November 21, 2009

By Your Bootstraps

I know it's been a while since I've posted, my apologies. Work at the church combined with my schoolwork has kept me pretty busy the past week or so. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the down-time that is coming along with Thanksgiving.

6 weeks ago a person walked into our church on a Sunday morning for the first time. This individual was very different from the majority of the congregation, in more ways than one. He did not have a job, a car, a valid driver's license, a computer, a phone, money or friends. He was living with his parents and had no idea how to use a computer, let alone navigate the internet to find a job. He did have a felony record and a past that went with it from 20yrs of street life.

I've had the opportunity (and honestly the blessing) to befriend him and witness firsthand some of the things God has been doing in his life over these past 6 weeks. He recognizes that the life he was leading is not the life he wants anymore and he's been willing to do what it takes to become "legit", not only in the way he earns money but in his relationship with Christ. I am being reminded how significant even baby-steps can be...

...but this is not the biggest thing that has hit me so far from my relationship with him...

...I think I have come (or am quickly getting there) to the conclusion that the cycle of poverty, speaking specifically about the United States because that is where I live, is virtually impossible for an individual to break unless someone else steps in to help. How can we tell someone who not only has nothing in his favor but actually has things stacked against him that he has to "get out there and make it happen"? So many people don't even have a way to "get out there". We are telling people to pick themselves up by their bootstraps when in fact THEY DON'T EVEN OWN BOOTS!

Sure, my friend made some bad choices but so did you. Last I checked, the meaning of grace is getting something you don't deserve and if I remember correctly, that is exactly what Christ has called the Church to be about. We as Christians must step in the gap and be that grace by finding ways to break the cycle of poverty. James (2:14-18) reminds us that it is no longer enough to simply say "Good luck!" or "I hope that works out for you." because acknowledging someone's need is not the same as helping him fill it. This is a perfect time of year for God to remind me of exactly this.

6 comments:

Kaleb Heitzman said...

And this my friend is a beautiful portrait of what Christianity is.

Matt Lipan said...

Kaleb Heitzman: thanks for the read and comment.

it really could be a beautiful thing couldn't it? certainly something to be shooting for.

marty morrow said...

Matt - my agency oversees 85+ centers across the state that interact with 10,000+ of folks in those predicaments every day. Our focus in on finding them a job and we ignore the spiritual dimensions (after all, we are the gov't!). After doing this for a while, I've come to the same conclusion that you have - these folks need help. And I think they need help in mind, body AND soul. 2 out of 3 isn't good enough. I also know that that the typical person that walks in your door enters (on average) 7 other community organizations in their dealings including ours. I have many ideas on how to attack this. I would love to talk with you more about it.

Matt Lipan said...

marty morrow: thanks for the read and comment.

YES! let's get together to talk about this and see what we can do to not only help my friend out but any others who will inevitably walk through the doors of the church looking for help with all three, mind/body/soul, and many times not even know it. any suggestions or resources you might have would be HUGE. shoot me an email so we can connect, matt@castletonumc.org.

thanks so much for sharing. good stuff (as always)!

Anonymous said...

Matt
What a great way to practice radical hospitality and more to be the hands feet eyes ears and heart of Christ.

We had another visitor last Sunday.... Did you meet him? He sat at the back by the doors not in a pew but a chair....

Matt Lipan said...

Anonymous: thanks for the read and comment.

it really is a great way to practice hospitality in a very radical way, not easy but i believe it's worth it.

i did have a chance to talk w/the gentleman you are speaking of after the 11am service. he was trying to get to downtown Anderson to catch a bus, which 2 individuals drove him to that afternoon.

did you have a chance to meet him?

thanks for being willing to share, hope to hear more of your thoughts.