Earlier this week, I met Victor. Homeless. Addict. Convict. Probably about my age. Chef. Dependable. Dad. There are a litany of things that differentiate us, but I kept seeing everything we had in common.
A daughter who knows us better than we know ourselves. Discomfort with the tears that well up when thinking about choices that hurt others. Our demons are different, but we are both engaged in battles â€” unwilling to give up or give in.
We walked to a nearby coffee shop run by a ministry dedicated to the Victors among us. As we chatted, I thought of Jacob, the wrestler whenever Victor would say, â€œIâ€™ve got a lot of fight in me.â€ I believe him. I think heâ€™s been fighting for a long time. He was ready for a win.
How itâ€™s done
Over breakfast, we met the director of the ministry. He explained what they do for people like Victor, and what they canâ€™t do. â€œWe canâ€™t do it for you,â€ was a repeated reminder. â€œYou have to surrender, not to the program, but to Jesus.â€
Itâ€™s strange language we Christians use. To gain you need to lose. To win you must surrender. No wonder the Bible calls the Gospel â€œa stumbling blockâ€ and â€œfoolishness.â€ Yet somewhere deep in my soul, I know this is true. Listening, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. This was right.
A world of words
Victor told the director how he wound up at our door. â€œI saw the cross and the word community and thought they could help.â€
The sign actually says communications â€” a word about words. Thatâ€™s what we do.
I live in world of words â€” good words, church words, Jesus words. But sometimes those words devolve into arguments that I imagine make Jesus shake his head. While we argue about the church, there are Victors sleeping in the streets who need us to be the church. People who need us to listen, to see them, to equip them. People who need supplies and tools for their battles.
Victor didnâ€™t need words. He needed community, communication, communion.
We expend a lot of energy, resources, and words to win.
Then I remember the words of Jesus as echoed by the director, â€œYou have to be willing to surrender.â€
Those words cut my heart anew this week. Theyâ€™re not just for the Victors of the world battling homelessness or addiction.
We, the church, need to surrender also. We must give up our words, our arguments, and our need to win â€” for love. There are a lot of Victors looking to the cross hoping to find a community, communion, church.
Before publishing, I thought about changing the name of the man I met this week. But his name is Victor, and he’s got a lot of fight in him. But to be the victor, he must surrender. I hope Victor is ready.
For the sake of the Victors among us, I hope we are too.