By Kay Etheredge
Everyone experiences white-knuckle fear at some time in our lives. When I was young, I was accidentally left at a ballpark where my brother played park football and I was a cheerleader. We carpooled with a neighbor who somehow didn’t realize he was to pick me up as well. He took my brother home and I was left at the park. The men in charge of the huge lights at the park apparently didn’t see a small, terrified girl standing there alone as they switched off the lights and the park became very, very dark. It didn’t matter that a four-lane highway ran right by the park because all I saw was darkness and I wondered “what if they don’t come for me?”
A favorite author, Ann Voskamp, says there are seven things a soul is always asking.
Am I looked for?
Am I looked out for?
Am I looked over?
Am I looked down on?
Am I looked at as enough as I am?
Am I looked into because what is in me is priceless to you?
Am I looking up to the way of Abundance—looking up for more grace, more love, more joy, more Jesus?
I believe every soul is asking these questions on some level. I see it in the eyes of the men who live at Brother Bryan Mission. I see it in the eyes of the people in our church. I see it in the eyes of the volunteers. I see it in the eyes looking back at me in the mirror.
We all ask the questions in different ways. Some of us try to neaten and straighten our lives so that it appears our “ducks are all in a row”. Some of us try to control the people around us so that nothing unexpected happens and we aren’t caught off guard, therefore exposing our own inadequacies. And obviously some turn to drugs and alcohol because ultimately the answers to the seven questions aren’t the answers we need. As a young girl I remember believing in my heart that I might be left at that ballpark forever. It wasn’t rational or reasonable, but I feared that I might stand there and be swallowed up by the lonely darkness and nobody might ever miss me or come for me.
So many of the men at Brother Bryan Mission have been told by their families and by the world that there is nothing priceless in them. They have been used up and beaten up and they have used up and beaten up others until there is nothing left, but there is always, always question seven. Are we looking up to the way of Abundance—looking up for more grace, more love, more joy, more Jesus?
Voskamp says, “Without any words, everyone, everywhere is asking if you love them, without any conditions.”
The hearts of the men at Brother Bryan are possibly the most open and most vulnerable and most refreshing of anyone I know because there is the absence of pretense. They have hit bottom and they can’t pretend their ducks are all lined up anymore. We all have to hit bottom before we can realize our need for the cross, and if we all hit bottom how is it we can place limitations and conditions on our love for anyone? Sometimes the hardest people to love are the ones who pretend they have it all together. It isn’t that the men at Brother Bryan are any lower emotionally than anyone else. They are sometimes easier to help because of their honesty, and the ministry of Brother Bryan helps them to move…to not be stagnant any longer.
The men are taught at Brother Bryan how to refute the lies of the world…how to mend relationships that have been severed and how to dig deep into the Word of God so they can know the real answer is in the form of question seven. And as Ann Voskamp says, “What we all really are looking for is someone really looking for us”.
When my mom found out I was at the ballpark she assumed someone’s Daddy was waiting with me. Even so, she rushed so much leaving the supper table and feeding my baby brother in his high chair that she fell in our tiny kitchen and bruised and cut her underarm on the top of the high chair. As she neared the ballpark and saw only darkness the horror of what had happened hit her. She turned our old station wagon into the gravel drive and saw the outline of my form there in the blackness, waiting alone. She came for me. She showed up.
Are we loving others unconditionally? Are we looking into the eyes of those God places in our paths and listening to the cries of the questions of the soul? Are we dealing with the questions our own souls are asking? What are we doing to keep ourselves from being stagnant? Every soul asks the questions. Where are we looking for our answers?