lessons from the poor

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Filed under: life | Tags: | 13 Comments »

“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



13 Comments on “lessons from the poor”

  1. 1 Debbie said at 4:38 am on October 26th, 2010:

    Your post really hit me as I am going through a season of difficulty like I never imagined would happen. I understand what you write about those who are poor and how they do community.

    I was rich and now I am poor. Through circumstances that I didn't cause, I am learning what it's like to have almost nothing materially. And you know what? I don't want to miss these lessons. It was easy for me to be critical towards people in similar situations but now I understand.

  2. 2 Heather said at 6:46 am on October 26th, 2010:

    Thanks so much. I am learning a lot. And for that I am very thankful.

  3. 3 Heather said at 6:55 am on October 26th, 2010:

    Thank you so much. I am learning a lot. And for that I am so thankful.

    Debbie, you are not alone. Praying your heart with be strengthened and comforted.

  4. 4 Julie R. said at 9:10 am on October 26th, 2010:

    I loved this post. I too have walked in dark places. I too have experienced poverty. I know what it is, to wish for some one to talk to and not have that, to wish for absolution and but for God's grace would have found none when I needed it most. I walk a new way, because I believe that I can see in some of the dimly lit places. I am not blinded to the suffering of others, because I had no blinders on during my own… Praying, for those who are hoping to find someone, anyone, who still loves them in the midst of their mistakes and consequences. Praying for those who are hungry and alone. Praying especially for those who have known wealth and are now having to learn to adjust… willing to help anyone who needs assistance in learning how to negotiate a grocery store with a list…LOL

    Serena…I am praying for the day when we can sit and talk…

  5. 5 Lindsey @ A New Life said at 4:22 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    Just had a conversation about materialism at Relevant. I grew up in a lot of the material poverty you described.

    While we have made huge adjustments in the last years financially; I've started to realize lately that I still expect certain privileges that come with the money we have and that I tend to feel bad about those in need but not really do anything about it because I haven't wanted to remember or place myself near to that kind of need and desperation.

    God has certainly been doing a number on my selfish pride over these things these last few months by forcing my awareness of the poverty all around– materially AND spiritually.

    And you are so right~ I don't want to leave anyone in either place alone.

    Reading Richard Stearns' "The Hole in Our Gospel"- beautiful story and call to action in regards to helping those who materially poor.

    I also needed to hear the reminder~ that those of us who have fallen hard and broken into so many pieces only our Father could put us back together are often the ones that offer grace to those who others deem unworthy.

    I've found myself in that place of feeling like I am always offering grace, with little in return.

    It does me well to remember that I have to point everyone to Jesus, even when it keeps hurting me to do so.

    Love you!

  6. 6 April said at 4:29 pm on October 26th, 2010:


    you said… even when it keeps hurting me to do so. Yeah, that's where I am. I tend to see an unbalanced scale where there should not be a scale at all. Great point- true grace is when 1. you don't even know your giving it (it's from Christ- not you alone) 2. you aren't waiting for a thank you or accolades, you aren't waiting to be noticed for what you gave.

    This is really what I am in the thick of learning.

  7. 7 Serena Woods said at 4:35 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    Debbie: Life is a journey of valleys and peaks. A continual progression of being removed from labels of 'good' and 'bad', 'rich' and 'poor'. Write what you're learning so that you don't forget the lessons.

    Heather: I'm so glad you're learning, because learning is growing.

    Julie R.: 'a list' and a calculator. 🙂

    Lindsey: I love that you are seeing that we don't endure the pain as though it's a mistake to overcome, it's a lesson to in knowing how to feed. Spiritually is my focus, but practically if that's the avenue.

  8. 8 Serena Woods said at 4:36 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    There is no scale in selflessness.

  9. 9 Brandy said at 5:20 pm on October 26th, 2010:

    Wow. Your post really hit home in a very powerful way. You've put things into words that I have thought, but couldn't adequately written. I've been poor and I've known richness. Not by the worlds standards, maybe … but when considering my husband's hourly wage — considered low by some — would have a family in some 3rd world country living comfortably for a month maybe? I consider myself rich.

    Many blessings to you!

  10. 10 Julie R. said at 3:02 am on October 27th, 2010:

    Serena… I don't know how I forgot the amazing calculator! I carry one with me when I go shopping… of course I also take a clip board, and sale papers and coupons if I have them AND can use them… LOL

  11. 11 Serena Woods said at 1:10 pm on October 27th, 2010:

    Thank you, Brandy. 🙂

  12. 12 Laura @ Life Oversea said at 3:14 am on November 1st, 2010:

    Hi Serena.

    Found you via Chatting at the Sky. Love your words about grace, your voice urging a return to what Jesus was about.

    I am currently overseas, learning from little girls at a Children's Home in Thailand, where we work. Amazing how the last statement you made rings so so true–that the poor know how to do Community. It is so true. Those that surround me, 43 little girls in an orphanage, often care for each other in such deeper ways than I've ever seen a group of American kids. They are thankful, they are servants. They have a depth that we so often miss. I agree with you, that the poor in many ways of the soul, are in position to know God more intimately.

    Thanks for the wonderful writing!

  13. 13 MarshaMarshaMarsha said at 10:38 am on November 2nd, 2010:

    Grace is a word that we toss around so easily. But when we have truly received it and honestly given it, it takes on a whole new and richer meaning.

    I am thankful for the lessons I learned in childhood. I learned how to stretch a dollar and to appreciate even the smallest of gifts, like a new toothbrush! Those years have made me that much more thankful for the abundance in my life and have taught me that possessions don't bring happiness… I didn't even know we were poor until I was in middle school. I just knew we were happy, much happier than most of the families that we knew. We had the joy of the Lord and the HOPE that comes through Him alone. That is a wealth that cannot be measured!

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