Sunday, July 15, 2007

I Stink!

I learned something new on Saturday night – something unexpected and humbling. I stink. Yes, I stink.

On Saturday night I found myself sitting in the chapel at UGM (Union Gospel Mission). I was there to support and observe as my husband and a group of youth from our church led worship before the evening meal was served to the area’s homeless. I came prepared to bless and encourage the men and women who walked through the door, but was unprepared to BE the one who was ministered to.

As men and women filed in to the chapel I quickly became aware of their stench, and I struggled to cope with the aromas assailing my nostrils while smiling and being as “welcoming” as possible. The obvious presence of alcohol, smoke, body odor and other unidentifiable scents filled my head and overwhelmed me, but I plastered on my smile and did my “Christian duty” regardless… all the while thinking in my head "they stink!"

As the service began and the songs of praise and worship filled the chapel, I found a seat towards the back and surveyed the room. They were quiet, some listening, others reading a newspaper or staring blanking at the walls. Men and women, young and old, they had come not for God but for food. I was struck in that moment at how out of place I must have seemed to these people. Dressed comfortably in clothes that were clean, hair well-kept and face washed, I sat and sang with the worship band songs of God’s love and grace… and it hit me. They’re not the ones who stink. I am.

Would I have given these people a second glance if I’d passed them on the street? Was not my thoughts and disgust about their stench more odorous than their uncleanliness? And what about the “whys” of why we were there? Why were we there and even taking pictures of the event, if not to go back to the comfort of our own clean church and report on what we did for God?

It struck me in that moment just how distasteful and unclean my heart and attitude was at that moment in God’s eyes. These were HIS people; the people Jesus ate and communed with when He was on this earth. And I was – in that moment - just as lost and unclean and in need of a Saviour as they were. I was no better than them! If anything, my own stench was offending them AND God.

I spent the rest of our time there being the one who was ministered to. I took more time that night to shake hands with, talk with, and silently pray for these people whom God loved. And after I was overwhelmed by the beauty of their aroma to God, it was with a heavy heart and reality of my own stench that I went home more thankful for God’s love and grace -- a grace I clearly didn’t deserve -- than ever before.

Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. And that thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God I come. Just as I am, poor, wretched and blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind. Yet all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God I come. I come. ~Charlotte Elliot, 1789-1871


Jenny said...

You know, Shari, that was such a timely post. In our neighbourhood are two little guys who want to hang around at our house, and one of them is a scheister, if you know what I mean. I haven't been too welcoming to him either - out of protection for my girls (which may be valid because I know nothing of them or their families), but also because he takes me out of comfort zone. And I don't think I've handled it very well. On Friday, Geof had a few minutes with him and when they locked eyes, he saw Jesus. He told me that God has placed these boys in our lives for a season. It doesn't mean we have to change our boundaries or expectations, but if we show them a little love, maybe we can make a difference in their lives.

Your post reinforced that whole concept.

Karesa said...

Shari, I have sung there and remember that feeling of being so completely out of touch with people who are in so much pain. It is a reality check, a dose of medicine that we all should take yearly if not more often. It is not the homeless or the people on the street with so many issues that scare me. It is the apathy and coldness of our human hearts.
The pious way we turn away and the fact that christ did not have a place to lay his head. Amen sister.