It was Paul who talked about this human life as “seeing through a glass darkly.” That metaphor has always been a powerful one for me, but lately I’ve been cursing the darkness a lot more than lighting a candle, if you know what I mean.
It’s common at Calvary to deal with the homeless population–as it is for any downtown church–but lately we’ve been struggling with a situation in which the person in need has become part of our community. He’s not a nameless “homeless person” but rather someone many of us would call a friend. Lately the struggle of mental illness and social exclusion has buried its claws deep into the psyche of our friend and those of us in the leadership of this community have had to make some very difficult decisions about boundary-setting.
And this is when the glass gets really dark.
Where is the line between grace and accountability? I’m squinting through the darkness but I can’t make it out.
How, in the name of God, has the mental health system so spectacularly failed someone in such need? There’s an answer to that somewhere, but for the life of me I cannot even see a vague outline.
And, no matter how hard I look, there does not seem to be an obvious quick-fix course of action in this situation. People I love and respect feel differently about how best to react and I feel the pinch of being the leader: no matter what I do someone will object. I’ve looked and looked and looked but I can’t seem to see an obvious answer.
And I hate to say it but I confess I am wondering: where, may I ask, is the transforming power of the Gospel in a situation like this? There is no easy answer; there are not simple solutions. I get up in the pulpit and preach every single Sunday about the power of the Gospel to change us and change our world . . . but sometimes the glass is so dark I can’t see the transformation happening. As a matter of fact, I can’t even see what’s right in front of me.
This day begins with a heavy heart and vision that is so obviously limited. And so I have, yet again, another opportunity to practice what I preach . . . in fact, what I just preached yesterday . . . to look as carefully as I can and when the glass is too, too dark, and, failing any sort of clarity, to hold on to the assurance that light is on its way.