by Dustin Davis
Re-blogged from: Orange Community of Christ
“Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.” – Henri Nouwen
I was feeling pumped as I neared the end of a great four mile run. I found myself stopped at a light waiting to cross a busy morning intersection, waiting for the red “STOP” hand to change to the walking man giving me peace of mind that I could cross in safety. It was there at the intersection that I crossed paths with a man who I would assume had no home. He was sitting on the sidewalk and leaning against a wall, looking no where in particular, hardly noticing the passersby. The hand turned into a walking man. I ran on, my thoughts not on finishing my workout but on the man. What should I do for him? What could I do for him? Would he still be there if I went back to help?
Despite my questions and hesitations I fetched a Manna Bag – a Ziploc bag filled with snacks, clean socks, band aids, water and a note affirming the worth of all persons – from the trunk of my car and headed back. Would people wonder what was in the bag, what I was doing? Would I offend him by offering the bag? Although I was relieved to see he was still there, I was suddenly anxious to give it to him, almost wishing he had moved on so I could avoid the encounter. Well, at least I tried. Then I was embarrassed about my conflicting emotions. Just give it to him I told myself. It’s not a big deal.
I handed him the bag, quickly offered some words about hoping he could use the things inside and told him to have a good day. Have a good day? I thought as I was saying it, as if the contents of the bag could turn his day, his life, around. How lame. He thanked me many times. No problem I said, it’s the least I could do. It really is the LEAST I could do, I chastised myself as I turned around and made my way back to my house, looking forward to a shower. I suddenly had thoughts of calling local shelters, offering this man a meal, bringing him back to my house so he could shower. I could throw his clothes in the laundry. Should I have done that? Should I turn around and go back? What happens now? What happens if I see him the next time I go running? Does it mean I have to give another bag every time I pass him on the sidewalk? Do I have to do something each time I see him? Am I over-thinking this? What would happen if I did more?
We’ve heard a lot in our congregation about living into the questions. At first I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, and I still struggle to completely understand this concept. However, after trying to put this confusing idea into practice, I now like to think of living into the questions as living without the answers.
It’s simply our human nature to seek out clear and clean answers. Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s convenient. There’s nothing wrong with wanting simple answers, I think. But I’ve come to discover that not everything is simple. In fact, few things are. My own life isn’t even simple! I find myself with lots and lots of questions and very few answers. What does this mean for the spiritual life? For me, it means giving up my need for answers and living closer and closer to the questions, hoping that doing so will make things more clear.
Not long after my encounter another opportunity to live into my questions came along. A homeless family came to our congregation seeking help. I offered to do what I could, make some calls, provide some transportation, buy a meal or two, be a friend, help navigate the tricky bureaucratic waters. As I, and our congregation, continue to journey with this family, I have more questions than ever. Am I really helping? Am I being taken advantage of? Should I give up just because I don’t know what to do next? Am I even qualified to be helping? How much will this cost me in time and money and emotions? Shouldn’t I be looking for a job for myself before I look for a job for someone else? Do I want to help them more than they want to help themselves? Am I helping them because I feel guilty? If I don’t help, if we don’t help, who will? Sometimes I think I have some of the answers to these questions, but then my answers that worked yesterday don’t make sense today. They slip away, becoming muddled and confusing once again. So what’s the point? Another question….
In my human search for answers I find only more questions. One in particular keeps coming back to me, and, in many ways, seems to be an answer in and of itself; If you’re not going to at least try to help, try to abolish poverty, try to end suffering, try to pursue peace, try to do anything, then what are you doing?
Since my first meeting a few weeks ago with the man at the busy morning intersection, I have bought him coffee a few times from the store across the street. I run past him almost every single time I go running. I wave, and I smile. I look him in the eye. I still don’t have the answers, but as I strive to live without them, to live closer to the questions, I’m glad that didn’t stop me.
So here’s my question for you. What are you willing to risk? Are you willing to risk simple answers for more questions? Are you willing to risk losing a few dollars, a few hours out of the day? Are you willing to risk disappointment, hurt feelings, pride and ego? Are you willing to risk your own comfort and perhaps even your safety? Are you willing to risk by entering into relationship? Are you willing to risk the discovery of your true capacity?
Are you willing to risk this world for the Peaceable Kingdom?