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This past Saturday I learned how to play Dominoes. It was fabulous! My friend Van taught me how to play. I learn a lot from our friends on the street. Most of their lessons are very political, dealing with race, local police, or the faulty Chicago shelter/ transit systems. Sometimes our conversations and their lessons are about their lives too, I really appreciate those. But this was a really great experience (not that others aren’t). He (my friend Van) taught me something that only a friend could, dominoes, something with no ulterior motive or political drive, or anything else. Something that didn’t benefit him at all.
There were plenty of other, better, domino players there for him to have a legitimate game with but he chose to sit down with me for over an hour and a half and teach me. There was not even a single motion of pride as he placed domino next to domino, letting me win more than I should have, so that I could better learn the game, and more importantly learn to love it (who likes learning something new when they find out they suck at it?). He was kind and patient every step of the way, teaching me strategy, and guiding my decisions. I love Van.
We had talked several months ago about depression, sin, guilt, and the salvation given us in Christ, and how in Him we have been freed from our depravation. I love Van. When we talked then we struck a mutual chord, a bond formed between us, as two broken men stepped out into the light of admittance and sought the light of grace together. Very different people feeling very similar things, needing the very same person, the only person that could set them free. Van taught me how to play dominoes; Van shared with me a simple joy. I love Van.
I find God sharing with me simple joys all over this city. I love this city. I saw my friend Saint, and asked him how he was doing. He’s an old black man with a white beard and a fierce defense mechanism that is usually left unmanned in light kindness or friendship. We talked about Las Vegas. He’s from Vegas. He wants to go back to Vegas. He hates Chicago. I love this city. He comes here to visit family; we’re not family, not technically. He comes here before and after it gets cold out. He’s been here for two-ish years/ months (I can’t remember). He stays for several months to several years at a time (that I can remember). He doesn’t like it when it gets cold out. Neither do I. He hates this city. I love this city.
Saint is a gambling man. I am not. But I have gambled, I won $20 in a day once. Last day of work summer ’08. I don’t know how much he has won or lost. I can’t imagine his luck has lasted him with his particular predicate though. I’m glad I stopped while I was ahead. I hope he has too, but I know he likes to gamble. I don’t know if he’s addicted to it, or if he just likes it like I like my morning Sponge-bob (I’m not addicted to T.V., but I like my morning Sponge-bob).
Saint lives at the PGM (Pacific Garden Mission). He doesn’t mind it. Some people hate it. Most that I’ve talked to actually. Which is odd, because the founders and administrators (from my experiences with them, and from hearing stories about them) are amazing people. I think it’s the model mixed with poor sermons and several highly circulated accounts and testimonies of prejudice, crime, and less delightful activities that give it a poor reputation among the guys on the street. But I liked Saint’s attitude a lot, actually. A lot.
“I’m just a visitor,” Saint told me, “I’m not here permanently. So I don’t need to be too picky or worried. Ya know? It’s just a time in my life and it will pass. This ain’t my home, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
I love this city, but I don’t look at it as home. I find my home in a game of dominoes with Van and over a conversation of shared memories with Saint. I find my home with one broken man helping me piece together the shards of my broken past, and I find my home no where where there is a here. My home is in heaven, first and foremost (though I may not always act like that). So I don’t need to be too picky or worried, ya know? This life will pass away no matter what, and when it does, I’ll [FINALLY] be home. I love this city, and I’m a visitor here. I won’t be in Chicago forever, neither will Van or Saint, but we’re here now, and if visitors both physically and spiritually, how much more time, then, must we invest in one another to make this unruly street corner our lavish home? Home is not where the heart is. Home is in Christ alone, and his people bring us closer to it.
When Christ emptied himself on the cross, he was but a visitor on Earth, a visitor among visitors. He knew greater than all of us, “The son of man has no place to rest his head”. Let me encourage you towards something: Jesus was not Spiritually homeless, he was but a visitor. He had no place to rest his head- he had no physical home. But he could rest in the promise and assurance of the Lord. I entreat you to follow our Lord, and realize with Van our brokenness, with Saint our impermanence wherever you are, and help each other, build off each other, and play with each other, in bringing ourselves closer to the game of completion, to the home whom we call by name, to the place that we shall fully know, even as we are fully known.
1 Samuel 12:22- “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.” Do not fear when you are broken, tired, lost, confused. We are all visitors, make the most of where this place, beautifully made out for you, and don’t for a second loose heart for these other travelers along the way. I love Van. I love Saint. I love this city.
Grace & Peace