Dear Inner Circle,

Embarrassingly, some lessons need to be learned over and over. My friendships with many of the people who are living on the edge and relying on Wayside, also seem to be on occasions where chaos is presented and I find myself often trying to bring a sense of stability. While balance is probably a virtue, stability ought not be an absolute. Stability is a characteristic of death – not that I’ve ever died but it seems that while one is living, there is always certainty of change. Even in my marriage, I selfishly find myself hoping my lovely partner remains predictable, supportive…stable. I’ve learned many times that my impulse sends me in the wrong direction. I fall in love with Lisa over again precisely because she isn’t me. She loves me but she has her own mind, her own values and a perspective that often differs to mine. Love can certainly be woken up in times of instability. So many people tell me how they’ve, “grown apart” from the one they love, but it seems to me that is precisely an invitation to dig deeper into a love that may not be convenient. The impulse to create stability is almost universal. Yet we cannot create both sides of a dialogue. For dialogue to begin, a certain amount of insecurity is essential. That’s right, I’m making an argument for insecurity. Not as a destination but as a gateway to love.

In our culture sometimes reality is hard to bear; sometimes it’s so inexplicable that to look upon it would only leave us without answers. Sometimes reality brings a call upon us to be with others, even to trust others or respond in kind. It can be an uncomfortable call and it’s easier to hide an ideology that insulates from such calls and excuses us from our duty. Sometimes when harrowing stories of human suffering are shared, we can’t bear it. Increasingly, some people retreat into an ideology that asserts that there is some kind of level playing field of human existence, and that those who hit tough times are inherently flawed people. Increasingly, I’m hearing people say that the poor are inherently idle and that various forms of cruelty are required in order to move them to productivity and to take responsibility for themselves. “We believe in reward for effort” is a statement that lately tends to imply that those who are doing well, must have merited all they have to their own efforts. “We believe in a fair go for those that have a go” is another well-worn statement that tends to suggest that the poor or those who need the support of government and charities, must be people who are failing to, “have a go”. This creeping attitude is eroding the soul of our country. We are silent when the iniquitous “system” sends demands for repayment of funds to poor people without evidence of any wrongdoing or even misunderstanding. People experiencing hardship have to prove the bureaucracy wrong rather than the bureaucracy prove it’s case. The effect is devastating, but “we can safely assume that the poor must be wrong” because “they are naturally idle” and “they are sponging off the taxpayer”.

I came in this morning from a meeting in a café with a man I only met a few times. I had no idea that he’d decided he could trust me and wanted to explain to me why he has such trouble just living one day at a time. He described being used by his father as a sexual object. He gave me the words that were said to him. He described sounds that he heard. I was paralysed and unable to offer anything except that I was beside him, listening. No answers; no wisdom; no easy words of comfort. When I finally left, I was annoyed with myself for my helplessness. Yet I found I had a brother. A brother who lives with a ghost that tramps around his psyche, stomping out any signs of life or developing trust. I’m left admitting that at least today, he made an act of trust. A big deal. He disrupted my stable life and caused me to step away from all the words I was looking for, in order that I might see the man in front of me. Really see him. My usual sensibilities shattered in that exchange, I gained a brother and something I almost couldn’t name. I gained presence and in an odd way, I’m thankful and empowered because this man called me out of my usual world and made me see, higher, deeper, wider. And I was truly humbled.

Thanks to all of you who have supported Long Walk Home, our 28km fundraising walk on Fri 29 November, so far. We are raising money to help people who are experiencing homelessness, and ensure that Wayside Chapel continues to help those who need it most. There are still spots to fill and we would love for you, plus your family and friends to join us on what will be an incredible journey. Walk with us and together we will provide vital services for those who live on the streets, night after night. To register, click here. Otherwise, share this email with someone you know who would love to walk with us.

Thanks for reading this quite long instalment of our Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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