It’s possible I could inadvertently adopt a felon.
In 1 John 3 somewhere my New Jerusalem bible says, “if our own feelings do not condemn us, we can be fearless before God.”
Prior to that are verses that resonate with his brother’s writings about putting faith into action.
Let me back up a little.
This past week, one of my one on one’s got out and went to her old stomping grounds to live with her mother. She was going to call me the night she got out so I could take her to the Salvation Army to get clothes, but she never did. When I prayed about it I was very uneasy – and sensed God asking me to offer her a place to stay. I have a guest room that my landlord is okay with it being occupied for longer periods, and, so far this year I had a friend stay there and then an international student working on her thesis.
Already the team has been cautioning me concerning boundaries and I am well aware it’s not my strong suit. However, I’ve met needs that are all in line with the rules. I decided that when this young woman called me to have me to take her to get the clothes, I’d offer her a place to stay while she got on her feet.
She never called. I also learned from her friend that her mother is back on Vicodin, which she added is a gateway to this woman that got out’s drug of choice. I can’t help but think that she’s already using.
This next woman gets out Monday and also has my number. She’s my age, all her family are addicts and she has no support yet sober. She told me she was going to try to get into a shelter. She also told me, in the past, when she couldn’t get shelter, she prostituted herself for drugs.
I told her that if she wants to use to call me. That if she can’t find shelter she can sleep on my couch. (I didn’t tell her the couch folds out into a bed and is in the master bedroom.) I know, reading that John, that I won’t be able to deny her shelter without feeling I am sinning. I also know that an unhealthy relationship could develop that jeopardizes all He has given me vision for. On the other hand, this could be the beginning of the house. My lease is up this month.
Saturday I met with the man that responded to God’s call and maybe one of the few people He used that made Friends of the Master’s men’s house come to be. I told him about it, and I had also met with my spiritual director. Surprisingly, the Jesuit was more discouraging that the Friends of the Master guy.
My priest, though, knows me better and knows my recent trials and doesn’t want to see me overloaded. The Friends of the Master leader helped me with what I thought was a reasonable game plan.
When it comes to boundaries, I live by “helping is doing something for someone they cannot do for themselves. Enabling is doing something for someone they can do for themselves.” How that plays out, I fall at God’s feet with. Or at least, I know I should and like to think that I do. Perhaps the reality right now is that I do when I get in enough pain, but that is shifting to the Spirit guiding me to fall at His feet prior to pain, but I’m a work in progress on that point.
I told The Friends of the Master man I wouldn’t give her keys. She can be there when I am home, of if she comes over when I get home from work and I go to the jail, she can be there for dinner, (and stay while I’m gone?), but she has to be out of the house when I leave for work in the morning. He thought that would be okay, but he cautioned me that I was opening myself up to get robbed, (shrewd as a serpant and gentle as a dove, he is.) He said there was a sober house or shelter nearby, on the road that I take to work. I looked it up and it would be a extra few minutes of drive time and very easy. Very doable.
My spiritual director gave me two warnings. One is to stress it is temporary and give her a deadline for when she can no longer stay. Two is to expect that neither boundary will be respected and it will be a continual negotiation process.
Keeping in mind I have to tell her the rules and tell her it’s for the protection of what God is doing in my life, she can stay and that’s the plan if she calls. I have a feeling she will.
Today at church my (Protestant) pastor was preaching on this very topic. He preached on Acts 4, mirroring Acts 2, where it describes communal life. He said some people interpret it to be a model for all Christians and they run off and start or join communes. He also talked about the social gospel. He thought both interpretations we incorrect. After all, when Paul writes that if Christ didn’t resurrect, he didn’t then say, “at least good works were done.” He said if that were true, we Christians are pathetic.
He didn’t criticize communal life, but he said that he thought there was a much deeper message Luke was conveying, since he essentially wrote it twice. He said Luke was describing what he saw as God’s confirmation that this is what His kingdom is like. It’s a fulfillment of what was promised in Deuteronomy 15.
If Christ didn’t die for my sins, I am pathetic for letting this woman stay at my place. I don’t own anything very valuable, but it’s all God’s anyways, so if I do get robbed, then I just would have to see it as taking one for the kingdom. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in this woman. If I fail to do something I know to be the right thing, according to James, I sin. I have to do something. I know she is going to be looking for shelter. I have it. I can’t withhold it.
Father God, Your word says if a man asks for a mile to go two. Your Son said to sell everything and follow Him. You have blessed me with so much. Please use me, what I have and this time with this woman, to build up the vision and create another Christian community obedient to Your will, expanding Your kingdom, and encouraging your saints. If this is not Your will, shut the door with as little damage as possible, be that Your will because you know I am a wimp who has no desire to be very high in Your kingdom. Ghetto heaven would suit me just fine, give the mansions to other people. Give one of them to this precious soul seeking you and give her the courage to step out in faith as she is given the freedom of life outside the jail. Grant she never assumes she has to be who she was, but dress her in the New woman. The second one. In Your son. In Jesus name. Amen.