When passing through shopping centres I usually try to avoid eye contact with the people spruiking something or handing out flyers. It’s silly but I so dislike having to say “no” or “not interested” to people who are just trying to make a living. At times this habit causes me to take the longest route from A to B. This week as I was navigating some shops, I locked eyes with a young woman selling plans for an electricity company. What captured me were her eyes, they were so familiar. It took me a few moments to realise that I knew her. She sleeps in a park around the corner from Wayside. As we’d already locked eyes I asked if she recognised me, she blushed and whispered, “Yes, I do. I am trying as hard as I can”. Few of us could appreciate the immense effort she puts in every day just to get to her job well-dressed and on time. I will think of her the next time I walk past the people pushing flyers into my hands, and offer a smile.
People often say to me, “I couldn’t do what you all do, my heart would just break!” We understand that our work is not for everyone, even though we do it on behalf of everyone. We regularly fall in love with the characters in our community. It often breaks our hearts to see them slipping away right in front of us. When this is happening, sometimes our only contribution into the relationship is our grief and sadness. This week started with the news that one of our loudest and most loved visitors had suddenly passed away. Just two weeks ago, after many years on the streets, our lovely, wild friend had just been housed and was telling us how at peace they finally were. I remember they always wore impossibly high platform heels and the most outlandish sunglasses, often yelling at us all while spilling tea everywhere. They’ve gone and we’re heartbroken. We take our losses personally. We either achieve and win together or we all lose together. We never know the full story of any life but we knew this was a person who suffered bravely. They gave us a bit of lip at times but they wrapped themselves around our hearts.
Wayside has been a rebellious part of the church for well over fifty years. We do our thing with little regard for the power structures of the church. We duck and weave and dodge and dash when someone waves rule books at us. We say, “we’re not much like a church which might work for you if you’re not much like a Christian”. So the Easter season begins and provides an opportunity to go back to the central mystery about the death of an innocent person and the breaking heart of a silent but present parent. That is the deepest revelation of this season and it’s a fearful thing to see. Love isn’t a feeling. Love and suffering belong together. Those who want one without the other avoid the real. Love without sacrifice is soppy, childish, magic-wishing. Our vision is about love that overcomes hate but it’s an expensive, exhausting, hilarious, chaotic, disciplined activity.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Jon Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO