Out of The Ashes

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During an orientation for a homeless friend who is getting treatment for his addiction, the host admonished the visitors to set borders and make rules for loved ones with an addiction problem, but never to put them down.

The homeless have fled the woods near the public library in Levittown, PA. The aftermath of the wholesale evictions at Queen Anne Park has left a fresh start for some of the former residents. Can the Phoenix arise from the ashes?

During my year and 1/2 relationship with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA, to borrow a phrase from the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” Several months ago, I witnessed a very smart, well educated woman who had an alcohol problem ruin her life.

At one point she had started to come around, recommending books to me and discussing them and engaging in elevated discussions about things such as literature and art, but, like Darth Vader, she returned to the dark side.

She has left the homeless community in my area, and there are rumors that she has a job and has a place to stay. In any case, she is out of my hands.

There were others who went off the deep end, off to the wild dark yonder.

Saddened that I couldn’t help people who went to the dark side, I shared this with a Christian sister. She said that when she first started working with the homeless, she thought she could change the world. She said that God, not us, is ultimately responsible for results and that the best we can do is show people God’s love.

I came to grips with the idea that I am not responsible for results. People have to want to change. You can take people by the hand, but you can’t drag them. I also realize that I, and no other human, is the center of the universe.

We all have a role to play in the world. For more than a year, people have been ministering to my friend, and now he may be on the road to recovery. He has been troublesome, even obnoxious. Sometimes he’d lament that his friends no longer like him. I told him that we don’t like what he’s doing but we still love him and would like to see him straighten out.

I too went through a period where, with all the people God sent into my life, I continued my wayward ways. I didn’t listen to many people close to me, even the pastor of a church I used to attend. After I left the church, while driving for a rug company as I passed the church, I literally thumbed my nose at it.

It was only after I fell into a pit, like the Psalm writer David, that I came around.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

— Psalm 40:2

“Oh Lord, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

— Psalm 30:2

It is not for us to judge — we don’t control the horizontal; we don’t control the vertical. God does. We can hold the people causing problems in the homeless community accountable for their actions, but we should not put them down as human beings, who are made in the image of God.

Jonah thought he controlled the horizontal and the vertical and walked the other way when God told him to go to the decadent town of Nineveh. He had given up hope for them and wanted to see them destroyed. It took being swallowed by a whale to get him to obey God and minister to the people in Nineveh.

In a sense, we are all refugees, having lost direction in life. As Bob Dylan sang:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home…”

People can find direction. As David wrote: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

— Psalm 119:105

Like the character Evangelist in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we can just point people to God. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.html

You don’t have to live like a refugee. There is a bridge that leads home.