Helping toward what exactly? – A frustrating question about loving others long term

So here is a question I have been struggling with for a while now. 

How do we determine the direction of our love?

Let me explain, I’m part of a clan (the Thingy) that believes to love like Christ our love needs to be reckless and messy. 

Reckless love, as we define it, is love given regardless of the potential return.  Think of loving like investing money.  Reckless love invests in people who may never provide a good story, a warm fuzzy, or any semblance of success.  It loves regardless of future outcome.  In short, no one is ever a waste of our time or energy.  Ever.

Messy love is love embraces the mess of others.  Often those that need love are covered in the disaster of crisis.  It is easy to smile and nod as we walk by them; and this is a form of encouragement, love in early stages; but Christ did more than nod our way.  Christ embraced us.   This was the love of the incarnation.  The Word became flesh.  To love us, He had to get in the muck with us.  We cannot love like He loved from a safe distance.  It is up close, intimate, and personal.  It is messy to embrace because as we love we are soiled with their chaos. 

Yet while our love is reckless and messy, it is not undisciplined.  Our love (like Christ’s) is intentional and seeks to heal and restore.   It has direction to it.  It leads the hurting to refuge, the tired to rest, the fearful to safety, and the sick to health. 

And here is my current conundrum…

What does health look like?  What does healing look like?

The New Testament makes it seem simple.  The blind guy sees.  The lame guy walks.  The leper is no longer a leper.  Those are no brainer’s.  But what about the recovering addict, or the homeless guy on the corner, or the unemployed, or the societally disfunctional.  What does restoration look like for them? 

My initial reaction says health is a stable job, a home, education, and a healthy marriage – the Puritan family.  This seems to be the direction my love has tried to lead the homeless guys and addicts I’ve served in the past.  For example, recently I was serving a guy that walked in off the street.  I lined up my help for him in my head in that order.  “First,” I thought, “I need to help him find a safe place to sleep.  Then we need to work on getting him income.  Then we can think about independence…”  This is what it means to be a good citizen right? 

As I learned his story I discovered that he lives in a run down hotel and receives a regular disability check.  The check is enough to cover his daily fee and eat off of.  He was in trouble because he had spent to much of it that month on porn and booze.  Overall, he like his life.  He didn’t want a job.  He didn’t want a house with a white picket fence and a family.  He didn’t want a wife and kids.

Is that wrong?

For a while I experimented with the idea of letting those I was loving choose the direction my love was taking them.  “Let them tell me where they want to be,” I thought; but that path was a dead end as well.  Often the people God puts in my path to love have serious trauma in their lives.  They are intensely broken and messed up folk, and therefore struggle to see past their current drama and think about tomorrow, much less begin to build a future. Often one thing my love can provide for them is hope.  Hope that tomorrow will be different than today. 

So now I am stuck. 

My understanding of normal does not apply to everyone.

Simply loving with no direction, letting them set the direction, ends up only benefitting me.  It is safe for me, but not real helpful for them.  Like putting a band-aid on a gushing artery. 

It makes sense that I should be loving them to a place where they can pursue a right relationship with God and others…but who am I to judge what that looks like?

Do you feel my pain?

Can anyone recommend a good book on this?

Any thoughts or suggestions?

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Helping toward what exactly? – A frustrating question about loving others long term

2 thoughts on “Helping toward what exactly? – A frustrating question about loving others long term

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