“…Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?
…It is not a question of willpower. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. Thus you become entangled in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you.
Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy.”
~~Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love
Church and Candace
When I last saw Candace a couple of weeks ago, she asked me to take her to church with me sometime, and I said, “Sure!” There is something unique about Candace. She feels like my daughter. And Patrick is someone I think I might be proud to have as a son-in-law. But I can’t help but wonder, is it wise to take a virtual stranger in my car, even one who feels like family?
I asked my friend, David, for his opinion, as he is familiar with street culture, and he responded:
“You asked if I thought it would be a problem with you taking Candace to church. No, I don’t see a problem there. I think this would be a very kind thing to do for her. However each case is different. There are definitely some individuals on the street that I would not want you to take anywhere in your car. My sense for Candace is that it would be fine for you to take her to church.”
So I’m going to try to arrange to take her to church with me on Wednesday.
This early evening, during which I’ve done a fair share of crying, proves the point of the above Henri Nouwen quote on transformation, it seems to me, with unusual clarity. I’ve lost track of Candace and Patrick, and the impact of the loss feels overwhelming. Now they’re gone, and I have no way to find them.
I had asked David to tell Candace when he went by their camp yesterday that I would pick her up for church today at 5:30 P.M. But he didn’t see her, so I drove to their little house at that time to see if she could go. I pulled up beside their lot and they weren’t there, so I stopped to ask two people who were sitting on the Stairs Going Nowhere, waiting for the bus.
“Candace isn’t here,” they said. “Are she and Patrick still staying here?” “No, she and Patrick have sort of split up for a while.” “Do you know where she is?” “No.” “Is Patrick still here?” “He’s around.” I knew they didn’t trust me enough to say more. The street’s a closed society until people know you. “Please tell them Karen said hello,” I said, as there seemed nothing else to say.
I pulled away and began to cry — ‘the ugly cry,’ as Oprah calls it, face all distorted, nose running, the works. On my mobile, I tried to call both of my daughters for comfort — no answer.
I drove around, feeling I’d lost track of something of irreplaceable value, feeling so lost myself, drowning in the conviction that I’d missed something vital with which I was supposed to connect. So odd and inexplicable, how one can love certain strangers after knowing them such a short time. I had met hundreds of people while going out on the street to give away clothing and food, but Candace and Patrick had drawn me to them and their little home like a magnet. Our meeting on that Holy Saturday seemed providential.
It had taken me two weeks to get around to taking my new friend and surrogate daughter to church with me. I had kept thinking about it but not getting it done. And my friends who felt like family had slipped through that small crack in time.
[to be continued]