Things Not Adding Up: Need for Authentic Relationship

Yesterday, I had a God encounter, and it disturbed me…

Still does…

It was about 95 degrees out, I was comfortably in my car, pulling out of a shopping center parking lot. I was driving slow, as there were various people walking around me. As I was about to make the turn out, I was flagged down by a young woman. I rolled down my window to see what was up, and she told me her plight… something happened with public assistance, leaving her with no money for food… on top of that, she was very much pregnant. So, she and her mom were walking through the parking lot, in the heat, trying to get money for food…

Strangely enough, that’s not what is bugging me… I’ve encountered many people asking for money, and always will. Jesus’ words are true: “the poor you will have with you always”.

I had 3 dollars in my wallet… not enough to make a dent. I gave it to her, but told her I wanted to do more. This is when you know the need is real… She asked if we could go to the store in the shopping center to get a gift card to use for food… No scam… no bait and switch… Just hunger… Absolutely, I can do that. She called her mother over as I parked the car.

Both were very nice and appreciative, and even offered to return the money once public assistance came through. I told them “no, this was God’s gift to them”… I wasn’t trying to pander to them or market God… I felt this was a God encounter, and that He wanted to bless them.

They told me of the treatment they had received by people as they endured the heat, just trying to get some food… harsh people… mean spirited people… hurtful people… They said that I was the first person they encountered that would help them…

It was miserable outside… the treatment they received however, was worse than the heat…

Even that is not what disturbs me… well, it does, but it’s not the overarching thing that is getting to me. I have dealt with mean spirited people, and I’m sure I have been mean spirited at times…

As we walked to the store, they asked me what church I go to (I guess the “God’s gift to you” thing kinda gave it away). I told them, just making light conversation. Then the mom said “we go to ____ church. We love it there”, and went on about how great the church was, the messages, the programs, etc. She was very excited to tell me about her church.

95 degrees…

begging in the parking lot….

part of a community of believers….

Something is wrong with this picture…

Now, this is not an indictment on the particular church. For all I know, the church doesn’t even know of the plight of this family. What disturbs me is that for whatever reason, they felt more comfortable to brave the heat and the attitudes of strangers, than to go to their own community… their extended family, if you will, to meet a temporary need.

There are a ton of “maybe’s” in this… maybe they went to the church multiple times… maybe they’ve burnt bridges… maybe the church doesn’t care… None of the maybe’s matter… what matters is that there is a relationship, but it is not working right. I should be able to go to you, no matter how painful it is, and feel that regardless of the outcome, I am safe in relationship. I should feel more comfortable with my extended family than I am with random strangers…

I do know that this scenario is not rare… and that is even more disturbing…

If you are expecting me to come up with a nice message, object lesson, or resolution, I don’t have one… As much as we all know how we should treat people, the Golden Rule, all that, our society (and micro-societies) doesn’t seem to work that way…

Maybe… just maybe… if our relationships were more important than our structures – our titles, our image, our personal accomplishments… maybe then we won’t have pregnant women braving dangerous conditions just to get food… maybe then we won’t have our children thinking that life is not worth living… maybe then we won’t have people thinking that taking another life is an acceptable way of existing…

I was reading earlier this week, where Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind man… “Whose fault is this?” they asked. Jesus told them that this was not a matter of fault… it was an opportunity for God to be glorified. Some people will read this and judge the young woman and her mom… “They shouldn’t be on public assistance”… “she should have planned better”… blah, blah blah… She was not a textbook case… she was a person… with a name… with a story… with a need…

Even after writing this, I am still disturbed… Maybe that’s good, because maybe it might change how I view, and do relationships. Maybe it will change how others who read this will do relationships. Maybe relationships can start to be really safe and nurturing. I’m thinking that maybe that is what society is supposed to be all about.

Notable Notables:

I was introduced to Hannah Brencher (virtually), having seen her challenges on my friend J’s blog (https://www.judyclementwall.com/). Hannah started moreloveletters.com, a site that connects people with a need for encouragement with people willing to reach out in authentic love and provide that encouragement. I participated in a few of the letter writing opportunities, and I cannot tell you how powerful it was, to bring a word of encouragement to someone needing to hear it. I would encourage everyone to do it at least once (and then do it again)… not for you… do it because you have the capacity to give real, authentic love… because you can make life a little better, a little safer for someone you encounter.

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