This post is the final installment of a five-part series that explains our transformation to a family on mission, written from the perspective of my husband, David. This tale also touches on why we moved to Houston and the origins of RighTrak.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
My Personal Pentecost
On the Saturday before Easter 2011, following a long workday with Willie, the course of Kindra’s and my life was irrevocably altered. I was taking my shower, reflecting on Willie’s plight and my own jobless situation, when in a matter of moments I found myself tearing up, then whimpering, then hyperventilating. My legs gave out, and I fell. I was weeping on the floor of the shower so hard that I couldn’t speak. My mind had been filled simultaneously with three thoughts, and I could not deny the source.
The first thought: spiritual entrepreneurialism. I wanted to help people, but even more I wanted to help people help themselves. It’s a total cliché, but it’s a good one. Surely there was a way, I thought, to help the least of these and be gainfully employed doing it. God wouldn’t have given us the gift of industrialism if we weren’t supposed to put it to work for Him.
There in the shower I started to formulate a business concept. The idea was to help folks who are down on their luck but have a desire to work and to pull themselves up but who lack the resources to do it on their own. Broadly, the concept was to supply some capital and business acumen for homeless folks and the working poor who have a strong work ethic and a good sense of right and wrong in order to empower them to be successful on their own, all while using principles demonstrated by the master disciple-maker 2,000 years ago. Empowerment was the key. Rather than giving them jobs or job training, the business idea that came to me would help high-functioning homeless people and the working poor become business owners. We would start a small business with the person, teach him or her how to run it, and over time the person would take more and more control until the business was his or hers entirely. This would be very resource-intensive, so I would need to do it one person at a time, and I would start with Willie.
The second thought: my heart broke for the things that break the heart of God. As my entrepreneurialism started to incorporate Willie and folks like him, I realized something. As I took my shower I was overcome with a sense of sorrow—an empathy unlike anything I’d experienced before. My heart was being broken. God cleaved my heart in two and opened it up to the suffering of a homeless man. I recalled a quote from Mark Batterson’s book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, “Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God?” Batterson asks. Well, it just did. I am on my knees weeping in my shower, water running over my head and into my mouth as I gasp between sobs—not heartwarming movie crying, but ugly, man-crying. I was broken.
The third thought. Kindra and I had been praying for probably a month or more for God to reveal His will. I was earnest in my prayers, but I had doubts about whether I would get anything so obvious as a billboard with my name and God’s message on it or a talking bush that gave me instructions. After all, how many people claiming to have heard God or an angel talking did you think were nuts? I know I have reacted that way when people said “God spoke to” them. It just didn’t seem to me like God interacts with us that way. I didn’t believe He would actually do it. But He did.
I didn’t hear a deep, booming voice like that of James Earl Jones. There was nothing written in the condensation on the shower door. None of the inanimate objects in the shower talked to me. I was sobbing in my shower, crying so hard that I started to get a headache, when I remembered my petitions to the Father. Then, at the same time as my heart broke for Willie and as I was hatching ideas for helping him, a sentence, phrased in the second person, occurred in my head: “You wanted Me to reveal My will to you, didn’t you? Well, here you go.”
I’ve had unspoken sentences in my head before, but they are always in the first person. “I need to remember to do laundry for Kindra today.” “I wish I hadn’t said that.” “What if I had not taken the general counsel job.” That’s just our internal monologue. This was different. I wasn’t talking to myself or wondering about something to myself. This wasn’t “I;” this was “you.” “You wanted Me to reveal My will to you, didn’t you? Well, here you go.”
My very soul was overcome. I literally couldn’t stand. I tried to get up and finish my shower, but about the best I managed was to turn the water off and stumble out the door to the bathmat where I fell to my knees once more. I prayed. “Thank you, God. Thank you,” I said in my head. I had a business idea inspired by a heart broken so completely that I could not control myself. For reasons I still fail to understand (and that I am not entitled to know), God chose to answer our prayers by breaking through and revealing Himself in a very tangible way. Now I had to follow through.
Postlude to a Kairos
Two-and-a-half years later in November 2013, I was spending another day with Willie, but this time we weren’t laboring away at yard work. This time we were celebrating. We hiked along Buffalo Bayou with six other people who had committed to spend a year investing in Willie. (Kindra was sitting in the car nursing our then four-month-old son, Levi.) We finished our hike at the Police Officers’ Memorial, a remarkable granite ziggurat pyramid. We prayed and congratulated Willie on becoming a small business owner, a year-and-a-half clean and sober and now self-sufficient. Much more than that, though, we celebrated his friendship. Since that time Willie has been our partner in ministry and practically a member of our family.
His journey and ours between my kairos and his self-sufficiency could fill an entire book, but here are some of the most important things we learned:
- Faith and belief are active verbs; they are not mere thoughts we hold in our heads. When God does break through, it’s because He wants us to do something different. More often than not we either dismiss kairos moments or simply acknowledge them and move on. Stop that. There’s an indescribable life of joy ready for us if we would let Him rule our hearts daily and work the entire circle: observe, reflect, discuss, plan, account, act.
- Hold it loosely. Understand that, even if you’ve felt a call to do something, it ain’t your cause, and it ain’t really about you at all. We do have to choose to pick it up and hold it because we have free will, and God will let bad things happen or call someone else to do the job. But we have to hold it loosely, or else we’ll smother it. Our own desires and ambitions will take over, and then it’s not His anymore. Read a little bit of the Old Testament to see what happens when we take a Godly mission and don’t let Him lead it. Holding it loosely means being both patient and intentional.
- The special sauce is relationships. We were never meant to do anything by ourselves. I was given a mission, but I was never supposed to go it alone. More than 100 people had a hand in helping Willie. Willie was able to persevere and, ultimately, overcome homelessness because he was part of a community who sometimes collectively and sometimes independently worked together to encourage, support and empower him to become self-sufficient.
Today, in August 2014, the community we call RighTrak is at it again. Nine individuals, including Willie, have committed to invest a year of their time to help a single mom become self-sufficient and realize that her worth is not found in the men who disrespect her. Having made our way around the hypothetical room telling this story to the two groups of friends, I have to wonder a little bit about what they now think. Some, if not most, probably think we’re a little weird. I’m totally OK with that, though. Our family has been called into service, so serve we shall. Who knows, maybe the world could use a little more of our kind of weird.