A Faithful God of Second Chances…He Sees Who We’ll Be!

I had the most beautiful day today. 🙂

The last 2 – 3 months have been EXTREMELY busy. We’ve added 40 more beds to our transitional housing at my job, plus added two new staff and brought on an AmeriCorps member.  So between training people and all the additional homeless clients coming in to our housing, I’ve been SWAMPED. But it’s all good! GROWING PAINS are GOOD! I am in awe at what God is doing in our midst.

But truth be told, something happened to me in the last month or two in the midst of this busyness. I’ve been SO busy that I’d forgotten to pay attention to God in my midst. Let me explain.

My typical day on the job can normally be summed up as “journeying with God.” Usually as I go about my days, meeting new clients, managing existing clients, etc. I am usually very aware of God in my midst. I can sense His presence and I am able to work fast enough to get everything done, but slow enough to be listening for Him to speak along the way. Frequently I hear God whisper in my ear and give me a word or direction for a particular client or particular situation. My days are charged with LIFE, as His Spirit leads and guides me.

But this past weekend I found myself crying out to the Lord… “WHERE ARE YOU?” I suddenly realized that my days had become dry and stagnant. They were very mechanical and task driven. There was so much to do, I shifted into “Mary mode” and began to operate in my own strength. No longer was I even conscious of the fact that God was with me (of course He was there,) but I wasn’t intentionally listening for His voice or being comforted by His sweet presence around me throughout the day. I was busy, busy, busy and driven to get it all done.

Upon my realization of this I instantly repented for my feeble attempts to go it alone, and for not seeking first the Kingdom of God in the midst of my days (Matt 6:33). Don’t get me wrong, I was still spending time with the Lord in the mornings, but suddenly it was like I’d “leave Him at home” and go about my day on my own. (Again, I know He was with me, but I was ignoring His presence.) I managed to get very exhausted and even sick on more than one occasion. My defenses were down… physically and spiritually. But now I saw the problem and let the grace and Blood of Jesus Christ refresh and renew me.

Yet this week, I managed to start it off in the old mode of “going it alone.” Not even realizing it, I fell right back into the same pattern because I was not INTENTIONAL to seek first the Kingdom. But then today…. Ahhhh. Today!

We did 5am outreach in the streets of downtown Atlanta this morning and brought in 7 new clients. Often, clients are somewhat resistant to coming into housing. (Think about it… someone is waking you up at 5am with a flashlight saying “Come with me.”… yeah right!) But today the very first man we woke up IMMEDIATELY said yes! As he sprung to his feet and began to pack his belongings, I noticed his Bible in his bedding. I said “John, is that your Sword?” “Yes ma’am!” he replied. 🙂 John then got on the bus.

As we were doing intakes, John decided he didn’t want to stay. He wanted to go to a different agency. So I called the other agency to see if they still had room and they did. I offered to give him a ride and on the way there, he pulled out His Bible and began to read. We began to talk about the goodness of God and how gracious He is to rescue and redeem us when we don’t deserve it.

As we arrived and walked in the lobby, the staff behind the desk immediately recognized the client. He had been in their housing a few months earlier and didn’t leave on good terms. You could feel the tension building as the staff member recapped the events of the past and pretty much told John “You’re not welcome here.” (He did end up saying “If you have absolutely no where else to go but the street, we’ll take you. But in all honesty, I don’t really want you to stay.) I could see John’s anger rising. In fact the staff member commented that he wasn’t comfortable with the way John was looking at him. And for a brief moment, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get in my car with his guy and his bottled up anger. So I said, “John, let’s go outside and talk about what to do.”

As we got outside, John said “I guess I just need to humble myself and go back in and apologize.” So as we headed for the door, he stopped and said, “No, I need to walk by faith and not be afraid of something new and uncertain. It’s a new day and a new way of doing things. I want to go back to your place. Can I?” Truth be told, in the natural I wasn’t sure if I wanted him in our housing after what I heard about his past adventure at this other agency. And I’m sure John could sense it. But I heard God tell me to take him in.

As we got in my car John said, “So how am I doing?” Confused I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “With passing my test. This is a test of adversity that I’ve been reading about. I hope I’m passing it today. This is new for me.” I assured him he most definitely was as I had just witnessed his anger be diffused by putting his trust in Jesus and acting out that trust. John then picked up his Bible and began to read for the rest of the ride.

