Posted by: Emily Shemwell | May 10, 2010

May Newsletter – Thoughts from Thursday

Pain. Hurt. Anger. Brokenness. Loneliness. Bitterness.

She feels all of these. She feels like an outcast in society – for she has a mental illness. She wishes her skin were white instead of black – life would be easier if only her skin were lighter.

She feels like the whole world is against her – her husband, her children, her siblings – and even God. She confessed she didn’t even want to wake up when the sun came up the other day. She confessed she wants to stop using drugs – she knows it will only lead to destruction – but the temptation always comes back to grab and suck her in.

This is her life. This is the never-ending cycle of my homeless friend and for many of those living on the streets or in temporary shelters. While sometimes I have trouble discerning if it is her or her illness talking, I believe her. I believe that her pain and hurt are real. I believe that she wants to change her ways. I believe she wants to be white instead of black. I believe her feelings. I believe her confessions of her sinful behavior. I believe her words when she says she walks to Jeff. Street on Thursdays because she knows two female staff will accept her for who she is.

I may be a fool. It may be foolish to trust a mentally ill, drug addict who cheats on her husband. Her life is pretty messed up. I mean, with all the sin, why should I believe the words she’s speaking to me? How could I believe her words are sincere?

The comments and remarks of other Day Shelter guests blatantly confirm that I am a fool to care and take an interest in her. “She’s not worth your time” or “she’s crazy” were the phrases said as I followed her down the hall out the side door today. For some reason, she became upset and got loud in our cafeteria today. While people thought I was following her to discipline or correct her behavior, I was going after her because I care. I hoped I could get her attention so she wouldn’t leave the building before Jessica and I could meet and talk with her. Yet, she was too fast. She was already a ways down the street by the time I made it outside.

You see, Jessica and I met with her twice in the past month, to have a time of Bible study, encouragement, and prayer. And, today was Thursday – the day of the week we agreed upon to spend time together. She intentionally came to Jeff. Street today for a Bible study. As she came up the kitchen window this morning, the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were, “Are we having a Bible study today?”

While the Holy Spirit has placed her on my heart and in my mind, maybe I desire to be intentional with her because I can relate; her life is messed up, but mine is messed up too. She desires to change from her fleshly ways but falls back into her habits regularly, and I do the same. Maybe I have a special interest in her because I slightly understand the feelings she’s experiencing. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be an African-American, mentally ill woman, but I do know what it’s like to feel lonely. I sympathize with her when she feels like her situation is hopeless, for I’ve felt that way before as well.

It may be I want her to know she’s not alone… to know her situation isn’t hopeless… to know that someone in this world cares about her… to know, more importantly, that the Creator of the Universe, her Heavenly Father and Sovereign Savior loves her so much He died for her.

It may be that when I listen to her, I hear a part of myself in her voice. I hear a woman crying out for genuine love. I hear a woman in desperate need of being reminded of the Truth when the lies of this world surround us. I hear a woman longing for something good to believe in, for some real Hope to continue on, in a cruel and hopeless world. I hear a woman seeking acceptance, desiring a friend who won’t judge or condemn her, but rather welcome her with open arms. I hear the longings of my own heart, in the raw and honest confessions of my friend. Maybe that’s why I’m willing to be a fool, in society’s standards, to trust her, to pursue a meaningful relationship with her. Maybe it’s because I hear my own heart crying out when she talks to me.

Or maybe it’s because Christ was made a fool for me. The man, who did no wrongdoing, took the punishment for me and it cost Him His life. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Don’t you think He was viewed as a fool enduring the beatings, the mockery, and the pain of crucifixion on a cross? All for my sake, and yours, and my friend’s.

The words and actions of Jesus Christ were foolish in his society’s viewpoint. As a follower of Him, I am called to be an imitator of Christ. While I’ll never achieve perfection, while I’ll never be exactly like my Savior (the reality is I’m always going to sin), I’m called to strive to be like the Savior that died for me. And because of Him, because of His Love, I’ll be called a fool. I’ll reach out to the African-American woman with a mental illness and drug addiction because that’s what my Jesus would do. I’ll try to love her as my Savior loves her. Where would I be if He didn’t do that for me?

In John 4, Jesus, a Jew, interacts with a Samaritan woman while she’s retrieving water from a well. Jesus knows her past. He knows her present. He knows the sin in her life, yet still speaks to her and befriends her. He listens to her, without judgment, and speaks Truth into her life. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells the church at Ephesus to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (vs. 1-2).

Pray for my friend. Pray that she will cling to Christ and the Hope He alone provides as she searches for Truth. Pray that Jessica and I can continue to share the Truth with her. Pray that God will give us His words to share with her so that she will comprehend the Good News. Pray that we can continue to be imitators of Christ and show her His love through our actions.

Blessings and Love,


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