I think I need to start way back when I was deciding where to go to graduate school. I was living in Boulder, finishing up a year internship and knew without a doubt that I wanted to go to a Seminary. I had grown up in a home filled with lots of love but I found that as I grew closer to God, there was so much aout the Bible that I did not know. I ached for more understanding and to deeply be rooted in more of God. I also knew that I loved two things: working with young people (I was working at a college ministry at the time) and the inner-city. I would drive through the graffiti walled neighborhoods in Denver and weep because I felt like I was home. It was such a surreal but at the same time, deeply real experience. I had grown up on a tiny island, why in the world would this feel like home?
I finally jumped at an opportunity to do both. A double degree in Counseling and Youth Ministry with an urban emphasis. Walking out of that school with that degree I would be bulletproof...ready for anything! My years at Denver Seminary were incredibly stretching. I was confronted with so many things about myself that needed to be worked on, learned over and over and over again that I could do nothing on my own and only by the grace of God was I going to be able to 'help' anyone else. At the same time I fell in love, absolutely, completely, hands down in love with working with youth. I got to spend 2 years as a case manager for homeless street youth. I spent countless nights talking kids down from drug highs, taking them to ER to halt suicide attempts, listening over and over again to stories of gut wrenching abuse and, tucking them in at night before I left.
It still brings tears now, picturing these kids with exteriors like a pitbull, piercings and tattoos from head to toe and their swaggering walks that told the whole world that they needed absolutely no one...seeing them lay their heads in tender innocence on the pillows of their 'bed' on the floor of the old church. At just that second, when I tucked them in, the veil was down and I would usually sneak a kiss on their sometimes matted heads and whisper a silent prayer over them and see the vulnerability in their weary eyes...so broken and so longing to be known and to matter. I left each night so thankful for the honor of knowing them, of seeing a small piece of what God saw...
Night after night as I kissed heads and then left I began to see more and more what God had for me there. The Lord began to teach me during those two years, to show me so many places of deep, deep brokenness. I hung different things on my exterior to hide that brokeness: being 'good' and doing the right things, getting that right degree, keeping everything looking perfect on the outside....but on the inside I was crumbling. Night after night, I began to weep on my drives home...for the brokeness, the pride, the fear inside of myself.
Over those two years, it was like the Lord gently kissed my matted head, let that exterior be up until I began to trust Him to take it down....and He began to speak to and heal some of those raw spots in my soul.
When I think of those kids now, there may be tears but they are not of sorrow at all. They are of profound joy. Joy because, over time, God began to show be how breathtakingly beautiful they were...how beautiful we both were.
The greatest lesson I learned in Seminary was not a fancy degree...
....but the fact that the Lord reaches down in the midst of our utter despair and proclaims His beauty. Not by anything that we do or strive to do, but by His tender Grace if we let Him...and He meets us there, holds us there, in our stench and filth and darkest of hidden darkness, he longs to tenderly care of and heal us.
I don't think that I knew how much I need to be reminded of this until I wrote it. We are still waiting on word about Georgia's heart. We are actually in the process of trasferring to a different Cardiologist all together after much prayer and confirmation. Doug has to leave this morning for another week away...and I have felt too weak and not strong enough to do yet another week of worry all alone.
And there is that picture. Fragile kids tucked in, the feel and smell of that room...and the picture that the Lord wants to hold me in my own weakness. That is how I can do another day, in the arms of the One who reaches so far down with such great Love.
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Somewhere, in a box in our garage, I still have some 'notes' written by one particular girl on my caseload. They are folded up in triangles and covered in flowers just like teenagers do....and I cannot wait to find it to put in my Memorial Box.
To find out more about Memorial Boxes.....go and visit Linny! It is the best encouragement of my whole week to read the stories of God's faithfulness that people write