From Death to Life: An Easter Story

 

From Death to Life: An Easter Story

I have the almost unbearable honor of serving Christ with some of the most courageous people on earth.  One of those people is Georgia.  The first time I met Georgia, she was at the very end of her rope.  She came into the food pantry one Saturday morning as brittle as tinder.  Someone came and got me and told there was a woman at the intake desk with David who needed a pastor.  When I came in, I looked into her eyes and I could see that her hope was at the very tip of her fingers about to spin off into nothingness.  She couldn’t tell her story.  She didn’t need to tell her story.  It was written in her tears that were streaming down her cheeks.  Her whole body was shaking.  I told her that I didn’t know what was broken, and that I was not a very good fixer of broken things, but that I knew someone who was.  I asked her if we could lay hands on her and pray for her.  She could only nod.  Two of us got down on our knees and prayed that God would hear Georgia’s pleas.  Somewhere in the midst of the prayers, Georgia broke open.  Her tears came out as uncontrolled sobs. They came and came and came. I don’t know why God listened to us that day because I am not a righteous man.  God has no obligation to listen to the pleadings of the unrighteous.  Perhaps it was because it was not my prayer that God was listening to, but rather the cries that were coming from Georgia’s heart that could not find words deep enough to carry the burden that they represented.  Somehow, in some supernatural way that defies any kind of earthly explanation, Georgia found a new grip on her hope.  Hope is a hard thing to understand. Somehow the unmendable in her was mended, the wound touched and healed.  What was near death was restored to life. She found the light and then the light began to fill her.

Georgia’s story is not for the faint of heart.  It is not for the sheltered or naïve. She knows first-hand the vagaries and limitations that real poverty places on those who find themselves slaves to it.  If what wealth gives us is choices (and I believe that to be the case), then poverty – its doppelganger – is the theft of choice.  Georgia brought four children into this world.  She did her very best to raise them on the streets of this city, working two and three jobs to support them.  She did not have the choice of the best schools, the best friends, the best shelter…the best of anything.   There are too many monsters to name out here whose sole purpose is to consume children – drugs, gangs, teen pregnancy, guns, random violence, macho street hierarchies, ignorance, hunger, and the list is endless.  The temptations of instant gratification fall hard on young men out here.  The lies out here are sugar sweet and glisten in the sun. The swirl of adolescent emotion and fantasy mixes with the lies and subtleties of the darkness and young men sell out too often to the street’s twisted definitions of manhood.  Georgia and her husband lost one beautiful boy to a bullet fired in anger, murdered in the street over nothing that matters.  They lost their other son to other end of the gun, the other end of violence.  He was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his part in a fight that went too far…a challenge to his manhood that he did not have the real choice to walk away from.  Her daughters became mothers too young, the fathers of their children were young men of street status and violence and drugs – the attraction more than either girl could withstand.  On these streets, trouble has no trouble finding a home.  When Jesus spoke of the seeds of the Kingdom falling on shallow soil, I think he must have known these streets well.  There isn’t much here for goodness to take root in.

Over the past several months, the light has begun to shine in Georgia.  She came back to the pantry the week after our prayer to volunteer, or as we say here, to give herself away.  Lost and now found. Stolen and now recovered.  She is God’s.  She has died to this world and has risen new in the present Kingdom of God.  When we see this kind of miracle happen in a person we do not try to own it.  We do not try to harness it or stamp our logo on it, or run it through a new member’s class so we can write it on our denomination’s insidious annual report forms.  We simply resource it.  We get out of the way.  This is the living, breathing Holy Spirit doing its work in the world.  This is how God grows apostles from Kingdom seeds. I went to her door one day, and I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to lay hands on her and pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint her.  So I told her what the Spirit had put on my heart, and I laid hands on her and prayed for an anointing right there across her threshold.  And now it was time for my own tears to flow.  The only words I could muster after I prayed came out on their own, “Go now, and make this mission grow.”

Georgia has gone from being a shattered recipient of the mission to a renewed and reborn servant in God’s Kingdom.  She is also a “connector”.  She is now bringing others from her household – a population that I could never have a voice with – who are teetering on the abyss of hopeless into the mission, and thereby into the Kingdom.  She has planted a new street mission that is thriving and bearing fruit.  I get to serve with her in her mission once a week as a mere witness to God’s glory.  Last Tuesday they fed over a hundred people.  More importantly they got the names of everyone they fed and that is their prayer list for the week ahead.  I have no doubt that the fruit of that prayer will be changed lives very shortly.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Georgia’s son’s murder.  She chose to honor the day by giving herself away at another mission.  She and her sisters in Christ cooked fifteen pounds of sloppy Joe and went with us to serve at St. Ben’s feeding mission.  Out of her son’s death, she chose to bring life. While we were there, a fight broke out between two young men in the line, as often happens. These are not slappy schoolboy fights.  These are bloody messes that often end in blue lights and police tape and covered bodies. The men were sent outside where the fight immediately and viciously resumed. Georgia was the only person on earth who could have broken that fight up.  And she chose to.  She put her life on the line and stepped between them.  She saw her sons in them.  Through her tears, she shouted to them about her boys.  One of the young men knew that she knew his pain.  And he poured himself out on the pavement to her.  She hugged him close as if he were her own son.  She prayed with him.  And he came into the Kingdom last night.  He was lost and now is found.  He was wounded and now is healed.  He was dead and is now alive.  If you are struggling to understand the meaning of Easter, this is its deepest meaning.  The tomb is empty.  He is risen.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks, Max! I read this story this morning as part of my Easter sermon. May you, Georgia, her children, our members and all G-d’s people be blessed. Happy Easter.


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