The Grey Area
His voice strained as he struggled to keep his cool, “Faith, I could pull up in this neighborhood and get out of my car in a full suit, yet I’d still hear a white woman locking her doors!!! Do you know why? Because people are ignorant. I can put forward my best, but some people will always see me as just another ghetto nigga comin’ out the hood,” he spat in the dirt and shook his head.
We stood there in silence as his anger subsided, “Faith, give me your hand.”
I stretched my arm through the bars. He gingerly took my hand and turned my palm towards the sky. Then he extended his arm towards me so that his forearm lined up with mine. “…what do you see?” He asked. A smile played at my lips – I knew where he was going with this. I didn’t say a word, I just stared at our arms. His muscular arm was littered with tattoos and scars – each one told a story. His skin made mine look like a small cloud against a night sky. I didn’t see strength and weakness. I didn’t see good and bad. I didn’t see broken and whole, old and new, male and female or black and white. I just saw two people. It seemed altogether ordinary to me.
He answered his own question, “Nothing. To you and me this is nothing… But, Faith, not everyone sees the world the way you do. Some people still see things in black and white,” I nodded. He was right.
“Faith, I know it isn’t the world’s fault. I’m not angry with anyone but myself. I know my situation is my own fault… It just feels like an uphill battle. I’m trying to better myself, you know that….but it’s HARD.” I bit my lip and refrained from commenting. I wanted to tell him that he wasn’t trying hard enough. If he was really serious about making a better life for himself, he wouldn’t be in my neighborhood collecting money from minors that he sold drugs to.
I slowly twisted my fingers into the gate bars and stared at him. He looked back at me with big empty eyes.
His skinny frame seemed to back up his story of living on very little. When I asked where he lived, he told me he’d been couch hopping. I wasn’t completely surprised – a handful of my friends have gone through a homeless phase. It isn’t unusual around here.
“Ya know…I just want to make a better life for myself. I hate wondering where my next meal is coming from, I hate not being able to see my own son cause his mom hates me so much…I loved that woman. I hate not knowing how I’m going to pay for my daughter’s diapers,” he jammed his hands into his pockets and squinted at the sun. I gazed over his shoulder in silence. Part of me wished I could help him, and part of me knew he got himself into this situation. A lanyard hung from his skinny neck, advertising some kind of clothing line – It had pornographic pictures of models on both sides. I felt my left eyebrow twitch. He’s so stupid. Nobody is going to take him seriously until he loses the thuglife attitude. I hate seeing these boys try and fall flat. It backfires when they actually do put forth effort to better themselves. I know he made his own decisions and got himself into this position, but he didn’t get to choose his family – he didn’t get to choose where he was born or how he was raised. For some, it truly is a hard knock life…
I stood there feeling a little regretful for all my many blessings. Sometimes I don’t know how to help these guys. I don’t know whether to brush them off or be the one person that listens – the one person that cares. We all reap what we sow. Hard work and willingness lead to growth and success. Conversely, bad attitudes and laziness bring poverty – it’s the cold hard truth.
Whenever I find myself thinking of these guys, I remember Isaiah 42:22. It says, “But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, ‘Send them back.'”
This scripture resonates with me for very personal reason. You see, I was one of those people. I was once a captive myself – bound by chains of fear, bitterness, hatred and guilt. I know how it feels to live from one moment of false pleasure to the next – lingering on every temporary high. I know how it feels to get sucked downward into darkness, as if there is nothing left in life but the sound of your deepest regrets shrieking in your face. I know what it’s like to live for the distraction – anything that will pull you out of the pit…anything that will wake you from the nightmare of being tormented by your demons. I know what it is to live half a life – cloaked in fear and shame.
Let me tell you something, I believe in spiritual warfare. I believe in the Bible…every part. I believe that wars are at wage for our souls. Do you know that there really are prisoners of war? I know. I was one of them. Don’t believe me? Ask me what I’ve seen. Ask me what I’ve heard. I know this stuff is real. I’m only the woman I am, because some very brave people had the guts to save me from myself – to demolish the lies of the devil and replace them with biblical truths.
Have you ever watched a movie where the good guys get captured by the bad guys, but you know it’ll be ok because you know the good guys get free in the end and show the bad guys who’s boss? You’re not worried about the good guys because you know their buddies are about to show up and break the chains and save the day. That’s how I like to see the world. See, we don’t win on our own. We have to work together. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1cor 12:27) Something remarkable to note about a lot of movies is that the hero or heroine is usually the one locked up (or even a handful of the main characters) and some seemingly insignificant character shows up just in the nick of time. I want you to think about that for a moment. Why is this so important to remember? Because sometimes we refrain from intervening into someone’s life because we feel like it isn’t our job – like we aren’t a close friend or relative, therefore it isn’t our place to intercede. Why do we do this? I guess there’s a variety of reasons starting with cultural and social norms. We’ve been taught to stay firmly out of people’s inner courts unless we’ve been invited. Do you know what though? I’ve never seen movie where the captives write a pretty letter to their distant friends saying, “I’m trapped and I would very much appreciate it if you would come save me. I promise a big party with cookies and board games to thank you after it’s all over.” Why? Because it doesn’t work that way. It isn’t that easy. Often times, the captives don’t request a rescue party because they simply CAN’T. So what’s a concerned bystander to do? Sometimes you simply have to storm the gates and set your buddies free. That looks different depending on the situation. Some instances call for confrontation and tough love, while others require a more delicate approach. Sometimes it’s behind the scenes work – like locking yourself in the closet and praying hard until your palms sweat and your breath comes short. Sometimes it looks like a tight hug in the middle of a crowded restaurant and a promise that everything will be okay. Sometimes it’s a deep face-to-face talk separating truth from lies. Ultimately, it comes down to you saying, “Satan, this person isn’t yours. You have no right to be here and I command you to leave in the name of Jesus. You and your demons, go back to the pits of hell where you came from.”
Guys, this is probably the easiest way you will ever win a fight in your life. Take advantage of it. God has given YOU authority over the devil. Use it. Don’t let yourself be silenced by timidness. The book of Ephesians says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (eph 6:19-20)
This is so easy, yall. It’s time to step up and starting setting the captives free.