This past weekend my church hosted a winter clothing give-away to the homeless and refugees in our area. This is the 4th year, and more and more people keep coming. I’ve had a more involved role this year, and while it was definitely worth it, I’m feeling a little bit of post-event trauma.
I know my heart in the daylight is out-of-order when my dreams at night become weird and vivid and memorable. They’ve been all these things since Sunday, and I keep waking up exhausted.
Here’s the deal.
I know this event was awesome. I know God used it, I know He was there, and I know we were being obedient to Him in doing this. I also know that way too many things went wrong, that evil human nature was encountered, and that I can’t help but feeling both a mixture of responsibility and being taken advantage of.
Two memories stand out the most. One is too raw to process out on the internet. The other is this:
There is a refugee family–I don’t know how many people are in the family. It seems they are a large group of people somehow all related. They are allowed one bag per person, but they seem to have several extras. I explain about 5 times that they may only have one bag per person. They pretend I don’t know what I’m talking about, and push their way into the coats. The rule is that each person is only allowed one winter coat. They are trying to sneak and stuff several coats in each of their bags. Their bags are already too full, having been over-stuffed with other winter clothing. We pull extra coats out of their bags. They try to lift their bags and clothing topples to the floor. We ask them to leave the extra clothes for other people. They keep stuffing the clothes back into their bags. We escort them to the door to leave, and the still keep turning around trying to grab more on their way out. It was hard. I felt mean. I was angry.
I’m still angry. Their sense of entitlement was too much for me to handle after encountering so many other desperate situations that day. And yet I falter. Have their lives been so troubled thus far, that they truly feel they have to fight tooth-and-nail to get what they need? Do they have so few belongings that the chance of actually owning more than one of an item fuels their portrayed selfishness? Are they trying to grab extras to ship to family overseas who haven’t been able to find refuge in our country? I don’t know. It could be any one of these things, or it could be nothing but pure selfishness.
Another grown woman is complaining to me about how she hasn’t been served a cookie yet while others have gotten two, and I about want to shake her.
PEOPLE! Life isn’t fair! You’re right–it’s not fair that one person has two cookies while you have none. You’re right–it’s not fair that you’re only allowed one bag of clothes and one coat. I want to say, “You know what else is not fair? That we, everyday people who still have needs and wants and struggles like the rest, are giving you FREE CLOTHES for nothing in return! That’s not fair!”
And then there is Jesus. Our God is not fair. As my campus minister Kevin Hass used to say, “The last thing you want from a holy God is justice!”. God is not fair. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for nothing in return. His wrath was poured out on His perfect little boy, that all we might know is love. That’s not fair. Yet I so easily accept it.
Why can I accept the unfairness of what others have sacrificed for me, but can’t move past the unfairness of what I have sacrificed for others–who don’t appreciate it. The reality of course is that God experiences that every day. How often I am ungrateful for what He gives–constantly trying to get more, fight for more, complain for more. And He gives and He gives and He gives.
I am not like Christ. I am still hurt and angry. But someday I want to love. I want to still enforce the boundaries, but with a smile and a loving heart and a desire to hear people’s stories. Maybe that’s why God put me in this role this year–to use other people’s sinfulness to show me my own. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .”