There is a reluctance, if I'm honest, to allow myself to dream for them; but don't earnest, shut-eyed prayers always lead to open-eyed dreaming? I have not found another way.
It was my turn to run the call and the seasoned paramedics snickered as we bumped along Cascade Road and arrived at our patient. He was a "frequent flier" as they call patients who too often find themselves hitching a ride to the Grady ER in the back of our ambulances. He had called 911 himself. He was high on cocaine and despite the paramedics eye rolls, he was telling us in his most serious tone that he was ready for this to be his last hit. He wanted to quit.
She shifted in her seat and looked me in the eyes, saying she was ready for a new life. She was tired of depending on her body to keep a roof over her family's head; her family that consists of children and their children. Her daughters scoffed in the seats behind us, two babies sitting on their laps. The next strip club we passed, one called out "Oh look! They're hiring! Hey mom, have you changed your mind yet?" They didn't believe her. Why should I?
Bundled up in a blanket she made with all of her spare time, she tells me about how she will live by the ocean with her sister and spend her days freelance writing. When her disability checks start coming in, life will be so different. She has been living in shelters for years now, but month after month shares visions of where she would like to be in just a few more weeks. Seeing her sit on the same bed week after week sends a tinge of pain as I realize her dreams are not coming true as quickly as she would like.
His voice was muffled as we sat separated by a wall of smudged plexiglass. I leaned hard into the phone receiver and willed my ears to make something of his hushed mumblings. Though I missed bits and pieces, his message was clear : he was falsely accused. Another man should be wearing this orange jumpsuit, not him. Isn't that what everyone says when courts are threatening to remove them from society to pay penance for a wrongful act?
I wasn't sure.
Her children are proof that she has not been attentive to their needs in a way that a mother must in order for little bodies to grow and thrive. The neighbors throw a hand in the air saying it is a tragedy that she was physically able to give birth to life. The nurse who examines the weak bodies sighs with anger and says she would love to give their mother a piece of her mind. The neglect is undeniable; no excuses of ignorance seem justified. She doesn't have much to say for herself.
The evidence is laid out before him and onlookers are quick to remind "once a street boy, always a street boy." He cannot be trusted and anyone who (ever) believed otherwise was just being foolish. He admits, finally, to the destruction he has caused and promises he won't let them down again. He begs forgiveness, it is granted, and the scene repeats itself just days later. His birth family has disowned him and his foster family is encouraged by others to do the same, being told that they have given it their best shot. Isn't there a time when it's appropriate to accept defeat? To throw in the towel?
These are just a few examples, but I think we run into these people every day. Hopefully more than running into them, we seek them out. Sometimes it hurts to dream for people when not many others are. When "wisdom" tells us they don't deserve our dreams, dreaming on says that we see them (or are straining to see them) as Jesus does. They need this. We need this.
We believe with the cracked out man because he needs someone to believe with him that even this can be overcome and we happen to know a God who can do big things like that without batting an eye.
We believe with the friend whose children called her bluff from the backseat because she needs someone to believe with her and we happen to know a God who can do big things like that without batting an eye.
We believe with the lady who dreams of a beautiful, less-dependent life outside of a women's shelter because she needs someone to believe with her and we happen to know a God who can do big things without batting an eye.
We believe with the huge man in orange whom I barely know-- not that he is innocent, who really cares?--but that this is not the end of his story, because he needs someone to believe with him and we happen to know a God who can do big things like that without batting an eye.
We believe with the woman who has truly sucked as a mother, but it doesn't have to be that way forever, because she needs someone to believe with her and we happen to know a God who can do big things like that without batting an eye.
We believe with the weary foster mom as she struggles through uncharted territory, as only few are brave enough to walk this path by choice, because she needs someone to believe with her and we happen to know a God who can do big things without batting an eye.
We don't have to believe with them because it is a safe bet or because the odds are in their favor or because they've proved themselves trustworthy or because they really seem to "want it". We can do all of that without Jesus--it is not so bold to walk a tightrope that is lying on the ground.
We can believe with them because of all that they are not. All that we are not. All that HE is is certainly enough for us to enter into their dreams.
Y'all. It's supposed to be us sitting beside the cracked out man as his body seeks to ruin him if he does not go back to the substance it has come to depend on. We are the ones who are Holy Spirit empowered to believe with someone who has only known one way of life that things can be different--that God is able. Is this not our own story of redemption?
When we're not all that impressed with what God can do, it shows.
It shows when I join the "encouragers" who pat her on the back and say she gave it her best shot, time to send him back to the streets because he has had about 7 trillion chances. It shows when I stare too long at the statistics on men who are released from prison actually staying out and living productive lives in society and throw some distinguishing water on the fiery dream that wishes things to be different, at least for him. It shows when I deceitfully nod my head and pat her on the back as she dreams of a different life, but cannot help but glare hopelessly at the seemingly permanent impression her body has made in the third bed on the second row of the shelter. It shows when I succumb to what I do not know about this man, accepting what has already been decided about him based on how many times a week he shares this same desire, only to be picked up again and dropped off at the ER for a repeat of the week before. It shows when the first time I hear she has gone back to what she knew, my frustration overcomes me and I deem her as a "lost cause" until she truly wants to change. It shows when I join them in anger (that seems so so warranted when innocent children are involved) and bash her further into the ground instead of seeing the tiny seedling of hope that might just sprout if nourished.
It can be a lonely place, the place that sits before Jesus and first believes He is able and then waits to see just how able He is. Sometimes the crowd is heavy in the beginning and usually it dwindles, maybe to the point of standing alone before Jesus, petitioning Him on behalf of someone that everyone else has given up on. They will disappoint. And if you're like me, you will disappoint yourself even more frequently than they disappoint you. But this is a blessed place. I want to find myself here more often. I want Him to increase my faith in Him so I can stand with them with complete and utter confidence that my God is the one who can move the ginormous mountain in front of them. They need us whose eyes have looked on Him, tasted His goodness, and been transformed into His likeness to believe with them that He is able. If we can't believe it, how can they?
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." --Ephesians 3:20-21