Early Morning Mourning

He sat there weeping. I put my hand on his shoulder and gently squeezed it. He wiped his eyes, but that single trickle continued to roll down his cheek. I was so surprised! I had never seen Jorge display any emotion before and now he quietly could not stop blubbering. Embarrassed, he keep saying, "I'm sorry Jeremy, I'm sorry!"

No one would have guessed or seen the way Jorge wept that morning. Jorge was a rock! A strong tower! Steadfast! He quietly plodded through each day, minding his own business and obeying the shelter's and life's rules. But this morning, a stick hit the rock and it gushed forth with water!

That stick was me!

I have known Jorge for almost 10 years and he has been homeless for over 24 years. Jorge was going through his morning ritual, sitting quietly by himself, eating grits and sipping coffee. I sat down next to him and started chatting. We had often spoken before; it was always nice and relatively shallow, but this particular morning our conversation transcended into a new deep and meaningful space!

He told me of how he came to the US. He was newly married. He was young and eager. He legally crossed the Texas border to join the Air Force. He felt an inner obligation to represent the United States and fight in the war against Vietnam! It was a career choice he felt he needed to do. He felt it was a righteous move! So one day in 1972, he temporarily left his home in Mexico and his newly married wife he dearly loved, to pursue what he thought was just and pure!

Jorge's temporary choice turned out to be permanent. The US government rejected his noble endeavors! His wife rejected him by choosing another man.

Jorge was left alone; dejected and absolutely devastated!

Jorge's mother was born in Texas and, therefore, a US citizen! Getting his citizenship should have been a relatively simple process, but his temporary visa expired because of a growing depression and general busyness. He simply failed to follow through with all his obligations. Jorge was, and still is, a very hard working man living in the States with a questionable immigration status.

This confusion and uncertainty produced fear within him....

During this time, Jorge migrated north to the windy city. In 1986, people could go to an immigration office to get amnesty. On the very last day, Jorge travelled to downtown Chicago and tried to do just that! His mistake was not knowing it cost money and all the agencies that helped waive the hefty fees had exhausted their funds. Jorge had once again tried to do right and was left confused, devastated and languishing in fear….

From that moment on, the fear, guilt and depression that had lingered around started to cripple Jorge. Before he knew it, everything was lost and his homeless journey began! Today, he remains homeless and we, at Cornerstone, are helping him pursue his “green card” and housing.

As we sat together that morning, I looked upon my grieving friend and tried to console him. This wasn’t the life this young Jorge dreamed of. He had noble dreams. He dreamed of making the world a better place. He dreamed of growing old with his young bride. He dreamed of having children. He dreamed of living legally in the country he wished to serve. He dreamed, but now they were shattered dreams. His dreams had turned to tears!

As I looked upon him, I wanted to weep too. I squeezed his shoulder, put my arm around him and did my best to try to comfort him. I wanted to take his tears and throw them down the sewer. I wanted to scream at God and say, “Why Jorge? He’s a good man, he’s so innocent, he’s pure, he tried to do right…. Why? Why? Why?”

As I tried to process the life and story of Jorge, some words of Jesus clearly came to me, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This verse gave me a peace that surpasses understanding. I may not know *how* his promise comes true, but I do know this promise *will* come true! This fact gives me peace! This fact gives me joy! This fact gives me hope! This fact makes me smile!

Jesus always made these revolutionary promises that in no way conformed to the pattern of this world. These promises made the “conforming” public insanely irate! In Luke, Jesus stated “blessed are you that weep now; for you shall laugh”, but he also added; “woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep!” This promise goes hand-in-hand with His other phrases about the Kingdom of God: “the first shall be last, and the last, first”, “blessed are the poor in spirit” and the tax collector who couldn’t look to heaven and humbly beat his chest crying “have mercy on me, a sinner!”

I could reflect upon so many homeless men and women who have broke down in tears, as they try to come to terms with all their broken and shattered dreams.

At different times in one week, Rafael and Dan came into our office and let their tears flow before Scott and me. They needed a safe haven; a place to escape the hustle and muscle of the streets, a place to let out some steam and let us know they felt weak, vulnerable, condemned and scared under their tough exteriors. This isn’t just the story of these three men; most homeless people need and go to that secret somebody with a compassionate shoulder to weep on!

Rafael and Dan are close friends and their stories are very similar, yet entirely different from Jorge’s. Their stories possess a lot of drama, intrigue and danger. Their lives have involved drugs, sex, alcohol, gangs and incarceration. They now realize their earlier lofty dreams of being tough Chi-town gangsters were nothing but fleeting illusions. They are now trapped in a life riddled with so much addiction, violence, players and guilt! They are now both in their early 40’s and are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

These tough homeless thugs stumbled into our office. They both were slightly intoxicated. They needed to escape. They needed that safe haven. They needed a spot to be free from the imprisoning life they led. They needed a place to let out their emotions. They needed to be tough on the street, so when they stepped into our office, they let their built up, held in, ocean of tears flood forth!

They wept about their regrets.
They wept about the stench of death.
They wept about stints of incarceration.
They wept about condemnation and guilt.
They wept about their feelings of hopelessness
They wept about many lost and battered relationships
They wept about feeling trapped and internally imprisoned.
They wept about going to hell because of all the hellish things they had done. In their minds, they had been too wicked. In their minds, there was no way God could or would forgive them. In their minds, they were doomed….

Scott and I looked at these men and told them they underestimated how great the love, grace and forgiveness of God is. We told them about how God’s Kingdom is unlike any earthly kingdom. We told them how Jesus proclaimed that in His Kingdom the “poor in spirit” and “those who mourn” are the blessed ones!

In our talk with Rafael, I asked him if he prayed, and he told us: “I pray every night!” As I asked more questions, Rafael told us how he’d pray for his mother, his children and other relatives. He would thank God that he was able wake up in the morning and he would beg or cry out for God’s mercy.

We looked him in the eye! Tears were still flowing. We hugged him.
And we gently, yet sternly, told him:
“That is how God wants us all to pray! Your prayer is the righteous prayer Jesus spoke of: ‘Have mercy on me, a sinner!” He wants us to cry out for His mercy! We who are rich or middleclass find it easier to pray the prayer of the Pharisee; ‘thank you God, I’m not like that crack-head, prostitute, gang-banger or that dude Rafael hanging on the corner!’ We struggle to really pray as Jesus taught. We need to learn from you, because we think we don’t need God, but you know you need God! His kingdom is for the poor in spirit and those who mourn! You, my friend, are blessed in His eternal kingdom.”
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Can't Read or Write

Uptown Trauma

We Just Can't Do It On Our Own!