Monday, June 14, 2010

Hand Up or Handout? (repost)

This week's Blog Carnival topic is "Compassion". Head over to Bridget Chumbley's for more thoughts, convictions, and experiences.

***Originally posted on October 26, 2009***

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." -James 1:27

I recently brought up my involvement in an addiction recovery ministry. I thank all of you for your encouraging comments. Truth is, I wouldn't be involved in that ministry if I didn't need it myself. Besides my character, I have learned much about the human condition and those things that drive us to our drugs of choice. I've also learned that in order to overcome our addictions and surrender our will to God, we need to "hit bottom". This means we've reached our lowest point and that realization motivates us to change. Recovery "raises" that bottom, so our motivation for sobriety moves from being afraid of the worst that could happen to desiring the best that God has in store for us. The temptation for many is to prevent a loved one from reaching their bottom. We don't want to see them suffer. We want to save them. But suffering is exactly what they need to find the desire for recovery.

This creates a paradox to the Christian. There is no sin so horrible that God can't forgive. "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear" (Isaiah 59:1) And we are commanded to "forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13b) Likewise we are commanded to "carry each other's burdens" because "in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)

It's easy to forgive an addict without enabling him. But where do you draw the line when carrying his burdens? On one hand, he needs to suffer the consequences of his decisions. But that does not mean we cannot help. Picking him up from the bar at 2:00 AM because he can't drive home is not carrying his burdens. But sponsoring him at a meeting is.

With addiction, that line is more clear than when dealing with other sins. What about a single teenage mother? Is offering to babysit while she searches for a job enabling, or sharing her burden? This is something my wife and I are currently battling. There are a couple of single moms that we've been reaching out to and opening our home to. When we bring them to church, the stares we get say, "why would you help her? It's her fault she's in the situation she's in." Are we preventing them from hitting their bottom? I'd like to think instead we're offering a safe environment in which they can work out their issues. Much like a recovery meeting.

Sadly, this perspective doesn't seem to be shared. To some, we are offering a handout instead of a hand up. I am moved to pray the lyrics to Brandon Heath's song, Give Me Your Eyes,

"All those people going somewhere,
Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see"

I can then follow up with Leeland and Brandon Heath's Follow You,

"Faith without works is dead
On the cross your blood was shed
So how could we not give it away so freely?"

I only pray others may see the world in the same way.

***Update: Since this was posted last October, one of these women found gainful employment that also provided much-needed daycare and another moved in with her family for help while she goes to school. Sadly, neither have since kept in touch. I'm now wrestling with how best to minister to a family where the wife is infected with HIV and the husband is working his fingers to the bone to provide. The faces change, but the battle remains the same. It is my conviction that being a Christian means more than spouting off Bible verses and having perfect attendance on Sundays. We need to share the compassion of Christ to everyone, whether or not it is comfortable or convenient.***


Glynn said...

I think we're told to minister and care for the least of these. That's what you're doing here. And they will remember it, even if you never hear from them again.

katdish said...

It's a messy business to be sure--but it is the sick who need a doctor, otherwise what the heck are we doing anyway except taking care of our own needs and those in our immediate circle? Will you enable some? Probably. But God will judge, and I appreciate people like you who care more about what God thinks and less about what other people think.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks, Glynn and Kathy! It is messy and I pray they do remember it and it draws them closer to Christ. I only wish I could do more and that I could care even less what other people think.

Scott Couchenour said...

Wow, working with people is messy, isn't it? Don't you wish they were more like widgets that we could completely control? Alas, we keep on keeping on.

Stay strong! God bless you.

Sandra Heska King said...

Such a fine line between enabling and helping. That's a struggle for me sometimes. Okay, a lot.

We're responsible to respond to the call and leave the results to God.

What a blessing you are in the lives of the least!

Anonymous said...

It's true there is a fine line... but words without actions doesn't do a darn thing either. I think that reaching out is exactly what Jesus would want us to do, and that's why He brings these people into our lives.

Keep up the good work!

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks everyone for your encouragement and your comments. It helps to fight the battle knowing you have others in the fight with you!

caryjo said...

You are right. I have quite a number of addicts in our family, and it truly is hard to deal with the "enabling" definition. Helping in a good way at a good time is simply being compassionate, following the Lord's hand/heart. But there are other times when those instinctive, in my case, "knee-jerk" responses from many years of being the "responsible" one... my husband calls it "throwing myself on other people's grenades" ... enables them and tosses me back into codependent emotional behavior. However, I'd rather help too much than too little. [My husband is a servant-hearted man, so he's not saying "Don't" he's just reminding me to pull back and get a clearer view before I dive in to some of the situations around us.-- it's called "wisdom."]

Thanks for your insights.

Fatha Frank said...

Caryjo, I recommend reading "Codependent No More". It's a great book and explains a lot of how we tick. I've been meaning to dust off my copy as well.