I remember an uncomfortable saying from my childhood. It was always directed toward the generic needy, unfortunate, or sin-ensnared of the small town in which I grew up. You know, the street person, the addict, the mentally ill.
There but for the grace of God go I.
It carried a not very subtle classism or elitism, and always, always, the undercurrent that we deserved our station in life. God had looked on us with favor—and, deep down, we knew we deserved it. And they deserved their place, too.
It was a very easy way of pointing out the imaginary line separating us and them, yet still staying humble.
That line stands even more starkly when we serve them. Doing for others is often less an act of grace than it is self-affirmation. By serving the “less fortunate,” we confirm the rightness of our privileged status.
Serving others points out just how much God loves me. And it is always a one-way street.
Heaven forbid (literally!) that one of these has something to offer me.
But then, last week at the City of Youth…
One of our girls tells her story to a visiting group on a mission trip. A story of abandonment, drug addiction, prostitution.
A story of redemption, restoration, transformation.
It resonated with one of the visitors whose own son is struggling with addiction and in rehab. As the mission team climbed on the bus to leave the City of Youth, Anna (not her real name) ran up and handed the team member a letter for her son.
. . . One day he made me smoke a rock with him. After the very first time, it was like everything I had ever wanted. We went on to smoke about 6 rocks a day. He would abuse me, I would feel pain, and then he would bring out the “medicine.” Drugs destroyed me. I lost everything. My family, friends, social life, and I wanted to die. One day I looked at myself in the mirror and did not recognize myself.
Somehow, I found myself at the City of Youth, a Christian youth shelter. I hated the very idea of it. And at first, my abstinence was so great it even scared me. I would stuff myself with any sweets and candy I could hide away. I would often cry and think about suicide. When I slept I would dream that I was smoking, and when I was awake, I thought I could smell the drug, and I imagined that I could hear the crackling of the burning rocks.
But then God started acting in my life. It was nothing instantaneous. I still felt a desire to use. But with Jesus it became easier. In September, it will be one year since I was saved!
I did not believe in myself, and nobody believed in me. But unlike mine, your mother loves you! You are not alone! God is calling you, he wants to free you, to give you a new story, to do for you what he did with me. Please give Him a chance! If you don’t believe this is possible, come here to Brazil to meet me, and see and sense what Jesus did with me. I CHALLENGE YOU!
If you ever need a “friend,” even one who is far away, I would love to have you write to me, and tell me about your daily defeats and victories. I already love you in Christ. Take care of your mother, OK?