Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where do you live?

I have some truly interesting, insightful, and talented friends (chances are that if you are reading this you are one of the interesting, insightful, talented people in my life).

I just wanted to share something one of those friends has written (he said it was OK to post it here). Let me know what you think -- and which floor you see yourself on...

Recovery From Pride
By Brad Bosler
October 24, 2007

I lived on the seventeenth floor of a building before. When you have to walk up all seventeen floors using the stairs, you realize what it means to raise yourself up on your own power! When you make it, you feel like you have accomplished something. The building of life, though, is much higher. When adversity eventually brought me down, I realized the stairs I once bounded up with the energy of Pride, were now tougher in humiliation. When I reached out for help, someone showed me another option- the up elevator of grace. Having been raised up, I now want to offer the same option to the homeless of Elkton, Md.

I am in “recovery” from Pride. When I was young, around 18, I lived high on the building of life! Pride energized me. It took me up, high enough to where the view was great! I thought life could not be any better than what I had made out of it. It was as if I was living in a skyscraper. Everyone moved below me. In the distance, the horizon stretched for miles all around, and from my viewpoint, I could see that every road emanated from me. In my arrogance, I believed everyone below me was inferior, and if I wanted to help someone, it was to raise them up to my level because they were less than me.

I was full of pride. Adversity, then, was what I needed to become humble. It would not have been my choice, though. Through a series of adversities, mostly as a result of my arrogant actions, I began to fall down. Sometimes it was down the steps. Other times, I was plummeting in the down elevator. On my way down, I saw those I once thought I towered over become farther above me while I continued to fall. As sadness and humiliation grew, I desperately wanted to stop falling. However, as time passed, I began to see that there was much farther I could fall! Ground level would not be the bottom! That’s when I reached out for help, stopped falling, and got out on whatever floor I was at. I was closer to street level than I had ever thought I would be in my life. If I was full of pride before, adversity showed me I had room to grow.

In a famous poem by Langston Hughes called Mother to Son, the mother who has seen hard times tells her son, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor—Bare. But all the time I’s been a-climbin’ on…” When I reached my bottom and reached out, I found those same hard stairs she was talking about. For me, life had been crystal stairs, but now, at the bottom, getting back to those stairs seemed impossible. The stairs at the bottom are rough and filled with splinters. The steps I once bounded up with the energy of Pride, now seemed impossible in darkness of humiliation. Despite how low I felt, I did begin to trudge upwards. I was determined to get back up to that towering view, to regain what I once had. The beauty of that view and the serenity of the height enticed me. Yet, as much as I tried, I could not seem to make much progress.

Trudging slowly up the steps, I realized I could only raise myself so far on my own energy. I needed help. I needed a lift. Through personal struggle and the guidance of others who had fallen, I realized I needed a power greater than myself, one that I could fully trust. That’s when I made the decision to step onto the up elevator of grace. Giving up on believing I could get myself back to the top, I found myself raised up. The ride up was easy, freeing, and exhilarating. But too soon it stopped. The doors opened, and I was let out somewhere in the middle. I wasn’t on the top floor. In fact, I could still see the ground easily. Furthermore, I could look up and see that there were plenty of floors above me. The view was nice, and I could see some roads and their apparent directions, but I was more confused as to why I was not raised any higher! I did not get my pride back! Instead, my heart still felt broken, yet it did seem somehow strengthened as a result of my fall. It was then that I realized that I was not supposed to stay on this floor. I was now supposed go back down and lead others to where I had been raised.

That is where I find myself now- drawn to homeless people on the streets of Elkton, Maryland, at Grace Community Church, a church dedicated to reaching the lost. Not all homeless people are all criminals, mental patients, and drug addicts. Some of them are just lost, stuck in the down elevator not knowing that they can get off, let alone aware of the fact that there is a way back up. Many seem to have gotten off on ground level. From there, all they see are the bottoms of the buildings, as they look no farther than their next meal or a warm place to stay that night. They don’t even want to think about the heights they can rise to or the beautiful view above. Some don’t even know how to find the door so they can get in and start climbing again. Opening the door is the goal of our church. If we can feed them and give them a place to stay, maybe they can look a little farther up. Maybe they will decide to start climbing the steps with our help. Better yet, maybe they will decide to take the up elevator and be raised up.

Throughout my life, adversity led me to the down elevator, especially when I half-heartedly tried the up. Fortunately, people reached out to me when I was falling and showed me the way back up. Having been lifted from my fall, I feel like I have been saved. I want to tell those on the bottom floors, those whose vision is so obstructed by the immediate walls around them, that there is a higher floor, one that reveals a vision of this world that is breath taking. Likewise, I also want to go up and tell those who are so high they have lost sight of the ground to remember those below who are in need, those like the homeless people in Elkton. As a result of my “recovery” from Pride, I am living on the middle floor. It’s high enough to see the view, low enough to see the street, temporary enough that I know I am not supposed to stay there forever.


James said...

Great insight on the church's mission. As the body of Christ, we need to reach out to everyone—not just our peers or those in the same tax bracket, but everyone.

And I think that many of us have experienced falling from the top of our pride (notice no one really gradually abandons pride but falls from it, it's so sweet). It's a shame that it takes that for most of us to realize that we are all the same, all loved by God the same.

Terry Foester said...

Ken, thanks for posting this from Brad. I am so glad he is feeling drawn to homeless people in elkton maryland. I've learned so much from my homeless lunches that Ben and I have ventured on.

Tell Brad I say hi and he's always welcome @ HBC. And sounds like he's found a nice place on the "middle floor"...