February 8, 2013

The Well

[I wrote this a while back about the food pantry where I spend my Sundays. I have been feeling especially thankful for this place, of late, and it felt like a good time to post this little ditty bragging on the community I call mine. Come see us.]

It was a sweaty Sunday a few Augusts ago when I walked down into the basement of Wellspring Church to The Well food pantry to volunteer for the first time. I probably could’ve counted on one hand the number of homeless people I’d interacted with in my life up to that point. But through a strange chain of events that I can only attribute to our funny God, there I was, about to sit down and pray about I had no idea what with someone I’d never laid eyes on before and who similarly had never laid eyes on me. I didn’t know what I was doing, what to say, or how to be. I didn’t know what it was like to be hungry or homeless or really even in need. But like I said – there I was. I took a deep breath, pretended I knew what I was doing, and prayed one day I would.
I came down the stairs that first time because I thought I could help. Oh Jesus, you are bigger than even our very best intentions. I will never not be thankful for that.
And since that first day, I have seen wonderful things. There was one woman in particular I prayed with regularly for a long time. I will never forget, after weeks of praying for his heart to soften, the day she came in beaming to tell me that she’d just sat in church for the first time with her husband. Or the day a man who couldn’t get a job to save his life came in practically giddy to tell me he finally had an interview. Or the day a woman who only a year ago was living in an abusive home, desperately miserable, came back after several months and said, her prayers answered, “I’m so happy.” 
As an “interviewer,” I get to do what I like to do the very best: talk to people. Talk and listen and pray. It’s a little counter-intuitive for me, though, because I like to have answers. I like for there to be a neat little bow tied at the end of everything, but I quickly found I wouldn’t get that here. The ugly truth of the matter is that some days, it feels like too much. Some days I am speechless because a 9-year old girl is here by herself getting groceries for her family. Or a man my dad’s age is holding my hands and weeping because he hasn’t spoken to his children in years. Or I meet with 13 people in a row who can’t find jobs and aren’t sure where they’ll sleep tonight. Some days the world is so overwhelmingly not good that things can start to feel hopeless, and I don’t have a bow to tie on that. And yet even on those days, even then, I am continually amazed by the faith and strength and even joy of the people sitting across from me. Because the world may not always be good, but God is. In the direst of circumstances, that truth remains a promise.
The Well is a food pantry. But it doesn’t stop at just meeting people’s physical need to eat food – it’s about transformation. Prayer isn’t just about answers – although often we see them, and it’s amazing – it’s about the changing of hearts. Recovery, over time. And sometimes, yes, it’s about sitting still in heartache and addiction and suffering and holding hands with grown men while they cry. It’s about hope when things feel hopeless because while the world isn’t good, Jesus is. In the messiest story, the dirtiest past, the saddest circumstance, there is hope. Fixing problems and tying bows may be quick and pretty, but it’s nothing compared to messy, beautiful, new life in Christ.
The Well taught me that. And I will probably never be the same because of it.

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