My Heart Is With the People on the Streets

"I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to." 

~Pope Francis 

My heart is with the people on the streets.

I used to say I left my heart in Peru, for I traveled there first when I was 16. I and other high school students lived off of the Amazon River for nearly three weeks. We worked with orphan boys there. We watched them catch piranhas and then bathed in that very river where they had just caught the toothy fish. We screamed when they held tarantulas in our faces, played soccer in the dirt, and held them when they cried.

One of them was rescued from certain death as an infant. He was buried underneath a pile of trash, and someone heard his little cry, and saved him from death. Because of the abuse he suffered, he was developmentally delayed. But he is alive.

In Peru: top left: Rodrigo & me; top right: a group of us on the boat; bottom: several of the "huerfanos" & me working on drawing & having fun

My friends on the street are like the people of Peru. Something is different about them. Something special happens on that corner every Thursday.

First of all, we go to them. The street is their "home." I have come to believe that going to them means something different for them. Even though they stay at the shelter, it is not their home. The street is the place they feel most comfortable, at least many of them.

They aren't accustomed to people going to them. They are used to people showing up inside a building where they stay the night.

I wasn't on the Corner two weeks ago because of Greater Dallas Movement Day, and for the first time in the 6 months since I started going, a homeless woman inquired Thursday, "Where were you last week?" I couldn't believe she noticed I wasn't there, and seemed to miss me. Whenever Larry isn't there, they all ask about him. It was special to have been missed.

How can I explain to you the beauty of this people, how being with them would move your soul and change your life forever, much like living with the Peruvian orphan boys did for me all those years ago?

How can I explain that though they do not have a home or much money, they have a richness that it is very difficult to put into words?

How can I explain that their humility and understanding of their need is absolutely moving?

Having homes and cash, nice cars and clothes, does in some way prevent most of us from knowing how very needy we are. Some of us have been privileged enough to be humbled by God to see our desperation, but many of us have not. It's not that homeless people don't also struggle with pride; it's that underneath even those who are prideful, there is often a deep knowledge of their need and dependance.

I have truly met few homeless people who do not call upon the name of Jesus to help them through each and every day. Collectively, though not every single person, as a whole they understand and often tell me that every good thing in their lives is from God. Every little tiny thing. Things we would brush aside.

In many ways, they struggle just like us. They struggle to surrender their lives to the God they know loves them. Isn't that what we all struggle with? To completely give God everything. Aren't we afraid giving him everything means he will hurt or punish us?

I used to desperately fear that those I loved would die. It was a debilitating fear. It consumed my thoughts. Though it was irrational, I could not escape it. I was afraid that if I surrendered that fear to God, the next day he would take someone I loved.

What is it for you? If I surrender this thing to God, he will take it from me?

This is a lie. God is not asking for surrender and submission to punish us or take the very thing we are afraid to give up. He asks for complete submission because he loves us. He knows that as long as we hold onto that thing, we are not free.

On Thursday, a man named Tom came up to me, and he asked me to pray for him. I saw pain, even desperation, in his eyes. "What can I pray, Tom?" I asked.

"Pray that I would give everything to God. I know I'm giving 60 or 70...even 80%, but he wants it all. He's been telling me the past two weeks that he wants it all."

"What keeps you from total submission?"

"Probably my drinking, in part," he replied.

You see. Tom knows. He knows that his life with alcohol keeps him from the fullest life with God. But he also said at least 10 times in our short talk. "I know he loves me. I just know he loves me."

It is out of the love that Tom knows God has for him that he is able to receive God calling him to more. God is not beating Tom over the head, saying, "Stop drinking. Love me more." God is saying to Tom, "Tom, I love you so much. My child, my son, come to me. Give all to me. I offer you the best life possible."

God is patient with Tom. God is leading him. God loves him.

The same is true for you and for me. God loves us through his Son Jesus. He wants us to experience the fullest life possible, and the way there is through total submission. Submission is a continual, lifelong thing. God constantly shows me those things I have not surrendered, and asks me to give them over, because he wants me to be FREE.

Freedom! And then, as we become free, God uses us to free others. And so with great joy, free people are used of God to free other people.