God then told me that John needs to be in a location with other clients who are actively studying their Bibles and going to church. The particular location I immediately thought of was on the other side of town and did not have a vacancy. So I began to make some phone calls and long story short, God made room for John. I arrived at the original location and another case manager took John to his new home.

It could have ended here for me. You see, for the first time in a long time I saw and heard God in the midst of my busyness. This alone was so refreshing to me and renewed my passion for the work that I do. I have found that if I do anything for any reason other than God’s eternal purposes, it leaves me empty and very dissatisfied. At this moment I was feeling very satisfied and was very aware of God’s presence around me.

A few hours later I was at our office when the case manager who took John arrived. We began a conversation in which I shared the above testimony of how I had been ignoring God in my day to day busyness but had seen him mightily today. That’s when the case manager told me the most amazing thing…

When they arrived at the new location, Jack, a Peer Support Assistant for our agency was there to greet John. When they saw each other, they immediately embraced each other in a GIANT BEAR HUG! They had known each other over 10 years ago when both were homeless and addicted. In fact, the last time they saw each other, John was sleeping in a dumpster and almost got picked up by the big sanitation trucks that empty the dumpsters. Thank God he woke up when the truck began to dump the dumpster! Upon seeing Jack’s restored condition and sobriety, John was encouraged with a renewed sense of hope for himself. Jack loves the Lord and often leads other clients in Bible study and John will now sit under his wing as God begins to restore his life. We saw the POTENTIAL in John, and now John began to see it for himself! At this point I could do nothing but come to tears. Had I been alone I probably would have started sobbing but I managed to hold myself together. BUT GOD….!!!!!

Then on the way home, a song came on that I’ve been listening to frequently (HEAVENLY PLACES) and I realized how much this song sums up the heart of the work we do at Atlanta Outreach Project (www.atlantaoutreach.org). As these lyrics suggest, our number one goal at Atlanta Outreach is to SPEAK TRUE IDENTITY to our new friends. We are not there to judge them and tell them all they’ve done wrong. But with God’s eyes and God’s heart… we see MERCY, JUSTICE, TRUTH and LOVE. If we are INTENTIONAL to ask God to show us His thoughts for a person, He will faithfully show us His heart.  We know that self-focus is so overrated and that we can tend to be quick to point out someone’s flaws (and our own), but when we look at Him and then look at someone else… we see someone who is WORTHY, someone who has PURPOSE and VALUE… we see WHO THEY’LL BE. Thank you Lord for loving us just the way we are, and being patient with us as you transform us into all you intend for us to be.

May you too be blessed by this song (lyrics below).

(HEAVENLY PLACES LYRICS)

You above, seated in the Heavenlies.
Who am I? Who am I to You?
Speak to me, my true identity.
Speak to me, speak to me

You’re not waiting to come down and judge me, or tell me of all I’ve done wrong
But when I look at You… Oh when you look my way…

I see mercy, I see justice, I see truth and love
I see passion, I see wonder, I see holiness

You above, seated in the Heavenlies
Who are You? Who do I say You are?
Reveal to me, even in Your majesty
Your true thoughts, let me see Your heart

You’re not waiting to come down and judge me, or tell me of all I’ve done wrong
But when I look at You… Oh when I see You…

I am seated with You in the Heavenly places

Heavenly places with You

I am seated with You in the Heavenly places

Heavenly places with You

Self-focus is way overrated. I’m so quick to point out my flaws
But when You look at me… Oh when You look my way…

You call me worthy, You see beauty, You see purity
You see purpose, You see value, You see who I’ll be

I am seated with You in the Heavenly places

Heavenly places with You

I am seated with You in the Heavenly places

Heavenly places with You
You call me worthy, You see beauty, You see who I’ll be.

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About Mary L'Esperance Held
http://www.maryloveslife.org

One Response to A Faithful God of Second Chances…He Sees Who We’ll Be!

  1. Lori Laws says:

    Hi Mary. Beautiful song!

    “Self-focus is way overrated. I’m so quick to point out my flaws
    But when You look at me… Oh when You look my way…

    You call me worthy, You see beauty, You see purity
    You see purpose, You see value, You see who I’ll be”

    We serve an amazing God! I can so relate to you.. being so busy, busy makes it that much easier to neglect to live-really live in God’s presence. I’ve been going through some not so good stuff lately. But I know that I know God’s so
    faithful, and with His unfailing love and mercy… He always brings me back!
    Love your heart. Love your passion for the truth. Blessings 🙂

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