"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another."
~ 1 John 3:16
For six years I worked closely with homeless youth living in the Montrose area of Houston. I soon discovered what it meant to discover your "tribe," among people. Many of the kids created their own family units, often with pseudo-parents and roles that they would all live into. For many of these "tribes," they would create a home, discover ways to support one another, and share, even the smallest of assets. Their ability to be unconditionally available for one another, often made me think that they had created what they failed to gain in their home prior to life on the street.
Many of the youth I worked with were gay, having been kicked out of their homes. Some were mentally ill. Many of them self-medicated with drugs and compromised themselves to in order to survive.
Sunday morning I would always arrive early to the church I was pastoring in that neighborhood with my family to get the doors open, start coffee, set out donuts and toiletries so that those coming in from the street could clean up and try to "regroup," after a long night, often filled with things that none of us could imagine.
Many times I would find myself sitting, listening to what had happened to one of the youth, and begin to realize that, "this is the reason that God sent Jesus into the world."
So often I would hear of the their fears, and experiences, and attempt to find a way to for them to see that there was another way of living. So much of what I tried to point to is that fear is driven out by love that each is deserving of. It is the love that comes from God.
So much of the time what I struggled with was for them to realize that there is more than human affection. Human affection has its value and beauty, but the love that I so desperately wanted them to realize had more to do with the love that God extends to us that transcends all feelings, emotions and passions. The perfect love that drives out all fear in the divine love in which we are invited to participate.
The home that they needed, the intimate place, the place of true belonging, is not created by any of us. It is created for us by God, who came to live among us, inviting us and preparing a place for us.
For someone living on the street, who often had been betrayed by those who should have provided these things, trying to understand that God has a greater purpose for them, was often the greatest struggle that I experienced.
It's funny how those years seem like such a blur at times. I still keep in touch with several of these kids who are now adults, many raising their own families. Some, unfortunately, have become part of the great cloud of witnesses, and I struggle to ask if there was "something more," I could have done to help them.
It's then that I feel the comforting arms of Christ, who came and dwelt among us, and I am reminded of the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Give to me Your ear, oh Lord,
and listen for a while;
For I am tired and in need.
Restore my soul,
because You are within, I am holy.
You are my Lord,
and I belong to You.
Be gentle, Lord,
for my cries go out to You.
Delight in the soul of Your servant,
to You, Lord, I give my soul.
Lord, You are good,
always ready to forgive and forget.
To all who call, You are present,
with compassion to forgive.
Hear me, Lord,
and listen to the plea in my voice.
When I am troubled, I will lift up my prayer,
for You will answer me.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.