“You tell me this”, said Shaz* as we sat over coffee, “You tell me: if there was a homeless person lying in the gutter, would it be a Christian or a druggie that stopped and helped him? It would be the druggie every time.”
I said “I agree with you Shaz.”
That stopped her for a second.
We had met for a coffee, but when we got there she refused to have one. Said she’s not paying that amount for a coffee. I offered to buy her one but she refused that as well. So I drank my coffee and she sat opposite me with nothing. Instead she had the sugar bowl. With a spoon she stirred and stirred as she spoke. The constant stirring was mesmerising and I had to tear my eyes away from it. Also it was easier than looking in to her tormented eyes the whole time.
But when I agreed with her, she stopped stirring for a second and said,
“Ha – we agree on something. What do we do now?”
Shaz’s and my relationship isn’t an easy one. To be honest, I have no idea how to handle her. And that’s something I constantly say to the Lord, believe me.
Before Shaz, I thought I was pretty experienced with all sorts of people. When we had our home church for the outcasts there were times where we had seven heroin addicts sitting around our table at once for lunch. We have had neo-nazi’s in our home, murderers, profoundly mentally disturbed people, lonely people, homeless ones, ice addicts, people I met while street preaching, whoever God sent. They were difficult and God always gave us grace for each one.
I first met Shaz in March. I preached at the homeless mission in the city and she was there. Full of anger, bitterness, hard, cold as anything, she told me what her father had done to her from a terribly young age. She asked me how God could forgive someone like that if he repented. And why would she want to go to a place (heaven) where that animal might possibly be? She spat at me that nobody has been able to help her, even Christians.
As I listened to her story my heart broke. And she was right too, I didn’t know how to help her. What the heck do I say to this woman who had been so wounded by the one who should have protected her? ‘Oh God’, I cried out in my heart, ‘help me! I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to say to her.’
I didn’t know what to do, so I just put my arms around her little body, my head on her shoulder and cried. I sobbed. I said I am so, so sorry that this happened to you and I was. I cried and cried as she stood there silent, as stiff as a board while I wet her shoulder with my tears.
Then she moved away from me and I heard her swearing and cursing as she left. I said to God that I am sorry I failed. I couldn’t get through to her and I had no idea how to help her.
Two weeks later she was back at the mission.
She came over to me and said roughly, “the compassion you showed me that other night saved my life. I was going to go home and neck myself but after I met you I didn’t want to anymore.”
Then she swore and cursed Christians and left.
And pretty much that has been our relationship since. She clings to me, she pushes me away. She seeks me out, she runs and hides. Like a puppy who’s been abused and is scared of being hurt again. One time she came up behind me at the mission and hugged me. She literally clung to me. The anointing and love of the Holy Spirit came upon me so strongly that I just cried and prayed in tongues while I hugged her back. And she clung and clung. Then she ran out of the building.
As we sat at coffee that morning she cursed and called me a hypocrite. Everything I said to her was wrong, and she told me off the whole time. It was exhausting.
I left feeling like I had failed, yet there was an inexplicable joy in my spirit.
Two days later in the mail I got a card from Shaz in child-like, painstakingly neat handwriting saying that she can’t tell me this to my face but I am the only true friend she has ever had and that she loves me.
She said she doesn’t know how to be with “normal” people and that is why she hangs out with the street-people.
I cry for these ones. These ones who haven’t known love.
Not long after this we visited a local Baptist church, a good and decent church we sometimes go to. The pastor explained that they want to build a bigger auditorium to be able to seat more people at once to cut down on the number of services over weekends. To do this they are raising $2 million to replace the perfectly good auditorium they already have. I looked around and I knew that they would get that $2 million.
I cry for the church.
*not her real name