In Year 2 of our marriage I had a lot of free time on my hands. (aka. I had no job.) A friend called and said that she had gotten to know a few ladies from one of the homeless missions in our city and she wanted me to meet them and get involved in their lives as well.
Most of the women were prostitutes, former drug addicts or alcoholics, and homeless. They were currently living in one of two houses that was available solely to homeless women. In order to stay there, they had to be sober and have no men in their lives.
At that point in my life, it was waaaaaayyyyyy out of my comfort zone.
What would we talk about?
What would they think of me?
(Clearly, my self-absorption shines through in most situations.)
I prayed about it and felt like I had no good excuse not to show up. So I did.
So, along with three other woman from my church, we started hosting a monthly luncheon for these ladies, complete with a decorated table, cloth linens, and nice china.
We'd spend about two hours with them, eating lunch and getting to know one another first. Then we'd move over to some comfy chairs and we read aloud the book, Redeeming Love, together. (For those of you who have read it, you understand the significance of that particular book.) We asked how we could pray for them. And as the months went on, the women opened up more and more about their pasts and what had brought them to their current situation.
I learned that most of these women had children. And that those children were currently in foster care.
They would talk about their kids a lot. And how they loved them and wanted them back.
And you know what? They really did love them.
Were they at the point in their lives where they were able to care for them? No.
Though (most) of them were following the rules of the house and staying sober, drugs and alcohol had done a number on their cognition and ability to reason well.
None of them had a job. Or a car. Or a way to support themselves.
Most had been supporting themselves on the street.
Doing whatever, whenever, with whoever, to make money fast.
They were still broken. But that didn't mean they stopped loving their kids.
I spent a year with those women, serving them lunch, visiting them at the halfway house where they lived, trying to help them learn some life skills.
And then some got jobs and moved out. Some went back on the streets. Others disappeared without a trace.
And that season of my life was done.
Honestly, I didn't really know why God opened that opportunity for me.
When I look in the eyes of our little man, I am reminded of the other side of the story in his life.
I can't share his story because of confidentiality but I can say this.
Do I have a little more grace toward her situation and her life because of what I learned in my year with the women? Absolutely.
I spent a lot of my life making some pretty strong judgements about the lives of women who live in homelessness, prostitution, and addiction.
I have made a lot decisions about how they should be living but rarely did I do anything to help them get there.
Spending time getting to know the women humbled me. It opened my eyes to reality of poverty and addiction.
And it opened my eyes to my own sin- my elitist view that I would never let that happen in my own life. My judgement of women who's stories I did not know and who's lives I had no right to judge.
I'd say it's been a good wake up call.