Daily Devotion | August 31, 2021


by Rollie J.

A beautiful Saturday had dawned with bright sunshine and moderate temps. I had agreed to meet the couple at 9 a.m. at their apartment complex. The woman had told me she’d be anxiously awaiting me at 8:45. My good friend Art, had agreed to be my delivery partner for the morning.

Art and I were delivering one of our Home Sweet Home welcome kits for this middle-aged couple. Home Sweet Home is a grassroots, face-to-face, front-line, hands-on, ministry started by some compassionate members of our church to provide practical, needed household items for people moving from homelessness into permanent housing. It is a cooperative ministry we do in conjunction with the Salvation Army where most of our referrals come from.

But today’s couple was not a referral. I had met them the day before as walk-ins to our church looking for assistance. We as church staff of a downtown church deal with and interact with several individuals or couples like this throughout the week. I’m usually the point-man when I’m around, so I responded to the call from the front office.

I introduced myself and invited the couple to take a seat on our sofas in the gathering space. They were both polite and appeared to be lucid conversationally which is not always the case. I sat listening and asking lots of clarifying questions. I quietly said my prayers for a compassionate heart and wise and discerning spirit. It’s pretty easy to write off, judge, or condemn people who come through our door seeking assistance. Many are scammers who know how and where to play the game. Many could win an Oscar for Best Actor in a drama or sob story. Believe me… we’ve heard it all. A great many suffer from severe mental health issues which further complicates understanding who they are and what their true needs are. And of course, many suffer from strong addictions to alcohol and/or drugs. Combine tough luck, mental health issues, chemical addictions, throw in a little COVID-19 and you have a fabulous recipe for disfunction.

But many are sincere, hurting, broken people who are just down on their luck. They just need someone to listen, to care, to pray, and or help them with some specific bill, or rent, or financial help. Sometimes they just need a meal. That puts us as a staff smack dab in the middle of the discernment seat trying to sort out drama and bull, from reality and true need. I know of only one way to do that… and that’s prayer. Often in my moments of frustration and confusion, I hear the words in the back of my head quietly whispering. “What Would Jesus Do?”

Well, today’s couple spilled forth a litany of tragic, difficult, and sad situations. The woman did most of the talking and proved to be quite articulate. I tried connecting dots and following as best I could. They had moved from a small town to Fargo recently. A betrayal by a sister, unemployment, no phone, two small children taken away for child protection, no vehicle, and behind on rent, all with no job. The husband was unmotivated due to severe depression and somewhere in the tragic tale, they confessed to previous Meth use.

The signal in my gut called for compassion. They seemed to have at least been honest. I went to the office, asked for some cash from our Good Samaritan fund, got a couple of bus passes, and grabbed a sweater and windbreaker from my office. The day's much-needed all-day rain had them both soaked and shivering from the cold. I returned to share the blessings for which they showed great gratitude. I told them about our Home Sweet Home kit filled with useful pots, pans, cleaning items, mops, toaster, etc. a Jesus Calling book, and a hand-made quilt from our quilting ladies. We agreed to meet at their apartment the following morning at 9 a.m. They seemed more than excited.

On the drive to their apartment, I told Art that there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll be a no-show. Hurting people like this are a gamble for follow-through. Been there, done that a hundred times. But… we’re called to do it anyway.

We pulled up alongside the Arbors, one of the affordable housing places hidden in a forgotten neighborhood of south Fargo. I told Art to stay put and I’d go around the backside and try to buzz them on the intercom.

Fifteen minutes of buzzing, waiting and silence was all I got. I shook my head but held no animosity or resentment. Just part of the game, and I headed back for the car.

On my way back I stumbled across this broken-off head of a barbie doll on the lawn. I stopped, pondered for a moment, and smiled. How fitting… a perfect symbolic metaphor for this couple. Broken.

Monday morning found me in my office with my window open to enjoy the gorgeous day and beautiful breeze. About 10-ish, I heard a screeching outside that at first, I ignored. And then as it continued, I thought it to be a hawk of some sort, but as the intensity and volume increased, I realized it was a hysterical woman. I peered out my window and saw a man and woman running back and forth across 6th Ave, and into our parking lot. They were screaming at one another, and body language declared quite an epic battle. I quickly descended to the parking lot and a fellow citizen in a nearby car had already called 911. I instantly recognized the couple as my new friends from last week. A pair of Fargo’s finest soon arrived to help and sorted out this very public domestic. After the police left, the couple lingered around our parking lot and entryway for a long time with the heat of the conflict simmering and smoldering just below the surface. Thank God for our superb police. But police can rarely fix broken.

In all my years of ministry, when people counsel in my office, or through our daily interactions with people in general, I am blown away by the amount of brokenness and pain that surround us. It’s just mind-boggling. Most of it is hidden below the surface in the hearts and minds of those all around us in the privacy of their own world. Sometimes though it leaks out in the public arena like our new friends this week in the parking lot. Brokenness, pain, and suffering may be hidden, but they can’t be denied. We all experience brokenness at some point in our lives.

Mental health, depression, anxiety, addictions, broken friendships, job loss, health issues, aging parents or spouses, empty or crumbling marriages, divorce, loneliness, cancers, bullies, job stress, tumors, breakups, grief, loss, and now COVID. These are all personal issues of brokenness and pain. Let’s not even mention what flashes across our TV screens on the news with the Afghanistan crisis, mask wars, vaccination debates, political dividedness, droughts, racial tensions, drenching rains, floods, global warming, and now hurricane Ida. Our bigger world appears to be broken.

To be broken is human. It comes with our flawed human condition. Unfortunately, police can’t fix broken. Nor can politicians or political parties. Governments can help with some of our big world problems, but they can’t do much with our personal brokenness. School systems can’t fix broken. Alcohol or drugs don’t fix brokenness. Nor does binge-watching Netflix or hours spent on Facebook. Ironically, even churches can’t do much to fix broken.

To be broken is a condition of the heart. And though a good cardiologist can mend your physical heart, the heart of our soul has only one healer. Much of our brokenness, both personally and corporately in the bigger world, has to do with sin. And sin has only one cure. Jesus. Bring your brokenness to Jesus. Lay it at the foot of the cross. Surrender your pain and struggle to the one who can bring about true and long-lasting healing.

-- Rollie J.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Psalm 147:3

"Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."
Jeremiah 17:14

"'But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,' declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 30:17

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28



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