During our missional communities time serving friends without homes alongside Food 4 Souls yesterday, we served a different route than we usually travel. Though we missed the friends we’ve made on our normal route, this change gave us the opportunity to meet Fred. Fred was travelling along with one of the outreach workers from Food 4 Souls.
Fred is a twenty-five-year veteran of life on the streets. Most recently, he spent 10 months living at a large camp on Davidson St. in Indianapolis that was cleared out by the city in August 2013. After that experience he decided to go it alone in another area of town while maintaining relationship with some of the people he had met at Davidson St. Fred is now getting ready to take a step back into life in the real world.
As Fred told his story, he said the key for him finally coming to a place that he could be ready to reenter society was when he began to be honest with himself about the causes of his homelessness. It was that honesty with himself that gave him the freedom to seek the help he needed to change his life. “If I had met you ten years ago,” he said, ” I would have given you all kinds of excuses of why I was homeless. When I got honest, I began to admit the problem was within me.” That change in perspective helped him to realize he could hope for a better life as well.
As he continued to share his story, I couldn’t help but think of how many people have yet to discover the freedom that comes from self-honesty. Whether we live under a bridge or in a nice house in the suburbs, our tendency is to try to pretend we have everything together. If something goes wrong, it must be someone else’s fault. It is only when we give up hiding behind a facade and become honest with ourselves that we find true freedom to carve out a greater existence in our lives.
This is the nature of grace, too. It is when we come clean with our shortcomings that Jesus meets us there to offer us freedom to be different. So often we think we need to pretend to be perfect among the people we gather with in church or in the workplace. A healthy Christian community, though, offers space for everyone to be honest with themselves and each other recognizing that we all, in a sense, live as beggars on the street in desperate need of God’s grace.
Those of us who live in suburbia are not that far removed from our friends without homes we see on the street each day. It does us well to listen to the wisdom we can learn from those that most of society would pass over.