Sometimes I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I don’t know how to feel. Sometimes God leaves me on my knees, crying out “why?”. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. The past couple weeks definitely haven’t made sense. It has been a massive rollercoaster of highs and lows, good and bad, beauty and brokenness.
Let me backtrack a little. On Thursday, September 8, 2016, I moved into 1123 Kalamazoo Ave. It was a huge move for me, both literally and figuratively. I wrote about it here.
Ever since my move, and even in the weeks leading up to it, life has just gotten crazier and crazier. Let me give you a brief (or not so brief) taste of what I’ve been experiencing, both the highs and the lows:
-A couple weekends ago, Lyric and I met a professional panhandler. I gave him $20 the first time we encountered him because I naively believed his story. Then I saw him downtown again a couple days later with the same story. Oh, but this time he introduced himself with a different name. Later that same day I saw him again and he asked me for money, but once he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere with me, he dismissed me and waved down another naive middle-class white male.
-On that same weekend that we first encountered the professional panhandler, Lyric and I were exiting the highway and had a drunk man collapse in front of us and almost get hit by the car in front of us. I didn’t know how to respond. Was he legitimately drunk? Was he acting, hoping for a few dollars? Where could we take him? How do I respond and not disappoint my girlfriend and act like a man? We ended up praying for him from our car and promising to learn more about what to do in such a situation.
-Lyric moved half a mile from my house on Saturday, September 10. And on the following Monday morning, her second morning in her new home, I walked to her house to go for a run but she accidentally dropped her key between the boards on her porch. Her housemate was off to work already and we couldn’t contact her and I had to get to work. So I went off to work and Lyric borrowed a sweatshirt and sweatpants and was going to prayer walk until her housemate got home. She ended up being outside for 4 hours and finally used a neighbors phone to call her mom. They found a loose board in the porch and got her key and found three baby kittens in the neighbors backyard.
-On Tuesday night we had Bible Club. It was super chaotic and hectic. None of the kids were listening and it seemed like a waste of time. And then while Donny, my housemate and mentor, was taking some of the kids home a guy pulled up and dropped off four large buckets of clothes. There was an impromptu clothes drive at 9pm with all the neighborhood African mama’s and then I had to pick everything up and find a spot for all the clothes in the garage.
-The next night, on Wednesday, we found a possum in our garage. We spent 20 minutes looking for a s’more stick to kill it and our dog, Grif, was going crazy trying to find it. Finally our other housemate, Tyler, caught the possum with an apron behind the neck. We decided to take it to the nearby cemetery. So imagine three 6 foot white guys with a lantern, a half-dead possum, and a barking hound dog walking through the streets in the hood at 10 at night to a cemetery.
-The following night, on Thursday, our lock somehow got some gunk in it and I broke my key trying to unlock it. I attempted to climb the house and break in through the already broken top floor door. But once I got to the roof I realized the ledge to the back deck was way to steep. Then Donny got home and we broke in to our house by taking out the air conditioner.
-On Friday night Lyric and I were heading home after hanging out with some friends and we witnessed a head-on collision right in front of us at the corner of Wealthy and Division at 10pm. Lyric immediately ran over to see if everyone was ok and I called 911 and got the car out of the way. The police and an ambulance got to the scene and everyone was ok. We were extremely shaken and didn’t know how to respond.
-On Saturday Lyric’s radiator light came on so she took her car to a local mechanic late on Saturday night. But she had to go to work at 2pm on Sunday so her housemate dropped her off at work and then brought me the money to pay for her car. My mom drove me to the mechanic and I paid for the car and picked her up from work at 11pm.
-Finally, on multiple occasions Lyric has encountered men who were hopefully drunk who asked her to marry them or made rude comments to her. How am I supposed to protect her? How is she supposed to walk around her neighborhood without being objectified? I don’t know how to respond and feel like I need to always be there to protect her against such men.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Crazy is an understatement. This past couple weeks have been something else.
I say all this not to make myself look good. I don’t tell you this to glorify my life. I tell you all this to show how messed up my life is too. I’m not a perfect pastor’s kid, as much as I wish I were at times.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve realized in so many new ways how truly messy life is. Broken people interacting with broken people leads to a broken situation. Any thoughts of a beautiful, fun, feel-good ministry life have been quickly squashed.
I’ve questioned why God has me here. Why is all this happening? Is this Satan attacking us? Why did God lead Lyric and I to these broken neighborhoods, filled with broken people, in a broken world?
The answer, which hasn’t come easily, is because we are broken, too. I am no better than the kid who called me “white corn” last Sunday on my way back from church. I am no better than the Jehovah’s Witnesses around the corner from Lyric’s house. I am no better than the suburban middle-class whites who give Grand Rapids its Beer City, USA title. I am no better than the teenagers who come into the bakery where I work hoping to snatch a feel bucks out of the tip jar. I am no better than the homeless population I often pass without a second glance on South Division. I am no better then the well-off white businessmen in their top story offices.
If I’ve learned anything, it is that we are ALL broken. We ALL need a savior. And, thank God, we ALL have a savior. His name is Jesus.
So, although I can’t always make sense of all the crazy things that have been happening, I’ve realized that that is ok. I have a God who is bigger than any situation I have faced or will face tomorrow or the rest of my life. And that gives my life purpose.
No, I don’t have an answer. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.