I’ve been thinking a lot about trust today. Do I trust God for a miracle to get me into Perth without having to quarantine again 🤔… I guess the answer is, ‘sometimes’? Do I trust that God will go before me and prepare the way and keep me safe? Almost always… Do I trust that God loves me and has unique things for me to do during my time here on earth? Absolutely…
And that got me reflecting on life at the Kitchen again and about my constant challenge to love the unlovable, touch the untouchable (I must tell you the story of the rotting foot I washed one Maundy Thursday… 🤢) and trust the untrustworthy.
When we opened the Kitchen in August 2017 (on St Aidan’s Day; a total divine appointment there) none of us really had a clue what we were doing. I wasn’t sure anyone would actually come but I was proved wrong; 15 on the first week, then 30, then 50 and, by the end of the first month we were regularly seeing 80 people. Our busiest week was one Thursday in the Easter holidays where we had 224 people in church, in search of food and groceries and company. It was a steep steep learning curve and, wow, we made some cracking mistakes.
Addictions are expensive, and they turn people into very clever and crafty liars. These things are fundamental truths that I wasn’t fully aware of. Almost every addict I’ve ever met has sworn to me that they’re not on anything (my favourite is when someone, who is very clearly high as a kite, acts *totally* outraged at the suggestion that they might be a drug user!). And addicts are creative in their ways of making money. Shoplifting, selling stuff, stealing, tricking naïve clergy… 🙄
Often people would ask me for money. Clergy know, early on, not to give out money, but even so I sometimes fell for it because I had this mantra that I would treat people as good humans, always. That I would always be kind and honouring. And sometimes that meant being shafted, to put it bluntly. Like the day one of our volunteers (who began as a guest) told me she needed £43 – often very specific amounts were asked for – to clear the debt on her gas and electric account and heat the house for some friends coming over. I trusted her and gave her the money. She said she would pay it back, obviously she didn’t. The same woman also told me her abusive partner had sold all her clothes for crack and she had nothing. I raided my wardrobe and gave her half of what I had. And I swear, I NEVER saw her in a single item of my clothes. Not ever. She almost certainly weighed them in for cash for her own drug habit (which she vehemently denied existed, right until the day I was sat beside her bed in hospital after an accidental overdose).
Every week I would be asked for amounts around the £5 mark, ‘for a bus back to the ‘Boro’. Never exactly £5, but always that or thereabouts. My most loved addict, guest and friend eventually couldn’t bear to see the Vicar get tricked one more time and told me that a bag of Heroin is £5 in Hartlepool. Why aren’t they asking for a fiver then? I asked. Apparently because they didn’t want to be that obvious! 🤷🏼♀️
I had this fund – the vicar’s discretion fund – which I could use to give money in emergency circumstances. A few times I used it to put a street sleeper into a B&B for the night, that sort of thing. I genuinely dread to think how often my kindness was taken for weakness, and the church ended up inadvertently ‘buying’ drugs…
And yet, I do think it’s true that we are to honour the image of God in one another – yes, be wise, but always, always err on the side of kindness, even when we get it wrong. Be lavishly kind, but not abundantly stupid – so often I was the latter rather than the former, and I gradually learned. Sometimes I clung too closely to my fear of being taken for a ride or being thought of as stupid and made decisions that were actually mean. Striking the right balance is hard!
But what I find myself thinking is this: in each moment, God trusts me to fulfil God’s purposes on earth, and I am utterly untrustworthy for that job…but God trusts me anyways. We are each entrusted with much, so much, regardless of our track record and trustworthiness. So shouldn’t we do the same? And I don’t fully know what to do with this thought process, except continue trying to show up and make God proud, to keep choosing kindness (even when it lands up being stupidity) and keep rocking the status quo that teaches us to be suspicious, cautious, even mean. Those traits are not my God’s traits.
May God give each of us the grace to be wise yet kind, strong yet gentle, fierce yet soft, generous beyond the norm, and a little bit more like Christ, day-by-day-by-day, amen.