Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The ears of the deaf unstopped

Two years ago my homeless friend (I’ll call him Benedict) got out of jail after spending seven months there for an armed robbery he didn’t commit, and made a courageous choice: he asked to be placed in a halfway house, somewhere far away from the college town where I had met him. After keeping my number in his wallet during his whole stay in prison, he called me that spring to invite me to visit him.

I remember the conversation I had with a friend who joined me to share the drive. While giddy about seeing Benedict again, I nevertheless confessed the despair that I had maintained as I had entered the lives of various homeless men and women.

“Sure, hope is being fulfilled for Benedict,” I continued, “and I suppose it was fulfilled the summer that I prayed for Lawrence and returned in the fall to find him well-fed and off the streets, but what about the people God doesn’t help?”

To make my point, I tried to think of examples.

“What about Herman?” I began, until I remembered that the haggard old veteran had recently ended up in an apartment.

“Or what about Barbara?” I continued, until I remembered that she had recently ended up off the streets as well.

My friend simply smiled as I struggled unsuccessfully to come up with an example of a homeless person whose life I had entered in college who was still on the streets. I was shocked that my tragic-example trump-card had been trumped. Somehow, though I had maintained the impression that God never helped these people, that their lives were a stagnant position of misery, he had seemed to go behind my back in his process of transforming the physical, tangible hardships of their lives.

I visited Benedict again on Monday. He is now in a house of his own, for which he shares the rent with his newly-reconciled mother and little brother, who have moved down South to share life with him. He has worked a full-time job for the past two years, and they are preparing him for more managerial roles as he is reaching his 50s. He just started a 401k.

God has been in the process of redeeming the decayed parts of creation, even when I have refused to see it. And God has done it without being dependent upon my own attempts to hurry the process.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped…
In the case of Benedict, it was my hands that were weak, my knees that were feeble, my heart that was anxious, my eyes that were blind, and my ears that were deaf. They are slowly becoming unstopped.

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