My apologies for not posting an update since Christmas Eve. I was without internet for most of the week at my mother's house. It was a good experience to be in an environment devoid of the internet when it is accessible from almost any other location.
Today I went back to work at St. Ben's. I admit I thought about things while I was gone: the people I was missing, the needs that had to be addressed, and perhaps my personal desire to "stay busy" rather than simply enjoy some time off. Being back at St. Ben's after the break was a good feeling; I was where I belonged. For a man pursuing his vocation, that sense of association at my ministry reminds me that I am on the right path.
Unfortunately after all the Christmas carols are sung, and all the happy-ending stories are finished, I was again face-to-face with the evils of this world.
I learned today that Don, a friend and a great volunteer to the program, fell off the wagon after 2 years. For most people, the experience is nothing new. "An addict is back in rehab? No big surprise!" That would be the standard sentiment. Maybe I would have said the same thing years ago.
Don was a great help, a great sense of inspiration for others, but most of all he was a good person to talk with. Having been sober for over 2 years, he was in an advanced program in Milwaukee. He was on his way to getting his own apartment, was doing a lot in the community to help others, and was always a great source for me to tap into when I needed to learn more about what was happening in the city. Because of this, he'll no longer be in that program and is most likely without a place to stay at this point.
This month he and I were going to have a real urban plunge event. I was to spend a weekend living homeless. He'd had experience living homeless, he knew the programs and the services available, and he knew where people gathered. It was to be an experience that would help me better understand exactly what it means to be homeless. For obvious reasons, that project has been put on hold.
I've not seen him since I left for Christmas vacation, and the word is that he's sleeping out on the streets. When I think about it, I realize how much it hurts. I don't even know his last name, yet his pain and addiction are keeping him from living a productive life. Just as if my family member where suffering, I wish I could do something to take that cross from Don's back.
As a grown man, I feel tears well up as I look back at the text and realize that I've been typing about him in the past tense. My heart goes out, and even if he makes the same mistake again and again, I'll never think of him as anything but my brother in Christ.
It's been intense experience for me, and it's given me one reflection: How heavy must the burden be for God to watch us treat each other in this way. To watch war, oppression, hunger, hate, and injustice...knowing full well that we're capable of making the best choice for all. Yet we as a society have continued to fall off the wagon over and over. How much it must hurt God to watch us fail over and over. What kind of pain it must be to carry the sins of Man, and then to continually forgive?
Most of all, I think I can better understand infinite depths of God's love as he continues to love us despite our transgressions. Some people wish they could be God. Personally, if I had to live with the pain and the sorrow of watching loved ones hurt themselves and others, I don't think I could handle that much pain.
(Don's name has been changed in this post for obvious reasons of privacy.)