I have desired for a while now to have a chance to get out of my comfort zone (and, yes, my house!) in order to participate in some sort of justice and mercy ministry. When Lisa Mazzio (fellow counselor and psychologist at my church) asked me to join her in offering pro-bono counseling to the homeless served by Trinity during our week of hosting NEST [Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team], I jumped at the chance. I told Seth as I left last night that I felt both nervous and excited, and I half-seriously said that I was going on my mission trip. (A contrast to Seth who’s preparing for a 10-day mission trip to India in the spring.)
When I arrived and walked past crowds of men and women waiting to get in (certainly much more than the 50 who would be selected by lottery), I felt guilty for breezing past in my new boots and the 4-year-old winter coat I’d secretly complained about for being “old” and “unfashionable.” Seeing true poverty has a way of putting petty fashion complaints into perspective.
As I served these people dinner, looking in their faces and putting a plate of food in front of them, I felt a part of me come alive that’s been dormant for a while. This is Christ in me, who loves the “least of these” (by the world’s standards), who delights in offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty, a plate of food to the hungry, a warm shelter on a cold night to those without. And yet it seemed like so little! For just a week, our church hosts them, and for barely 12 hours a night. How much of a difference could that really make? And that is a reason why we must have faith. Faith that God will multiply even the tiniest of offerings done in his name – that he will multiply the scarcity into an abundance, and that he will use even this small act of service to multiply his grace in my heart.
Lisa and I had the privilege of sitting with one man and hearing his story. All throughout, he kept calling us “angels.” What did we do? We listened; we affirmed his pain; we asked a few clarifying questions; we sought to give him hope that he could in fact change. Simple really. Will it make a difference for his life? I don’t know. I may not ever know. But I know that Christ was there with us, in us, speaking and listening through us. And that will make a difference in my life.
I saw tonight a reflection of myself, spiritually speaking. Lest I become too prideful and think that my service in Christ’s name makes me somehow better than those I served or that I obtained better status with God through it, God reminded me that when I was thirsty, he gave me something to drink. When I was hungry, he fed me. When I needed shelter, he invited me in. And he continues to do so every day to one as spiritually thirsty as the man we met with; to one hungry for the one who really satisfies, to one who thinks her self-righteousness can clothe her yet it is only fig leaves and filthy rags, to one in need of the shelter of his grace lest I fall under the judgment and wrath I deserve.