a crisis

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.

I smiled as I chanted those lines from Psalm 40 this morning. The words fit me well, though perhaps I hadn't been waiting so patiently.

A few days ago the tensions in the house came to a head and some strict actions were taken to get things under control. Like in most situations where we begin to feel vulnerable, a more authoritarian approach was taken, and decisions were made that helped restore order quickly. And I agreed (though I tried to soften the blow to those affected by the decisions). But later I felt we hadn't been as wise or compassionate as we could have been. We were more concerned with feeling secure and solving the problem than with loving the "troublemakers."

That night I had a crisis, a kind of anxiety attack, a feeling of being trapped, of losing my bearings. "The desolate pit." And the next morning I realized that in slipping into the role of master in this house, I had lost my spiritual support. I was not called here to kick people out or force them to do right or decide their fate. I was called here to share the lives of the poor and vulnerable and try to help them. Shaken by the wrongdoing of some of these people, I had slipped into the role of master and gone along with the fears of myself and others, pulling away from the very people I was called to help, putting myself over them.

So that afternoon I went and ate at the soup kitchen with Heather. We enjoyed the lively conversation and there met the woman who had confused us with her long bath a few nights before. But instead of pulling away from her, we listened and helped her get the bus fare she needed. It felt great.

Then yesterday we got involved with another young couple (with some mental health problems) who were stranded without money and without identification. They could find no help. We tried everything, but could neither find them shelter (without ID) nor the large amount of money they needed for the trip home to Minneapolis. But we invited them to dinner and enjoyed their company anyway. And while we ate, a call came in from our church and they came through with the bus fare. The couple jumped up and down with joy. They left that same evening and should be arriving in her home town as I'm writing this.

Heather is also going this morning to help a mother and three kids get to the shelter in Bloomington. We're using the ticket that was not used by the woman who gave us so much trouble last week (she tried to exchange it for cash, but then returned it to us when she couldn't). And Heather said we had enough of our own money left to pay the kids' fare.

It all turned around so quickly and in such a powerful way, it seems like a miracle. My feet feel like they are back on the rock. I feel refined by the fire of this past week; I'm more clearly convicted that I must be a servant here and not a master.