“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” -Jesus, Luke 6:20
My life has been a journey marked with a broad panorama of experience. I have memories from being homeless and watching my mother earn a bed for the night, to making chili for my family in a $300 pot. I know what it’s like to have a $300 pot with no beans to put in it. I have accumulated memories and I have been stamped with knowledge. I know what it’s like to point my finger and to have fingers pointed at me. I can’t tell people where I’m from because I’ve lived in too many places.
This spacious spectrum of experience has pulled me back. It has moved me away from the labels life tends to put on people. People are not categorized the same for me. They’re equals wearing different hats and different shoes. My tumultuous life can be cried over or rejoiced over. I choose joy. Joy because of what I’ve learned and where I am able to walk. Grace with legs. Grace in the eyes of knowing.
I want to tell you what being poor taught me. I want you to know how it works in the communities of the hard up.
The long nights of a child who went to bed hungry are forever engrained in their memory. The haunting a mother feels when she sees her child’s jutting ribs, and the defeat a father feels when his family is huddled together on a cold night with no electricity are never forgotten. The shame of tattered clothes, free school lunches, and being the kid who spread the lice, is marked in the way she walks. The medical needs unmet because the money and insurance are out of reach. Missing and crooked teeth instead of fillings and braces.
The poor are marked, to me, but not like what I just described. I see those things when I look for them, but more than that, I see the way they, we, lean on each other. The way we rally together to pay for someone’s medical bills, or when we save up for a new shirt only to spend it on a friend who needs milk for her babies and new razors so she can feel like a woman.
When you know how bad it hurts, you do everything you can to take some of that pain away from someone else.
In my life, some of my trouble came from irresponsibility. However, knowing how stupid you are doesn’t turn your electric back on or make you full when you’re hungry. Knowing buries in shame and despair, but it doesn’t rescue. Those who know, who have been there, will not stand by and let someone else suffer. Come to my house. Eat at my table. If I have a little, I have enough. If you’re starving, I’ll share my meal. Maybe I won’t be as full, but you won’t be starving.
It’s the same with grace and the need for it.
I know what it’s like to be left out in the cold. I know the nights that won’t end and the eternal howling that won’t stop. I know what it is to need a Savior when the accusations are gouging your mind. I’ve been there and I want to tell you what being lost has taught me. I want you to know how it works in the spiritual communities of the hard up.
The broken are sin marked, but not like you would think. Not to me. Their sin and fault may be obvious, when I look for them, but more than that, I see the way they offer grace. They know what it’s like to make mistakes and wish they could take them back. They know what it is for the sunrise to defy the darkness surrounding them. The hopelessness of feeling like they can never be redeemed.
Those who have been brought out of that kind of poverty will never let someone else stay there. In my own life, my failure was a result of my own selfishness. However, knowing my fault couldn’t turn back time and undo the pain I caused. Knowing buries in shame and despair, but it doesn’t rescue. Those who know how, who have been there, will not stand by and let someone else suffer alone.
Come to my house. Eat at my table. I’ll share my story of grace because what I have in the cupboards of my heart will feed you, too. Maybe I’ll get ‘judged for condoning the sinner’, but you will no longer be alone.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
The poor know how to do community. They do it like the Kingdom of God.
If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. -Galatians 6:1-3