"good news to the poor"

Yesterday we gave a short presentation about the retreat ministry to a few pastors in Princeton. We'd like to make friends and connect with other Christians in the area, so this seemed like a good first step. As we prepared what we were going to say, it seemed like a written version might be useful, too, to send to people or use in a newsletter. I thought I'd post it here as I write it.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... (Is 61.1-2)

"If I had a gun right now, I don't know who I'd shoot—him... or myself."

It was close to midnight when I opened the door and found her standing there. The police car that had dropped her off was pulling away. The house was a soup kitchen by day, a women's shelter by night; Heather and I worked there and shared the house with the guests. People commonly showed up late at night, needing something, asking for a night on the couch. But this woman was shaking, crying uncontrollably.

I let her in, gave her something from the kitchen. She had been saving money to pay a fine, she told me. If she didn't pay she would go to jail. Her court date was tomorrow and she'd had the money ready; she had given it to her boyfriend to keep safe. He had spent it on drugs.

"He smoked my freedom," she cried.

When she demanded the money, shouting, and wouldn't leave him alone, he'd called the police and had her taken away. She had been living with him; she had nowhere else to go. So they left her at our door.

I had to sit with her a long time. She couldn't calm down enough to sleep; she raged and paced and wailed. She wasn't sure who she wanted to shoot. And then, sagging in the chair, she cried, "And no one cares... no one cares."

The next day I thought about those words.

In the midst of her poverty and helplessness and fear of jail, her deepest anguish seemed to be that no one cared what was happening to her. At that lowest point, she had expressed an intense spiritual need. The need to know that someone cared. Perhaps, ultimately, the need to know that God cared.

Weeks later, we began to attend Al-Anon meetings to become familiar with the twelve-step recovery program. And we were reminded again of the reality and urgency of the spiritual need, even among those struggling with overwhelming physical and emotional problems. The most helpful program for recovering addicts begins with a spiritual act. Admitting that we are powerless to free ourselves from our self-destructive choices and then turning our lives over to God's care. The spiritual need comes first.