I was afraid to ask what I knew I should ask. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but they were stalled by the fear that God would actually give me what I was asking for, and I was scared of that. I stood there a moment, and looked at my feet. What did the words “break my heart” mean to the Lord? How would that feel? Did I want to know?
I closed my eyes and let the words silently fall. The inner-sanctuary of my heart trembled, wondering what great thing God was preparing for me- my heart had been so hard for so long. I walked around like a brick wall, too afraid to absorb love or fear or anything remotely emotional... perhaps because I couldnt handle it... perhaps because I didnt know if I would have the strength. Or I knew I didnt... and I didnt know how to handle that...
I was waiting for the others to come, the trees waving slightly under the weight of the breeze, and the chill picking up and whirling around the people standing motionless alone among the brick and concrete. People were scarce, inevitably working diligently on something, writing papers, doing homework... not even aware of the little group that left campus in the middle of the Saturday afternoon to partake in another world... hopping on the Brown Line like it was the vortex to the other dimension. I was silent, half wishing the wind had taken my words and swept it away... or that the Lord would have been occupied with some other, greater task, than to answer the small prayer that I had let up a couple of minutes earlier.
We walked alittle, the anticipation mounting. Satan hated what we were doing- I could feel it in my bones, in my soul. I had been wrestling with him all day, reminded of the massive work load I had waiting for me at home, and yet I still went, although my heart did not want to, I went. I had millions and millions of excuses running through my mind... yet I still went. Why did I go? Why didn't I just stay at home? Why didn't I just say no for this week, and just said “Ill catch you next week”... what was so significant, so powerful about this week that Satan was going to the lengths to try and keep me from going?
We arrived at the meeting place where there were twenty to thirty people standing in a group. The glass doors that stood before us let out into the Downtown Chicago street, soldiers in uniform standing outside, waiting for someone- loved ones, taxi... A wall of windows set side-by-side towered up over the doors, and we could see the rising line of the surrounding buildings, tapering off. We stood in the glow of the un-seen sky and prayed. Bags of sandwiches and cases of bottled water sat against the wall beside an expensive clothing shop. The well-dressed manniquins stood idle before garbage bags and backpacks, and college students preparing themselves for the long walk. I stood somewhat quiet on the outskirts of the circle, waiting for them to quiet down, listening for someone to announce the groups.
I had gone down Lower Wacker the week before, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. And as I readied myself to enter that world again, I couldnt help but feel a little fear- fear of the unknown, fear of the known... afraid that it would be as intense as last week, and afraid of my prayer for a broken heart. Who prays for a broken heart? I trembled.
Lower Wacker dips down, steady orange lights illuminating the road before us, cement collumns holding the concrete ceiling in place, the rushing sound of the occasional car or truck or semi echoing against the walls. We hop one of the barriars and walk around another. Behind lies two men, their blankets pulled closely to their chest, their bodies thin and shivvering. The stench is unbearable at first, but we push through it and set the brown paper bag that holds the sandwich and a bag of chips or pretzels, and the bottled water down next to them. One of them, named Roc, glares at us and yells at us to get on our way, but the other nods his head and smiles alittle. A little further lies a family, their cardboard box wall separating their little home from the dirty ground. Their shoes sat neatly on the border of their area, and she gives us alittle smile, recognising us from last week.
As we moved on to the next, and the next, the little piles of clothing and blankets moving to reveal a face, I couldnt help but be silent. My usual boisterous, out-loud self was quieted as I was shown again and again the reality of life. These were real people... real people. And my hard heart, void of emotion, couldn't handle that reality.
We took the stairs up out of Lower Wacker an hour or so later, a little late for the biblestudy we attended every week and invited some of the people to. I was breathing a sigh of relief, happy, somewhat, that it was over. We walked down the street, just talking and laughing, exchanging stories, when we passed her.
She was standing on the corner of Rudolf and Michigan, her big brown eyes filled with unspilt tears, a little paper sign in her hands, her lips pursed shut. “I left my abusive boyfriend for a battered women's shelter that was scarier. Help me get home.” was what it basically said. She wore a green shirt that did no damage against the wind, and her brown hair was pulled back into a half-ponytail. She looked... normal. I looked at her, and my heart broke. In her eyes, I saw me.
There stood me, a mere year and a half ago- maybe not holding a sign, maybe not standing on the corner of Rudolf and Michigan, but there I was, no where to go, no where to stay, no one to love me. There was me, standing cold against the wind, and wishing that there were people in the world who cared enough to send me somewhere I could call home.
As the members of our group listened to her story, I could hardly hear her words over the cracking of my heart in my ears. I pulled off my sweatshirt and handed it to her, and over the screams of the city, I laid my hand on her and cried out to God for her- keep her safe Lord, keep her warm... give her not a doubt in her mind, Lord, that you love her. Take care of her, Lord, take care of Kelly.
Inside I remember screaming those words. I remember asking him “LORD, why dont you love me? Lord! Why don't you care? Im out here cold and unhappy and broken and bleeding and homeless, why arent you taking care of me?! Where are you Lord?! Why dont you love me?” And as I prayed those words for her, the breaking of my heart brought a pain in my throat, and as I gave her a parting hug and we parted with the few dollars on us, walking away was almost too hard to bear. Why didnt God give me more money to give? Why did I have to be poor- that I couldnt be the someone I didnt have when I was there for her? I walked across the intersection holding my head, the wind pushing the chill around my now-bare arms. I went faster, hoping that the group following behind me wouldnt see my bitter tears as I wept. I wept. I never cry. And yet I wept.
Lord! Lord! I didnt ask to be faced by my brokenness. I didn't ask to be given a mirror- I didn't want to see my own pain. But yet, thats what happened. I had spent so much time and effort and heart ache trying to forget who I was, what I had come from, what I was feeling... I didnt want to know. I didnt want to feel it. I was afraid to. And yet here I was, faced with another me... Kelly... Kelly.
As I wept, my group caught up with me, and one of the girls put her hand on me and cried with me. We walked in silence, and when she asked me what was wrong, I whispered through my tears “I just met me!” The reality was so sharp, so vivid, that I could grasp it and it cut me.