Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcoming Interruption

    I think that in the weeks that I have been immersed in the life of faith and ministry at the Potter’s House, I have been made most aware of my potential and need for growth in the area of compassion. This is of course, not a bad place to start for someone endeavoring to respond to the need in the world with a Christ like heart. It takes Christ like eyes to do so—eyes that see with compassion and link directly to a response on behalf of the one in need. Two experiences that I have had during my time at the Potter’s House so far have taught me a couple of things about what it means to see need, where to look to find it, and how to respond once it is found.
    Sometimes need is easy to detect, and the response is so obvious that it can hardly be avoided. This was the case on a Tuesday evening when I took the long way home. It should have taken eight minutes. I know, because it typically takes me three minutes to commute (around the corner on foot) from “Andrew’s House” where I am staying for the summer in Washington DC, to the Potter’s House where I work each day. It should have taken eight minutes for me to walk from the Potter’s House, to Andrew’s house to retrieve my saxophone so that my supervisor and I could kick off our live art project outside of the cafe/bookstore, which stays open until 8p on Tuesdays. It shouldn’t have taken fifteen minutes. And it shouldn’t have taken an hour. Then I ran into Henry.
    Henry and I met earlier in the day and hit it off immediately because he is a bass player. I was originally having a lunch conversation with my supervisor when Henry rolled up. My supervisor introduced him to me, and our shared passion for 70’s era funk bass took over, derailing the conversation beyond recovery. Sometimes a conversation is a fire that you can’t put out. You just have to let it burn. The next time I saw Henry, about two minutes into my eight-minutes-on-paper saxophone retrieval operation, he had one hand on the arm of a chair that he’d found, which was turned upside down with the seat balanced on his head. I quickly learned that he hoped to take it back to his apartment. He had his other hand, on his other chair. The one that was his only way of getting back to his apartment. The one with wheels. In this moment something like compassion was easy. Obvious. Practical. I could not imagine walking past Henry knowing that he was about to attempt a trip home in a wheelchair, propelled and guided by one hand while gravity and the other fixed a wooden office chair to his head. So, I carried it for him, and because most of the trip to his apartment was downhill, I sometimes think I slowed him down.
    I ran into another no brainer on the way back from Henry’s apartment. I was just two doors away from my place when I saw an older woman leaning on a shovel in a flower bed, looking down on three indentations that hoped to be holes some day. As I passed by I casually offered my usual salutation, a smiling “How ya’ doin’”. The woman did the unthinkable and answered my normally dismissive greeting which I have by now forgotten, actually does sound a lot like a question. Her words confirmed what my eyes suspected. “Struggling” she exhaled. I made it down the two doors to my house and halfway up the stairs before I was arrested. Struggling. I stood there, on the steps, finally, just feet from my destination, calculating the percentage of my rhetoric that would be rendered empty if I kept moving forward. Ignoring the answer she’d given. The one I didn’t mean to ask for. I turned around and went back to the woman whose name was Josephine, I discovered, as I filled the next twenty minutes or so digging holes that she filled with flowers and sprinkled with water. Surely, some dig, and some carry, some plant and some water, and God makes the increase.
    In reflecting on these events I am reminded of the frequency with with Jesus and his disciples allowed their previously scheduled programs to be interrupted by compassion. Often they were on their way somewhere important, to do something important, when someone who seemed less significant than the mission to replace the kingdom of this world with the Kingdom of our Lord, would present himself or herself, in the form of a person in need. Jesus would allow himself to be stopped. To be interrupted. To be arrested by the needs of others and to accept their invitation to join them in their plight, if only to walk them out of it. Through these and other experiences at the Potter’s House, I am learning to allow myself to be interrupted by compassion. In fact, I am counting on it. I am counting on Christ, to keep my eyes open to the pain around me and within me and to help me respond to that pain with patience and with love. I am counting on the Holy Spirit to keep my heart and hands pressed against the pain that I find until life and freedom stop bleeding out. I am counting on God to teach me what the Potter knows — that tender pressure applied to the shapeless and broken can produce something beautiful. I am no longer counting, I think, the minutes, days and hours that it is taking me to become something that I can consider beautiful. Nor am I counting the steps it may take to get there. I would only have to reset the count again, whenever I was interrupted by by God’s compassionate grace.

1 comment:

adambear said...

May we all be interrupted, John, again and again and again. Thank you for sharing, Brother.