Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Motley Crew-My Good Samaritans

My life has turned into disarray as of late. I found myself in an unlikely situation, very much out of my character. Much of it is my own doing yet decisions were made without my permission as well. But that is life isn’t it? We live on a planet with seven billion other individuals and we’re bound to be impacted by their choices too. 

There’s a scene floating about in my head of people in bumper cars and the arena we’re driving in represents life. We can’t help but “bump” into each other no matter how well we drive because someone else may not drive as well as you do. Or another accurate picture of walking through life is like people filing through a gate, like cattle. Sometimes the gate is narrow and sometimes wide. No matter how hard you may try to stay in your own space, it’s inevitable that you’re going to collide with, not just one individual but more likely than not, many individuals.

And, like the bumper cars and my own irregular driving, it seems that, though the bumping I did caused damage to other bumper cars, and though I’ve pleaded for mercy, I feel that very little has been given, except only by a select few. Those that I fully expected to show mercy and grace to me, those within the church, were in fact the ones that threw the book at me, so to speak. The main person I believed would stand by my side no matter what was the one that betrayed me the most. 

As I’ve been walking through this very overwhelming ordeal, I’ve thought about Jesus and His closest friends. Many people followed Jesus but He chose 12. What is perplexing to me is that out of his twelve closest friends, one of them betrayed him. What was his justification? How could he do that to Jesus, his friend? Yet, it says that, “when he saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse…(Matt 27:3).” I wonder if the friend I considered my “best” friend has been seized with remorse as I, too, have been condemned? Condemned by the very ones that I thought would show me mercy and grace as I have shown those that have hurt me so. We reap what we sow don’t we? Where’s my harvest of mercy? Where’s my harvest of love? From the masses, I haven’t received any. I’ve been written off as the most disgusting in society by those that I considered my closest friends. The “Unfriended Friend” as my unlikely friend, Sue, has called me. One by one they've deserted me. One by one they’ve unfriended me off social media. Which, whether we like it or not, holds so much weight in today’s world. Maybe Jesus felt this alone as His closest friends, not only betrayed him, but “deserted him and fled (Matt 26:56b).” Now I do not hold myself in the same category as Jesus. He was “tempted in every way…yet was without sin (Heb 4:15).” However, I have not been able to accomplish that. I was “tempted and drug away by my own evil desires,” as James says it. 

I already have abandonment issues from childhood but the abandonment I have felt in all of this has been taken it to a whole new level. Or I should say depth of despair. 
And despair is certainly what I’ve felt in all of this. But, I feel, from my merciful God, who I had nearly given up on, He’s in fact shown me that I’ve had some unlikely friends come to my aid. He calls them “the least of these.” People who I feel are the unlikeliest of all.

The first unlikely friend is Sue. She’s the cousin of my ex-best friend. She has her own story of betrayal, from friends, relatives, and church members. I asked her why was she showing me kindness through this and her response was, “I know what it’s like to be alone and I want you to know you are not alone.” She’s constantly reminding me that God sees and knows what I’m going through and that I’m not alone. The 2nd unlikely friend is a gal I’ve known since she was a teenager and has her own story of betrayal. As a matter of fact, similar words were used on her as the main excuse for what they were doing, “so that she would be saved from hell and enter the kingdom.” She loves people, their hearts are what she's drawn to. Her life is colorful, much like the paintings she creates. And she loves God. 

The third person is an outcast of sorts. She’s been betrayed as well, much like my first two unlikely friends. What a beautiful heart that shines through the rough exterior she may try to put up. If she's your friend, she will fiercely defend you! And boy does she love God and is a friend to other outcasts as well.

Another person who has been an unlikely friend isn’t so unlikely because it’s my sister. But she has come to my aid in such a powerful and protective way, it’s taken me back a little. We always seemed to be at odds growing up, due to our tumultuous childhood, but she’s a defender of the weak and downtrodden and I guess that’s where I’m at life and since she’s my big sister, she’s fulfilling her role.

Last but not least, this gal is an unlikely sort indeed. She’s the unchurched. The lady from the other side of the tracks. Rough around the edges, cusses like a sailor, tattoos all over her body, but she’s experienced so much pain in her life and has an understanding of what I’m going through and has offered me the kind of compassion that I expected from the church yet wasn’t given any. 

What I've learned in all this is that suffering unites. It connects individuals on a supernatural level. One by one, I’ve been sent a motley crew of sorts to my aid. To love me, to care for the wounds I’ve induced on my own as well as inflicted by other’s. And then the story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. In a way I feel much like the man who was beaten and left for dead. As I’m picturing him lying on the ground half dead, I imagine that it’s me. I walked down a road, where I fell into hands of robbers. Now I take complete responsibility that I walked. I chose to go down that specific road. Even though I chose to walk down that road I didn’t choose what happened to me at the hands of other people. I was stripped of my clothe and they beat me. Then as I was lying there, the people I thought who would rescue me, saw me, and ignored me. But just as the man in scripture, who was left for dead, I felt the same. 

I have been perplexed by the response that has been given to me. And I guess what truly surprises me is that this message of love has been preached for over 2000 years. Messages upon messages have been preached in the church, out of the church, on the streets, on mission’s trips, yet to the majority of Christians, the messages are only stories that they may sound good but when it comes to walking it out, the same man is left for dead. The religious cross to the other side of the road and offer no pity whatsoever. Why haven’t we grown as a Christian community in this area? Why hasn’t our love walk been perfected after all these years? How could we just leave him lying there? And as I’m crying out, how could I be left lying there? If this is what mainstream Christianity looks like, who would want to be accept the cost. From my unchurched friend, she said, “You know what gets me is it’s the church. Aren’t they suppose to help, support and forgive!” Yet that is not what I’ve found in my case.  Such an ugly description was given of me that the church shut the door on me. Kicked me out. Didn’t even consider my track record or want to even talk to me or check on me, much like the religious did to the man in scripture. How can this be? Why would the religious leaders betray the dying man like that? He’s wounded and in need of bandage. But it wasn’t the religious that helped him nor has it been the religious that has helped me. It’s been an outcast. A Samaritan. A people group that was considered unclean. A people group that was hated by the Jews and the religious leaders. Much like my unlikely friends in their own way. 

As I’ve thrashed about in pain, each of them have applied soothing salve to my wounds. They’ve wrapped their arms around me, comforting me in my grief. My Samaritans. Those who would be considered unclean in their own way. As I am. 

But Jesus was really good at moving boundary lines, traditions, man made rules and actually showing us what scripture really means by His actions. So, what does Jesus say tell us to do? He prefaced the story of the Good Samaritan by responding to a question that an expert in the law had. “What he must do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers the question with two more questions and the expert responded, “Love the Lord Your God with all Your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.” As Jesus told him that he answered correctly and to do it and he will live. But it says that the expert in the law tried to justify himself by asking, “who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the story. Love told the story of love in action. Walking by, ignoring those who are downtrodden is not the way of love, even if you don’t like the person, even if you feel you’re justified in crossing to the other side of the road. EVEN if they fell into sin, or robbers or whatever. No one should ever be left for dead, especially by the “religious” folk. They should be the first ones to run to the defense of those that have been knocked down. How will the world ever know how good God is if we won’t even show it to each other? It’s no wonder those that have been outcast run to the world, the world accepts them and brings them into their fold. The church kicks them out. The church shuns them, as they've shunned me. But not my motley crew. In all their ruggedness and improperness, they have been the Good Samaritan and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.