The head hooker came to Bible study for the first time last week. I was startled to see this woman who more than once had tested the limits of my heart. Being the water pourer at the soup kitchen over the last 18 months had given me more than a few reasons to judge her badly. Even though she was late, she slipped into the front pew with confidence that she belonged there. We were spending the month talking about the Fourth Commandment (remember the Sabbath day) and how important it was to find peace so we could live it more consistently. Words of Jesus were a keynote: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."John 14:27.
Tony, another first timer, wanted to talk about the "not as the world giveth," and as we did, people concluded that drugs, alcohol, money, and sex are not a source of peace. What was this peace of Jesus that would be a permanent gift? The woman in the front pew spoke up. "Every morning I have to pray right away to ask God to give me the strength to be sober. Because I learned that I didn't have enough strength to do it on my own." She had been clean from drugs for a year now. "If my day doesn't go well," she said, "I have to go back to my prayer in the morning and remember it. Almost always something good happens. Then I know that God answered my prayer. That's the peace Jesus is talking about—knowing that God answers your prayers." Like a soldier whose mettle had been tested, she talked about how connecting God with good things is a great way to feel more peace. Then you don't take good things for granted, and even if life isn't going so well overall, you can still see God's presence with you.
That's why I find a weekly commitment to our local soup kitchen network is worth the time. To see Christ working in people's lives is the holiest thing, even if its spiritual influence doesn't work as fast as you want it to. I'm moved deeply by the courage and fortitude I see there.