Saturday, February 12, 2005

Blessed is the one who comes...

So tonight, we had our homeless friends, Mark and Sheri, over for supper. It wasn't a good night. They'd been fighting, and were tense when they arrived. Mark was just diagnosed with a serious heart problem: he's apparently had a couple of mild heart attacks recently, and his blood pressure is through the roof. Heroin use, I am learning, has a lot of residual health effects, one of which is infections in the heart as a result of cotton fibers in the "cut."

After dinner, Sheri went out to smoke a cigarette. She's been off alcohol for about three weeks now, but she's been struggling lately. Mark can be a pretty controlling person, and she said she really feels the need to get away for awhile, like she needs some space. She finished her cigarette, then told me she was going to take a walk. She didn't come back for dessert.

Mark was furious. He ranted and raved for a little while, then stormed out of the house with a threat to "bury the bitch." We were really worried. I went out later to try to find Sheri, but she was nowhere to be found. The guy at the liquor store told me that she'd been in to buy vodka about twenty minutes ago. He said, "I thought she quit." I told him to remind her of that the next time he saw her.

I went down to their tent. Mark was there; Sheri still hadn't returned. Mark started up with the threats again, and I said, "Mark, you are my friend, and I know you are upset right now, but if you keep talking like this, I am going to have to start taking you seriously, and then I am going to have to take steps to protect Sheri from you." I told him that if she comes back tonight and he's mad and she can't stay there, he should tell her to come to our place. He said he would.

Mark had a violent father. He hated his dad, and yet at a certain level I think he still believes the lies he learned as a child: that violence is the only way to get through to people sometimes. And Sheri had an abusive step-father, who conditioned her to the patterns of living with an abuser. The most difficult thing about trying to live in community with people like this is the recognition of how difficult it is for them to get back on their feet. You try to address one need, and it's like picking at a loose thread in a sweater: it just goes on and on forever. They need so much more than food and shelter, the basics; they need to learn a whole new way of living. They need models of the kinds of healthy relationships that they never experienced. You could spend your whole life working with just one person. And in the end, it might not be enough.

Jesus said, "You will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" In this passage, seeing is tied to the act of welcoming. We will not see Christ, cannot perceive His presence in others, until we can acknowledge their presence as blessing, and not as burden, or inconvenience, or disturbance of our full calenders and carefully planned out schedules.

So maybe Sheri will show up late tonight, drunk and needing a place to stay. We'll be glad to see her if she does. Glad to know she's OK.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

1 comment:

olympiada said...

hi sampson, thank you so much for your insightful posts. you are like water to a thirsty person. i really enjoy them. they are very down to earth. i especially profited from the explanation of the dynamics of abusive relationships and alcoholism and violence.