One of the hardest things in working with the homeless is the slow pace in which progress seems to come. How does one share hope and change with someone who has lived their whole life running from responsibility and living in addiction?
From a big picture view, you can see the changes that took someone from "most every day was bad" to "most every day is pretty good." But the day-to-day journey is filled with much frustration.
As relationships develop, consistency, boundaries, and tough love must go hand in hand. Quick types of relief like some spare change, a warm shower, or a night out of the cold, must ultimately transition into rehabilitation and development. If not, those things will only temporarily revive the addict for brief amounts of time, usually making them feel 6 foot 10 and bullet proof. They will always believe that they've had their last drink, only to be thrust back into surroundings that breed more failures. The cycle never seems to end. But I have to remember that God created them for way more than this! So, I keep speaking this into them until the light bulb turns on in their lives.
This week, I picked up a guy who was in pretty bad shape, gave him a hot shower, and a warm bed for the night. Though he had not taken a drink in 24 hours, the effects of alcohol poisoning were taking its toll. It's hard to watch a guy with cold sweats and the shakes, but it's all a part of the process of healing. The tough love part was sending him back to his home...a tent down by the river...while he was still withdrawing. Although I wanted to keep him, I knew that wasn't the best thing for him. What he really needs is to check into a recovery program that will help him with counseling, job training, and the ability to become all God has created him to be. This week, he wasn't ready to do that.
The good news was, he called me today and was feeling much better and thanked me. He is talking like he is close to seeking the help he needs...checking into the San Diego Rescue Mission. Until he's ready for that, I'll keep being his friend, dispensing God's love, but being OK with tough loving him towards the healing he needs. Maybe next week will be his week!
Who will you speak God's love and purpose into this week? It doesn't have to be a homeless guy, but someone in your life needs to hear it. Maybe this will be their week!