When the World Broke

As our family drove home last night we passed the engorged parking lot of Target and it was then that my world cracked wide open.

I thought about the men that we’d sat with around the table a few hours earlier.  Having no car themselves, these men had been driven in a stranger’s car to the church.  They’d been offered toothbrushes and soap, a place to put their laundry if they wanted their clothes washed. Passing by the cots that would be their guaranteed bed for one night, they sat down at the tables we’d set up.

We started bringing dishes out.  “That looks good,” one man said. And the empty plates were filled.

Here were the men we’d been preparing for all week.  Making christmas cards, decorations, and gift bags with things as simple as a hat, a stamped letter to get in touch with a family member.  Unlike so much of America’s shoppers, we hadn’t purchased Ipods or Kindles  (how would they connect those) or a large screen TV since, unlike everyone else I knew, they didn’t have a wall to hang it on.

All week we’d had a project.

We read all the right verses about how Jesus said what we do for the least of these we do for him and how he came for the hungry, lost, and oppressed.  (All truth.)

But until we sat down with these men, it had remained a project with a whole lot of unknown.  This was the part we’d been nervous about.

But then we saw what this meal, a meal that we could have any night at our house, meant to them.

We saw the toiletries and the laundry bags and watched them stand in a circle and listen to a list of rules for their one night at the church.  Were they just glad to have a bed, or was their self-respect brought even lower by the dependency on a bunch of strangers just to eat and sleep comfortably?

Now we had faces.  Now we saw hunger. Now we saw them at the mercy of a bunch of strangers.

Suddenly each object we placed in their gift bags was no longer theoretical-we saw one gentleman put his new hat on before he headed out for a smoke.

We were past “family christmas project” and stressed out mom who had worked hard to get things done that day, to privilege.

What a privilege.

And the glowing sign of Target flashed in my head again and we continued to drive through the crack between two worlds.  There was the world getting all of their last minute shopping done and there were these men who were back at the church getting ready for their one night before they were driven somewhere else the next morning.

In the back the kids were asking, “Can we do this again, can we please do this again?”

But the elation of pulling off the whole evening had dissipated and I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that these men weren’t a project.  Tomorrow their day was going to be just as challenging as this one.  We served them one meal out of how many that they need to eat in a year?  And it made me sad that it was privilege.  It made me sad that one meal or one bit of kindness should be a big deal for them at all.

We live in a small home, our kids share rooms, we don’t own big gadgets, and yet we are so rich.  I think if we have enough food to complain about what we’re eating for breakfast, or be annoyed by the pile of stuff blocking the door, or the ability to depend only on our own selves for what we need, then we’re stinking rich, actually.

But this isn’t a post about guilt.  I’m not asking the question, “how can we all feel bad enough about our stuff?”.

It’s a post about how we weren’t designed for this world.  This isn’t our home.  This is a place of pain, hunger, longing and brokenness.  We were made for a perfect world, but sin changed all of that.  The world actually broke a long time ago but we’re pretty good at being blind.

We’re all just pitching our tents here in this world, but this world is like the cots those men slept in last night. Temporary.  The more time I spend here, the more I realize it doesn’t have anything I’m really looking for.  The more time I spend in the nursing home with my Dad and the others who live there, the more I long to pitch my tent in heaven.

Until then, yes, we’ll try really hard with the help of the Holy Spirit to discern between the lies of this world (success, money, keeping up with the Jones’, it’s all about you, everyone man for himself), and we’ll try really hard to fill the brokenness with food, kindness and love.  But we already know it’s only a patch, because this broken world will always be broken.

Thank goodness God in the flesh came to save us all.  I can’t wait til we all go home.


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