Posted by: Emily Shemwell | November 12, 2009

Facing Reality

Reality: “A real event, entity, or state of affairs; the totality of real things and events.”

It sneaks up on you like a predator attacking its prey. It stops you in your tracks like a nightmare during the early morning hours. It hits you like the sting of the cold air summoning winter’s arrival.

Reality sneaks. Reality stings. Reality hurts.

Over the last few days, I have remembered the hurt reality brings. I was forced to face my reality of the events of the past year of my life – the tragic passing of  my boyfriend, the doubts, guilt, loneliness, and depression that followed, the reawakening of my soul to the truth of the Gospel, the urgency of the call to share my renewed and transformed spirit with others. Today, I was forced to remember the reality of many of our homeless guests. I was forced to remember the reality of the lifestyle and situations of my newfound friends.

This summer James was a frequent guest at the Shelter. We would usually meet in the day shelter cafeteria; he’d approach the kitchen counter asking for a towel and washcloth and I’d hand him the items in exchange for his ID. I’d make the usual small talk like I do with most guests. However, one day our small talk went deeper. The quick exchange of words turned into a meaningful conversation.

James arrived that day with more bruises than I’d ever seen before on his thin face and frail arms. (He only stood about 5’7″ tall and weighed less than me – some 110 lbs I’d guess). I inquired about his weekend and that one question opened up a can of worms. That one question enlightened me to James’ reality.

James spent his weekends, and some weekdays too, drinking with his girlfriend. He told me she would drink more than him. Occasionally, he would not drink at all, but she would. When she became intoxicated, she turned violent. And, James was the receipent of the cruelties of his girlfriend’s addiction. She would beat him up in her drunkenness. When she became sober she’d feed him lies of “I’m sorry… I really do love you, James.” Time and time again he bought into her words.

My friendship with James grew as he continued to visit the shelter. James and I talked about his situation with his abusive girlfriend. He asked me one day, “What should I do? Do I stay with her or leave her for the streets?” You see, James’ girlfriend provided him with a place to stay each night. I told him my opinion; I told him to leave her. I told him that despite her words, what he was experiencing was not love. He looked at me for a minute before replying, “But, she says she loves me.”

Three weeks ago I met James yet again at the kitchen window. It was the first time I’d seen him since returning in September. We started talking and I asked how he was doing. “Ok, I guess,” he said. “You still with your girlfriend?” I probed. “Yeah,” he answered. I shook my head as he shrugged his shoulders.

That was the last time I saw James. It will be the last time I see him on this earth. I learned today that James died from injuries he received on Halloween night. His girlfriend is charged with his brutal death.

Reality sneaks. Reality stings. Reality hurts.

Reality hit me hard today. Reality reminded me of my purpose, my reason for serving here in Louisville. It reminded me that as a follower of Christ, I have life-changing news that people need to know. I know the Gospel. I know the unfailing love of Jesus Christ. I know the amazing grace of a Savior. I know the eternal Hope of my Lord.

Will I share what I know?

The shocking news of James’ passing and the reminiscing of a 20-year-old’s life ended abruptly in a car accident brought me back to reality this week. I am only given today. When I wake up in the morning, I should count it a blessing. I should ask myself, “What am I going to do with the blessing of today?” Will I share what I know? Will I live for my Christ who bore my burdens and died for me? Will I share the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? Will I live out the call of being a follower of Christ like my boyfriend did so that my friends like James will hear of the perfect love that only the Gospel can offer?

My friends, the reality is this: we all need to hear the Gospel… and our time is running out.

Will I share what I know? Will you?


  1. Thanks for an awesome and challenging sharing of experiences. I’m proud of your boldness to share the Gospel and excited by what I see God doing in your life. You blessed me today!

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