on loving fringe people

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

She hopped into my car, ducking in out of the rain.  “Thanks for giving me a ride!”  She knew I was always good for that.  As quick as she swung the car door shut, she launched into animated talk, and in the fifteen minutes it took to drive her home, her chatter never stopped.  There was a list of questions in my head about how she was doing, and how a friend of hers – a boy who did not confide in me – was doing.  She talked, I listened, and though I didn’t ask a single one of my questions, they were all answered by the time she hugged me and hopped out of my car. 

This was the miracle I experienced over and over, in that passage of my life.  What I learned is this:  if you will let God burden you to pray for the most troubled among us…if you will be faithful to it daily, allowing your heart to be broken on their behalf…if you will stand quietly and not try to manipulate the situation…He will cover your bases. 

I would ask Him, “Let me see them through YOUR eyes.”  Sometimes, He’d show me just one little bit of their brokenness with such clarity that suddenly everything made sense – that I suddenly understood why the behaviors, why the lack of change.  Sometimes, He’d give me a peek at their potential – the impossible beauty covered by their mad skills at ticking others off – and I’d be undone.  Whatever I saw, it always made me love them more, forgive them more readily, pray for them as if my prayers might be the difference between life and death.

I would ask Him, “Give me access to the information I need, to pray for them well.”  And some girl would get in my car and tell me all the inside track on a kid for whom I prayed daily, who wouldn’t give me more than a passing hello.  Or some kid would drag me over to a house the police liked to watch, making me wait outside, but bringing out a guy whose court date was coming up, who would willingly come sit in my car and let me pray with and for him.  (Ever been turned down on an offer to pray for someone?  I haven’t, and I’ve made the offer to some pretty tough characters.  Never been turned down on an offer to pray WITH someone, either, as long as I don’t ask THEM to pray aloud.  Try it and tell me if your results come out any differently than mine.) 

Awhile back, I invited you, the reader, to tell me what you’d like me to write about.  Lori asked, “How do you cultivate that heart for those who are really on the fringe of life’s boundaries? They may or may not have gotten there of their own choices, but they need love, they need Christ. Natural instinct is to avoid, reject, leave them be, condemn, chastise them – how as Christians who really proclaim Jesus do we love and minister beyond the ‘food pantry’, or middle man/woman organization?’ 

This is one little piece of the answer to that.

Prayer is the first place to start.  I started by asking God, “Break my heart for what breaks yours” – like, not once or twice, but every day for years.  He answers that prayer.  He casts a new light on people and situations around you.  He opens your understanding.  “Break my heart for what breaks yours,” was my beginning of the journey to “fringe ministry.” 

If you’ll hang in there through that part and let Him fully pulverize your heart, the next thing to pray kind of just flows from it:  “Send me where others won’t go.  Give me something to do for You that most will refuse.”  You know…not from some kind of a “cowboy” mentality…but from a sincere desire to:  1)  Give Him the most expensive possible gift, in gratitude for who He is, and:  2)  Be a part of the solution to the gut-wrenching things you have seen in answer to that, “Break my heart” business.  In my experience, this is a gift He likes to give, and a prayer He likes to answer,

There is more to loving those on the outside edges than *just* prayer.  There are some action things and I reckon I’ll mosey back over here another day to hit on those.  But in my probably not-so-humble opinion, skipping the prayer part puts you in terrible danger of wrong motivations, manipulative tactics, and a messiah complex that will drive those around you nuts.  Prayer is the beginning.  Let God start to instruct your heart about those little thugs and hoodlums and weirdos about whom all the nice people like to whisper in scathing tones.  Let Him break your heart for what breaks His.  Let Him call you past the people who are rolling their eyes and saying, “Get over it.”  Past the people pronouncing that some people were just born for jail.  Past the people for whom conformity and compliance are the be-all and end-all, who want these fringe people silenced, put away, or changed IMMEDIATELY.  Let Him teach your tears to fall and your heart to bleed for what has been stolen from these.  And then let Him prod you into that huge gap between the fringe folks and Him.  Let Him teach you how to pray for them, how to love them, how to reach out to them, how to care more about their well-being than your comfort. 

It’s a beautiful beginning.

  1. Cala says:

    “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” I remember that so well. It’s from way back in my memory and brings waves of nostalgia right to the front. Cherished memories. I have learned so much from you – but this is one thing I’m sure is attached anytime I think of you – this specific prayer. There are a few others as well 😉 really good to remember this. it feels like my roots.

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