The chances are if you are a Christian, to varying extents, you’ve listened to sermons, read scripture, and sung multitudes of praise songs, all of which, in someway or another, to help you better understand God, God’s relationship to you, and your relationship to the world. Well, if you’re anything like me, the moments when the messages of the bible reveal the most is less during church, and more when I can relate my experiences to those messages. Having the opportunity to work at New Horizons has given me many experiences that have brought to life the messages of the bible, and most recently, what it means to be covered by God’s grace.
New Horizons is much more than just a drop-in center for homeless youth. What makes us unique, and I’ve been told this by many of our youth, is that we try to intentionally build relationships with everyone who walk through our doors. Some of our youth are ready to build those relationships, some aren’t. Of those who want to build relationships, some are a pure joy to work with, others make me want to rip my hair out.
Lately, I feel like I have been building more relationships with the latter. Just the other week I offered to drive a youth to his old work place to pick up all of his belongings because he had just gotten fired. So we drive to this place, load up all his bags, and head back–no problem. We ended up having a good conversation too, which is a bonus in my book. We drive back to the New Horizons parking lot, which is two blocks away from our actual building. He has around six bags total, and as I open up the doors to unload he happily volunteered me to be his pack mule. Yes, Dean you carry five bags, and I’ll carry this small purse-like bag and my skate board. Thanks, Dean! I’m jokingly thinking in my head “well that’s not very polite, especially since I just drove you to pick all this shit up!” Anyway, I laughed about it and kept walking.
We’d made a deal that he would pick his stuff up, sort it all out at New Horizons, leave what he didn’t want, and head out. Well, apparently that previous agreement wasn’t going to work out and he now needed to do his laundry before sorting his clothes. Which I said yes to. Now, normally we don’t let youth in our building past drop-in hours, and I was already letting him slide by sorting his clothes, and now I’m really letting him slide by getting his laundry done. Four hours later he finally finished up and somehow instead of six bags he now only has two. I was suspicious where the other four bags went, but I was tired and working overtime so I left, not asking questions and followed him out the door.
A couple days later I find out where those four bags ended up when he storms up to me during drop-in, upset that all of his stuff was now on the hangers in our clothes section. Apparently he hid his bags in a storage closet. When youth leave their belongings overnight we wash them and take them in as donations. This particular youth has been coming to New Horizons for multiple years and knows he can’t leave his stuff at New Horizons, which is exactly why he hid his stuff in that closet.
When I found this out I was furious. I didn’t have to drive him to get his stuff, but I thought it was a good opportunity to form a relationship. I drove him, carried his bags, let him do his laundry, and it felt like it was all for nothing. He manipulated me for his own gain, and when his scheme didn’t work, he took it out on me. Unfortunately, this is a common theme at New Horizons.
It was this experience that shed light on what it meant to be covered by the grace of God. It’s easy to give our youth enough grace to keep coming into drop-in, but it’s not easy to give them grace in our relationships. Choosing and wanting to continue forming a relationship can be extremely hard when someone continues to break that relationship. And it’s knowing how hard it is to show that grace which has helped me to have an even better understanding of God’s love for me.
I could totally break into sermon mode right now, and repeat a message you might have heard several times, but i’ll try to sum in up in one sentence. God’s grace doesn’t run thin like ours, it’s not hard for God; no matter how many times we break that relationship, God will have grace for us and continue to seek that relationship. Again, if you’re anything like me, hearing that is only going to impact you to a certain degree. I encourage readers to reflect on their experiences, emotions, interactions, relationships, and see how they might bring sermons, songs, and scripture to life.