Until I See You
I recently had the honor of being on a launch team for Terence Lester’s book, I See You (InterVarsity Press). Terence leads a ministry called Love Beyond Walls that seeks to “provide dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency.” In essence, I See You is designed to educate the reader to see the needs of their fellow image bearers.
I See You was an eye opener for me. Even though I have assisted in homeless shelters throughout my life, I now realize where I failed to understand the greater picture regarding poverty. Principally, poverty extends beyond a lack of education or money. Lester does so by defining poverty as a lack of access—not just to resources, but to community. Compared to America, most of the world lives in poverty. America has great capacity for access, but many of our people are still struggling. Why?
We lack community.
Think back to your own story. How did you receive a particular job opportunity, internship, or other moment that changed your life? You likely had a friend who knew someone, a parent or colleague in a situation, that helped you get to where you are today. Nobody is self-made, even if we wish to be. God designed man for community.
I remember a time in my life when I was in my early twenties when I lacked the resources to be on my own. A year after my father’s untimely death, I made the decision to move out of my abusive mother’s home to a city where I previously attended college. I lost my ability to obtain student loans so I could continue my education. Half of my income went directly to my debt, and I worked odd hours to afford my expenses before I took a position in bill collection. I couch surfed between friends’ homes. Eventually, I moved into a friend’s unfinished basement and paid them a low rent. After six months of strife with this family, I was asked to leave because of a church split. I would have been living in my car in the middle of an Iowa winter if my married best friend hadn’t taken me in, allowing me to sleep on a twin mattress in her hall closet. Eventually, I moved to Utah for a better job and got on my feet.
How did I survive? Community.
My young, traumatized, grieving, impulsive, protective self was cared for, loved, and guarded by godly Christian friends who sought my well-being and hoped for me to have a fresh start. Now, what if we all saw our image bearers and their needs, instead of judging their situations? Terence writes:
“The checklist mentality isn’t able to communicate Jesus’ ultimate message: you are loved, valued, and seen. Instead, it communicates: you lack much; I have more; here’s something you don’t need or know how to use.” (146)
Are our checklists helpful, or are we creating barriers of self-protection and fear?
“Some of us don’t realize in a moment, without a support system that can provide for you, our entire lives can be turned upside down.” (31)
This is the reality—we offer solutions without understanding the problems.
Shelters are often crowded and uncomfortable.
Emotional trauma or other mental illnesses make it difficult for people to function as they may and can lead to job loss, loss of connections, and homelessness.
People have barriers for identification and grooming that helps them obtain self-sustaining work or services that get them back on their feet.
Community, self-sacrifice, and the Gospel are our tools to ease the suffering of our fellow image bearers. We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. If you wish to better understand the struggles of homelessness, be sure to check out I See You and begin to invest in meaningful community.
“I believe we’re made to be in community, especially in relationship with God. When we experience spiritual poverty, when we lack a relationship with God, no possessions, people, or even experiences will fill that gap. Without God, having access to everything in the world will leave us feeling alone and isolated.” (154)