The Itch of a Gesture: Old First E-pistle, 04.14.16

The Itch of a Gesture: Old First E-pistle, 04.14.16

Despite the resurrection, there is still doubt…

Despite the resurrection, there is still brokenness…

Despite the resurrection, there is still pain…

As I jumped on train heading to West Philly on Tuesday evening after Easter, I imagined it would a typical ride: listening to Adele and  avoiding stares and interaction from people on the train. As I sat down, I noticed a man leaning awkwardly down in his seat, and with a sudden jolt from the train his jacket fell to reveal the needle in his arm and then our eyes met. In that moment, I saw an addict shooting up.

Yet, the image didn’t shock me, but it did something else. In watching this man push the needle in his arm, I saw his reaction to the drug,  and what resulted were the intense motions and noises of the drug swimming in his bloodstream. The scene was literally something out of HBO; I scanned the train to see if others were observing, but they seemed oblivious or perhaps they ignored him because he was less than them.

Yet for me, this scene resembled Christ suffering; for me, his awkward groaning resembled what could have been the groans of Jesus on the cross; and the crowd present on the train reminded me of the crowd watching Jesus suffer. The man’s body shifted in coarse and rough gestures, I suddenly felt sick. Not sick, but I felt intense pain shooting from stomach to my arms, I didn’t understand why his actions made me hurt, in those moments I wanted to cry not for me but for the loneliness present for both of us. Suddenly, I’m at 40th Street, and I run towards the stairs finally seeing the sun descend, but still not feeling better. Walking away, all I could see were his eyes, and I was still in pain.

In those last moments of His life, how many people felt empathy for Jesus on the cross? Or how many people ignored him and continued about their day?

The incident on the subway train  made me wonder despite Jesus’ big finale, why so many people continue to suffer and suffer alone. In a recent conversation a with a shelter guest, he told me that he was (once) a heroine and coke addict, and his life was full of moments of abandonment and strife. Is the drug they use [need] their quick “salvation” like Sunday mornings are for us? Loneliness, doubt, and loss can affect us like drugs too; they cause us to engage in strange behaviors that have impact on others in various ways too.

But I’m still puzzled by why I felt that intense pain. Fracturing my collarbone in high school was less painful. This stranger’s “pleasure” was a trigger, and I suffered for caring. Despite the effort, you or I put into facilitating programs for homeless men and women, former addicts, etc there is still brokenness and pain…and a silver lining.

Despite the loneliness and suffering present in our culture, people continue to strive for happiness. Despite the pain I felt that Tuesday night, I found comfort in friends and shared memories. And in those last moments of Jesus’ life, I hope that Jesus had the comfort of speaking to his family one last time.

Happiness comes in many forms for people; and we can create moments of happiness in the simple gestures. The dinners cooked for our shelter men is a gesture of kindness; the money donated to the Hunger Walk is a gesture of hope; and the sacrifice of life… His life was the ultimate gesture of love.

Despite the resurrection, there is still doubt…but also concern.

Despite the resurrection, there is still brokenness…but also fulfillment.

Despite the resurrection, there is still pain… but also love.

See you in church,
John Owens, Program Assistant