Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

Matthew 10:17-22

Christmas was a saucy day for me. I spent all day at my friends in Marin. I I hung out with his family and friends. Matt has always given me the same thing I give him–no judgment, and so I have given him total trust. This Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two best since I have had them with my family, thanks to Matthew and his family. Matt and Jacob have been like my brothers, and I treat and love them in the same way. Both holidays were like being in heaven for me, so amazing, so much fun, so joyous.   Around 10  I felt it was time for me to leave, for one thing it had been a long day, and there something that just kept pushing me. I had had a couple of Old Orchards to drink and my buddy was concerned, but I knew I could drive. Matt kept pushing me to stay, and the truth is I am the same way, I would have done the same. And I did not want him to worry.  He wanted me to sleep in my car for a little bit, and I would have to simply  to please him, and then I received a phone call from  San Francisco General and a sixteen year old had cut his wrists  that took care of that.

I have only known Sean for a few weeks, just one of the guys who I see and hang out with. I frankly had trouble placing him. I got to the hospital and I recognized him and he was crying and afraid, and I told him I had to call his parents, and he was afraid, and I told him simply to trust me, and I called and their response, “What do you want?” And I said, “his health care power of attorney,” which they were certainly willing to give, and when I called back to tell them how he was doing, no answer, and no response since.  The doctor looked at me and said,  “I suppose you would like to be his supervising therapist?” and I said, “Gladly.” I looked in his chart and in parenthesis the doctor had written “feral” and I challenged him on labeling. He started to argue and I simply yelled, “I know you think I am “feral” –because you have told people, and I own that, but I know how to use the system, and I promise you, I promise,  if you do not take that out of his  record, I will file a complaint, he is only 16, give him a chance.”  I sat with Sean until 6 a.m., and held his hand, and simply let him talk. This afternoon I will spend several hours and begin the arrangements to get him out of the hospital.

And listening is what I do, pure and simple, without judgment. I have spent hours this week listening to people on the street and off, just being present.

All suffer from the same melody–loneliness, alienation, fear of being alone, all suffer, and in listening people feel loved, welcomed, and cared for. This is my greatest gift to listen without judgment. To have some one cuss me, spit on me, and than to listen;  I was once told by a supervisor that I had a great gift: “To let people enter into   your life, and you become as part of theirs,  to be one in their lives, to meet them on their ground, without fear and with absolute acceptance,” and she then said, “And this will lead you into a lonely walk.” Sounds romantic, but believe me there is no romance their.

Through the years of struggle with the church, the years of prostitution and the years of ministry in San Francisco, this walk has become very lonely. Through these years of being stripped of all value, and honor, and than building up that honor and reputation again I have come to see life differently:

The God I love, I serve, and have given my life to is a
God who accepts all people, if their is salvation after death it will be universal God will not, will not turn people away. When Frosty sent me the text of “bringing Jesus to hell with me so we can party in at least being warm,” I told his mom that was going to be my message at his memorial service,  that I would rather be hell with him than in heaven singing psalms with the good people,” because it would be boring. She laughed.

I believe that we should all move out of our tribes, and meet people with love, and give of our money, until all are provided for, all are fed, all are taken care of.  I have had the best health care in the world because of my usefulness, not because I am loved.

When I gave my health care power of attorney to my 18 year old friend Jacob, my doctor and others I work with howled, and I jokingly told them, “Well he will end it quickly, rather than letting me suffer like some of my older “colleagues” would; and then I simply said, I trust him completely, he knows me for me, he accepts me, he tolerates me, and I trust him completely. It has never been about age for me or race, creed, sexual orientation it is about trust, and listening. and caring.

I am sloughing towards Bethlehem, I have had an illness, which has left me weak, tired, and unsure of life, I have trouble remembering stuff, I am so unsure of myself, I can not speak without notes.  Each day I listen and thankful that is all I have to do, and frankly I do not know where this road is leading, but within me is that call that has driven me from the pastorates of the south, to the streets of L.A. and to San Francisco. A still small voice that rings loud and clear, and the question I have is do I have the courage to still listen to that voice. I am not sure how many more steps I will take. Any romantic notions I have had of my life are now gone, and I see the road ahead as more difficult, than ever, because not to live this life would be death in living. We choose our calls, and they give us meaning and fulfillment, but the majority of the time they lead us down a tough road,and I am not sure how touch I am any more. We all want answers, black and white, we all want to escape pain, hurt, and loneliness, and the reality is life is really messy.

Matt’s mom, a wise woman, one who has tolerated me, gave me a bracelet for Christmas with this quote:

“Seal my soul as your own, that your reflection in me maybe a reflection of all to see.” I know what this means because it has been lived out in those around her  and her these past weeks. I am forever thankful.

That is the goal of Jesus of Nazareth for all of us, and it is a goal we never reach, but we can try, and is a painful goal, it brings much pain, much hardship, but for me in sloughing towards Bethlehem  it means to find that the One who is the embodiment of that hope, the One who loves without judgment, and accepts us as we are.  And he summons us to do the same–Accept, care, love without judgment. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min. D.S.T.

Temenos Catholic Worker

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