. My things. I can glance in my closet and see that cute purple summer dress, or look to the right of me and see my stack of books lying on the nightstand. And I know that when I walk down the steps and open the cabinet next to the sink I will find my favorite blue polka dot coffee cup sitting there, the one that is so big that it covers my face when I take a drink.

 But what if I weren’t able to just look at my things whenever I desired? What if I had the sudden urge to pick up a book that I haven’t read…but couldn’t? What if I wanted to reminisce through an old photo album…but wasn’t allowed the access? What if I didn’t have the comfort of knowing that when I walked out of my house in the morning that when I returned home for the day all of my things would be there, exactly as I had left them? I don’t know…here is the craziest thought… what if all of my belongings… everything… every shirt, every picture, every book, every CD, movie, and necessary toiletry item were just stored away in some duffle bag? What if this duffle bag was only to be accessed Monday-Thursdays from (7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.) to (1:15 p.m.-3 p.m.), and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from (7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.)?

Honestly, despite my weak and feeble efforts in attempting to love others like Jesus loves, a lot of the times I get prideful or I build up the walls in my heart that allows me to block out other peoples pain. I am just so thankful that I have such a big God who is not only willing, but adamant about growing me in His image! A God that wants to break me to see the oppression these guest go through and never be OK with it. To hate it.

 I don’t know, maybe I’m completely wrong in my thinking or something, but I believe that God wants us to be happy! He wants us to have things, and our own things at that. God is so incredible in that His original plan was for everything that is good to be ours. To be able to smile and enjoy the blessing that He gives. To enjoy our lives, our families, and fellowship with other believers. It’s not just about having things…because obviously “things can’t make you happy” and I have been told that my whole life…but we are human and we work hard and there is just something about having ownership of something that you can just call ‘all yours’. If you were like Chad and these things were the only items that you could call all yours…wouldn’t you just want to look at them too?

It also broke my heart for him because it wasn’t just the fact that he didn’t own a lot or have a fancy house to put it in, it was the circumstances behind the reason why he was standing there with his belongings in a bag closet. The circumstances that God and His people should hate. The addictions, oppression, poverty, brokenness, loss of a vision, bad decisions, lack of opportunities, and the absence of a community of believers who are there to back him up and raise him to set the standards high and get on his feet.

I realize that Chad’s and others situations don’t excuse acting out or give justification to verbally threatening or going off when having a particularly rough day, but it does at least give me a reason to think a little deeper than I used to. Being here, only two hours from where I grew up, I have realized that this life doesn’t really revolve around me or how I think the world should be. Who would have known? Craziness, huh? Crazy that people here face so much, and that our backgrounds could really be so different. Crazy that I have a passion to love and to help, but I will never be able to gain a glimmer of understanding as to what these people face on a daily basis. Crazy that a rough day for me would be my alarm going off late, car running out of gas, forgetting to pay my phone bill on time and having the pay that dumb $30 fee to reconnect. But here, here a bad day is being tired and irritable because you couldn’t sleep last night for the rain pouring down on you because you were sleeping outside on the ground or employers won’t hire you because you have no phone or address to put down on the application. Maybe a bad day is the fact that you are afraid to be alone and to be by yourself is an area that can be so cruel, so you continue to stay with a man who beats you regularly. In order to hide this pain and dissatisfaction of cheap love that overwhelms you, you turn to an alcohol addiction that you can’t get out of… these are all huge, sad, but also very real stories of some of our guest.

After being here a month I understand that it is not my job to fix everything…because I just can not. In Matthew 26:11 the Lord makes it clear that the poor will always be among us, and by only in His power can people be truly changed. I am just a missionary here to be obedient in an area which Christ has called me into. My hope is that I can just make a small difference in the life of some of my new friends. Maybe being the first friend they have ever had, maybe being the annoying young girl who won’t leave them alone after they yell at her, and maybe…just maybe…they can see a reflection of Christ himself in my love for them as individuals, as a person and not just a stereotype.

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