For the past six years, my wife, "Charity" as the bikers call her, has been serving alongside of me as a partner in our urban ministry. Her giving spirit and ability to empathize with the hurting and marginalized has proven a valuable asset to our work. As we are telling the story of our ministry and work here in Colorado Springs, I thought that it would be fitting for her to share a story from her perspective. This is her first, but hopefully not last contribution to this blog.
Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
I am preparing our Christmas dinner when I get a text from a friend I had invited to share our meal, “What do I owe you for all you have done for me?” I was shocked! She is my friend! She has been in a tough spot in recent weeks and has needed the love and support of her friends. In my mind these simple gifts of help (a ride, help with job search, warmer clothing, bus fare, etc) were given to get her back to her feet. Isn’t that what friends are supposed to do for each other? I told her she owed me nothing. I did these things because she was my friend. She went on to tell me that she was asking because she had accepted the help of a person she thought was a friend and the person was using it to get what she wanted in return. Giving love created a debt.
Over the years, God has brought a lot of friends into our lives though our ministry. Among many of these friends, this love that comes with a cost is the most common form of love, often the only kind of love they have ever experienced. In their mind their value is entirely wrapped up in what they have to offer and how that is used to get something in return. Very carefully balanced relationships of give and take are created and when you can no longer hold up your end of the bargain you no longer have value. This idea of intrinsic value is often not seen in the world in which we live and is probably the greatest gift we offer to those we love. As we try to be Jesus-with-skin-on to those God brings our way, the first seeds are planted by loving them just as we find them. This is the love God offers us. When we were still messed up, God sent His Son. He didn’t wait for us to finally get it all figured out. He loved us as we were until we could believe it for ourselves, trust His love and accept the relationship He offered.
For us loving this way has meant sitting in the homeless camps over a cup of hobo coffee, meeting basic needs to build trust so they can safely share their stories, wrapping our arms around them when life has meant so much abuse and misuse that they can’t believe that God is even a possibility. Sometimes it means loving their family members who have watched them fall again and again so that they can find another infusion of hope and strength. Some of them have tried religion in some form and figured out pretty quickly that they couldn’t clean up enough or get it all right long enough to ensure God could love them. (Sometimes the wounds inflicted in the name of God are the deepest, most ingrained and hardest to overcome.) They know their lives are broken and they are so deeply entrenched in the lie that they have no value that these simple moments of love begin to spark the idea that it is possible for unconditional love to exist.
Often when speaking to people trapped in these lies, we talk about how all people are created with a God shaped hole, and this is one example of what we mean. We are created to want to be valued and loved, no matter what, unconditionally; this void can never be filled with anything else. As we love people in this way we allow people to see God as He is. Some of us need to see God first in a tangible form and once we do, faith can spark into something personal and alive. That is why we are here, that is the goal of our lives, to be love, to demonstrate who God is, and how He loves us to people who have never experienced such love. By loving this way we earn the right to speak truth to them, to talk to them about the love and life Jesus offers.
Karen "Charity" Aldrich
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES
What Have We Found Here: The Story of Our Mission - Part 3
What Are We Doing Here: the Story of Our Mission - Part 2
How We Got Here: The Story of our Mission - Part 1