Into the Rough: Stories from the Street
It was 6:45pm. Folks were starting to gather outside Rough Edges. A small group of us were meeting inside around a long “last supper” kind of table, at the end of the table was a wooden cross on its side, with a candle sitting next to it. There were bibles and song books scattered across the table. Their use to be strawberry´s in a food bowl, but one patron was subtly destroying them one by one over the course of the evening. Patrons sat around the table next to cherry and I as we sung together, prayed for each other and read the scriptures.
This one night we were doing a study about Lent, and Jesus descent to earth, and his final descent into the depths of Hell. It was an easy study, everyone there new exactly what it is like to live a life of descent. We shared about something we could give up for Lent, so we could become more whole. One patron said he was trying to quit smoking, but struggling. He kept “falling down.”
And in response, not I, but another patron – with a soul made for encouraging and lifting up others with words – Spoke.
“That´s alright that you fall. See this cross? Pointing to the wooden cross on the table. This is what this means. It doesn’t matter how far you fall. Jesus is there, and has fallen further. But, you can rise again.”
It was a powerful moment. I never regarded myself as a preacher. Which is good, because this patron is clearly one. Powerful and emotional rhetoric, the power to speak to the soul. The Spirit is working through unexpected people, and in places you wouldn’t think. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And there was a certain type of freedom that night, freedom found in companionship and community.
In response, I read one of my favourite poems based on Jesus falling the third time in the Stations of the Cross.
He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can't go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.
This is the third fall and it hurts the worst,
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.