I felt as though I was living in a documentary as I watched the first woman we encountered that night walk down a snowy, Mid-West neighborhood street. A prostitute, a sex worker, a heroin addict. I want to tell you about it, but first, let me tell you how and why I was there.
I’ve been talking about and writing about capacity for years. Capacity is defined as the potential or suitability for accommodating something. Capacity is not about how busy you are or how much activity you can handle. Your real capacity is about PEOPLE and your potential or suitability for others to find shelter with you in the “tent” of your life (see earlier posts). I’ve said that I want my capacity to always be growing. In the past few months, with my family’s recent international relocation, my capacity certainly has been stretched once again, perhaps in new ways.
My husband, Paul and I love cities, yet it has been an adjustment really doing city living for the first time in our lives, and more specifically, in the city of Detroit.
Detroit is an amazing, history-rich, vibrant, rough-around-the-edges, but loving city. Both old and emerging, tired and energetic at the same time. Settling into her requires a unique mix of tenderness and toughness.
Detroit is gorgeous, a classic beauty, with ornate Art Deco style skyscrapers from the 1920s, alongside the flashy, modern architecture of skyscrapers built in the 1970s. Detroit is also a city of ruins. But it is so exciting to watch as homes and buildings, abandoned during the city’s difficult decades are one by one being rebuilt and restored literally all around us.
People of every type are seen here. Detroit is very welcoming to all to come make their home here, but she’s also kinda looking at all of us out of the corner of her eye. She wants to believe in us. She wants to believe that we love her and that we’ll help her to rebuild, but she’s waiting to see what we’re really all about.
In Detroit, you have the pioneering types. Like the settlers who pushed west in the 1800s, they see what will yet be made of this dream city. You also have the ones who are strong and proud and probably have a “right” to Detroit more than anyone cause they’ve stuck it out all these years. And then there are the ones who have been broken by the knock-on effects of what this city has gone through.
There is a book titled, “We Almost Lost Detroit.” There are many, far too many people in this city who were lost while Detroit was falling or are on that edge today.
Two weeks ago I went out on the streets with my new, but already dear friend, Courtney. Her husband, Jason, drove us and two other women as I accompanied them on their weekly visit to an area of town where sex trafficking is a reality. The team I was with that night volunteer with an organization that works to show love and friendship to women and men who are trapped in sex trafficking. The woman I saw walking down the snowy street, walked briskly, her breath visible in the below-freezing air. Her long, blonde hair was tucked inside the hood of her puffy, blue coat. We stopped our vehicle and Courtney reached out to her, calling her name because she knew her from previous visits. Her face was creased by her hard living and she asked for prayer that she would be able to get clean from heroin. We gave her a sack meal, a blanket, hat, gloves and scarf and a hygiene kit and Courtney made sure she had the number she can call if she wants a way out. That night as we drove the streets we encountered person after person caught in sex slavery, all types of people, from different backgrounds. Each one Courtney knew by name. Each one informing Courtney of heartbreaking updates to their story. Each one given a fleeting moment of love and perhaps hope that they could possibly get out of their hell, like some of the others Courtney has been able to rescue (and with the help of the organization put them through rehab and walk them through a long process of starting over).
I realized on a deeper level that night that this is Detroit, too. My city, my hometown is beautiful and exciting and iconic and hopeful, but it is this brokenness, too.
The buildings of Detroit mirror the people of Detroit. All built in love. All built with a purpose. Some are shining and fulfilling the dream their creator saw for them. Some are in ruins. All can be rebuilt.
Today, for me and Paul our challenge, our stretch, is to get our hearts to grow fast enough, big enough to include all of this. Allllll these types of people, the broken and the beautiful, the “Old Detroit”, the “New Detroit”, suburban Detroit, every political persuasion (even the ones who irritate you or me), every race, every sexual orientation, every shade of destructive behavior and self-abuse, the poor, the rich and the in-between. Because Love doesn’t define them by these things and in God’s house we all can be healed, liberated, appointed and become a rebuilder. (“…bind up the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes…And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities…” Isaiah 61:1-4)
Capacity. God’s heart is big enough. He holds them all. Will my heart and your heart hold them, too?