The Frustration of the WHY

This week, as I celebrate my 5 year anniversary at
New York City Relief, I wrestle with something I’ve come to call “The frustration of the why”.

“Selah, what do I do when I go to work?”
“You help people.”

Yep. That’s it. My 4-year-old gets it, she hears about what I do each day and deducts that I help people that are need of receiving a form of “help” that they are having difficulty acquiring alone.

“But why? Why do I help people?”
Crickets. Chirp. Chirp. “I don’t know.” Selah resolves.

This is a question that comes up in my head often, mostly because what I do in my day to day is completely foreign to the norm and so often doesn’t have a defined “win”, that I grasp at the frustration of the WHY.

Why: For what reason or purpose?

For what reason or purpose am I waking up today? For what reason or purpose am I going to stand in the cold, hot, or rain - and ask a team that I lead to do the same? For what reason or purchase are we going to talk to strangers that may be too tired or frustrated or jaded by past “helpers” who didn’t follow through?

Why? Just why?

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know that I’m a Christian.

Though that label shows itself through MANY different viewpoints, for the sake of what I’m writing about today, the best explanation of what “Christian” means is through my perspective of who God is - which I’ve come to find is that I see God differently than most.

I feel like a lot of people self-experience God as a 14-year-old teenager who just stole the family car, crashed it, and are enduring the wrath of parents who are in complete dismay and say things that they don’t mean out of utter lack of words, so they say the wrong words, “You are a complete failure. You never do anything right. Get out of my sight, I don’t want to see you right now.” Or, as a spouse who just took their work relationship too far and are being buried under the immense, suffocating weight of shame. Or simply, a viewpoint of God that is take it or leave it. “You do you” as they say. God is so distant and not practical that there is a “Why bother?” mindset.

If that is what you are expecting God to say or be, then the frustration of the why is probably too much to bare or there is no why because there is no feeling at all.

If you are living your life tiptoeing around, worried about the failure/punishment dynamic, then safety is your friend and it will be so hard to emerge out of that quicksand.

This is NOT how I view God or experience this life.
Thus also, proof of why my experience of life and what I do each day is foreign - but also amazing!

God is not shame. God is not fear.
The closest form of how I see and experience God is wrapped up in one word: Daddy.
Not father, not dad, but the smallest viewpoint, most intimate, most childish - Daddy.

You can’t say “daddy” without feeling small, young, or childlike.
Daddy isn’t the father figure that shows up when you are in trouble.

Parents don’t use “daddy” when threatening punishment or fear, it’s more like this:
“Just wait until your father gets home, he will deal with you then.”
“Do we need to call dad???”

Daddy is reserved for the intimate, the pain-healer, boo-boo kisser, snuggle expert, and ultimate place of protection and comfort.

This is how I witness and experience God as a Christian - and it literally breaks my heart when I (VERY OFTEN) experience those around me that have absolutely zero experience with this version of God.

Thus, this is how I relay and emulate my external life. This is WHY I live.

Because I have a super intimate, childlike and tangible understanding of God, in turn, I have a super intimate, childlike, and tangible relationship with those around me.

My internal WHY that is always circling my head, heart and actions is maybe if I can show you what it looks like to be loved like that (even a little bit), that you will desire that more and start to look for a God that is more like a daddy than an agent of shame.

So, 5 years in and so continually thankful for this place and people that are shaping me to see God as a child would.

Big, powerful, miraculous, yes… but never too big to comfort a scraped knee or the utter failure that is me each day.

Much love my friends.

Thank you for your genuine love, words, hugs, and encouragements for the past 5 years. Let’s keep it going!

How do you feel loved?

In the collision of human ugliness and divine beauty, beauty wins.                                Beauty will save the world.

- Brian Zahnd

As I commuted into NYC this morning I became overcome (tears streaming down my face) with feelings of love for compassion for this "beauty" that Brian talks about.

Despite this stuff being the cream of the crop of what I do and how I live my life - literally my job is to look for people to love and figure out how to love them well - it's still super easy for me to get stuck in the task of the day.

So, as I exited Penn station today, I just had to stop and lean against a street sign.

"God, it's such a privilege that I get to do this life that I do, how do you want it to look today?"

And this is what I got:

Look for people to love and then ask them what is the best way you can love them right now where they are.

Money, stuff, food, resources, time, conversation, etc.

Well, that's different.

Obviously, they are homeless, they have not what I possess, so naturally, the first thing I see that they need is what I feel I would need; food, coffee, money, blanket, coat, things...

At the entrance to the NQRW trains in Harold Square, there sits a woman whom I have seen before. I've said hello as often as I could make eye contact, offered resources, coffee, breakfast, and they like - but the key word here, I've offered each time - limiting her options to my comforts at the time.

So today, I decided to try what I felt like God was urging, so I knelt down and offered nothing besides this greeting:

"Goodmorning, what is the absolute best way that I can love you this morning. I pass by here often, I've said hi before, but this morning I have time, I have money, I have resources, a hug, conversation, anything.

What would make you feel loved above any other thing?"

"Hmm.." with the nodding of her head taking it in... "Really, the fact that you stopped and talked to me is the something that no one does. That's all I need".

Feeling like she didn't get it fully, I then offered again, "I have money, are you hungry, coffee, do you need any stuff???"

"Really, just that you would stop and say hello is all I needed. Thank you."

Great... and soul-crushing at the same time, simply for the fact that I watched her for about 2 minutes before I approached, and during that time, no less than 400 people walked by.

Sitting just 1 block over from that 'Miracle on 34th Street' fame, just outside of the gaze of millions that take in Macy's beautiful and mesmerizing holiday windows, sits a woman that simply longs for a "hello" ABOVE ANYTHING ELSE.

So, my friends, this Christmas season (and all the other seasons that follow), as we wrestle with the ugliness of pain/lostness in everything around us, please, don't miss out on the simplicity of a simple "hello" to those you see.

Beauty will save the world.

Love leads to beauty.

The problem though is I cannot define what you need from the outside looking in - you have to open up a little bit and let me know.

So, the question is, what is the best way that you feel loved?

Don't assume that the people around you know that.

Let them know - and ask the same of them.

For me, it's with a hug or a word of encouragement.

What's yours? Please share.

Much love to you my friends!

Have a wonderful day!

*Feel free to share this if you think it will be helpful for others!