She walked past the butchery section as I turned the corner.
Smelling of tobacco, he followed as they picked up groceries. I pushed my cart in between them to get to the milk. Picking up what I needed, I continued to the fruit aisle, very conscious of their interaction – trying not to stare.
She, a beautiful Kenyan woman probably in her early twenties- whose vocation was quickly identifiable by her clothing choice and her companion, a tall, somewhat unkept older American man with scraggly hair.
It was Good Friday, and we only needed a few things.
Waiting in the check-out line, I watched him walk away as she waited.
In front of me, a man smelled of the same item he was buying. Three Tusker’s, and a receipt saying that he has just returned three other bottles, and would not be charged the bottle deposit.
I paid for my purchases and looked for them. She stood just past the cashier, searching her purse. Taking things out – putting them back in.
The tusker man disappeared, likely to consume his recent purchases.
It was Good Friday, and we had only needed a few things.
Heart aching, I walked out of the store into the hallway – past the guards, and the DVD sellers, and into the rain. Not waiting for it to stop, I kept going until I got to the car. Heart as heavy as the clouds that dropped water, soaked up by my cardigan.
It was Good Friday, and these interactions left me heavy with the weight of the city. Blatant prostitution – no attempts to hide. Addiction to alcohol, encouraged by the cheap brew. Alone, he bought them. Alone, he left. His demeanor did not seem like he was about to join some friends to wind down. His demeanor and the sky, and the prostitute joined together in the weight of the last fifteen minutes.
Returning home, Ryan ran into the rain to open the gates and usher me inside.
I fell on the couch, removing the wet cardigan. Staring at the very real water soaked up.
This isn’t the way it should be on this weekend. Remembering the words of a sermon we listened to, that I repeated at church last Sunday –
“As Christians, we can expect to cry more – our heart of stone has turned to a heart of flesh.”*
It may seem like simply the ways of the world, but this is not the way things were intended to be. When young pregnant teenage girls in the slum refuse help, and boys rescued from the streets turn back to their old ways… there are many things that happen that are not as they should be.
People offered help should accept it. People given grace should receive it.
But things aren’t always as they are supposed to be.
For two nights, God was dead, and things were not how they are supposed to be.
But even as God was dead, He was still God… and never took His Presence away from the suffering. No instead of leaving humanity in it’s suffering, He took it on himself – right to the end.
Three days later, things weren’t as they should be. Death had been conquered – and Jesus’ lungs were filled with the air of this world again. He ate fish, and his body digested it. He walked with people, and shook their hands, and let them touch the holes in his.
And we can imagine their relief and their laughter and fear as they processed it all. The wave of emotions of the last weekend – grief fresh in their bodies.
“Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Isreal?**” They asked – and they still didn’t understand. A new vision he gave them, which was never really new to begin with.
“He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”***
And still we sometimes don’t understand. Suffering, Death, and the unexpected resurrection that turned the way things are upside down – or inside out – or into another way of being.
God with us now – the Spirit that will go with us, the Spirit that sends us… into a world of things that shouldn’t be.
Proclaiming – more with a whisper than a shout – that there is another way things can be. That it’s taken care of. You are redeemed, You are reconciled, You are justified, You are adopted, You are liberated, and You are Restored – and every other word spoken against you – both physically and inside of your head – has no power.
And we receive this with open hearts, remembering that it doesn’t turn us inwards to our own paths and destiny – but that in this event we are welcomed into a family, a movement of history that welcomes the prostitute and the addict and the young missionary and the old man into the same future of a reality turned upside down.
*Thoughts from Tim Keller’s sermon, “Praying our Tears” – in reference to Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
** Acts 1:6 New International Version
** Acts 1:7-8 The Message