It’s not that I don’t have enough thoughts about Havenplace. It’s that there are too many, and I’m worried I’ll accidentally write a book and then where would we be? I’m worried I’ll misrepresent myself or other people; I’m worried I won’t make sense.
Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that everything is too complicated. People talk about poverty, abuse, evangelism and love like they are simple things but they are not. They occur in patterns, cycles, probabilities, it’s true, but no one who proves the rule is not also an exception to it. These are not problems or solutions, they are people – beautiful shattered people whose strength I’ll never know because I’ve never felt their pain. All unique, all valuable, all absolutely infinite and so how could I presume to fill their needs?
I can’t. It is a thing too wonderful for me when the Spirit translates my pitiful efforts into the spark I sometimes see – the light of recognition: this is love. Too often I look into the eyes of the neglected, the forgotten, the scarred, and I worry they’ve lost the ability to recognize grace where it’s found. And so the glancing connection of spirit to Spirit to spirit in that moment makes me able to trudge back again even when the weight of unrecognized sacrifice reminds me how unworthy I am to carry my Savior’s cross. I suppose on that road, step after step, he remembered the laughter of his brothers amidst the breaking of bread, but also the tear-lined face mirroring the fissured heart of one begging only that her story be heard. These are the things worth dying for; this road the crucible where life is truly lived. Left foot, joy – a joke, a hug, the begrudgingly-offered friendship of a longtime pool competitor. Right foot, pain – drugs. incest. the twins are in state care and their father’s up on drug charges. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, but not like a magic hat takes away your quarter. Like your grandmother takes away your hunger, trapping it inside herself and hiding it as it grows. Eat your bread and go play.
And yet somehow I feel richer, fuller than I was before I started losing every Tuesday to eat Little Debbies for dinner. It was a good bet, on the whole, the smaller version of how mothering is a good investment. I could never say they had nothing to give me, nothing to teach me, that they didn’t change me gallons more than I changed them. These are my friends and I love them and they love me in their ways. They are my mirror, poverty the magnifying glass to blow up sin writ large, and yet they shame me with their generosity, their strength and the ease with which they tell me who they are. In a room full of food stamp recipients, paranoid schizophrenics, felons and sex abuse victims, artifice is the most laughable fault of all; and so my precious friends remind me: the pretense of perfection is the most idiotic of upper-middle-class luxuries, a damn expensive waste of all our time.
So here is the grace in it all: that I could have set out on a noble course toward Service or Justice and found myself, in the end, blessed beyond measure, served and justified by those the world would abuse and judge. That I could blithely go about “changing the world” when all along I alone was being changed; that somehow I will only begin to become set apart if I burrow down deep into the middle of the darkness.That love is not a shining deed done at the play’s crisis but the mundane repetition of putting out snacks and yielding a thousandfold harvest of trash strewn about and then I wonder what gifts I, too, have diligently ignored and yet my Father still gives, always gives. The grace in it all is that the command was the gift all along, that the faith and obedience by which I thought I offered so much were only the instruments by which God blessed me. That the anger I once felt at the stubbornly gluttonous church has burned away, leaving only an ardent longing that she would behold with me the face of our King hidden there in the ashes.