For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.-Romans 8:5
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.- Romans 12:2
There were two girls who ran away to the streets before they turned ten. One was an orphan and her parents died when she was five. She and her brothers were placed in an overcrowded state orphanage. Her brothers were the first to run away to the streets. She did not want to be separated from them and followed suit. However, by the time she got there, her brothers were caught for stealing and put in a youth detention center. The young girl ended up all alone in the streets.
The other girl’s mother did not want her the moment she gave birth to her. She was despised and abused from the day she was born. She suffered physical and sexual abuse by those who were supposed to love and protect her. The day she ran away to the streets was one of the most joyous occasions in her life. She was finally free from abuse and hatred. She ran away to the streets because it was safer. In the streets, she found herself to be all alone armed with the determination to survive not matter what it took.
Both girls were in the streets at the same time. They were never friends or enemies. They shared the same life experiences. The streets was a safe haven for them. It was a place where they were exposed to all dangers of society and yet, compared to what they have experienced in life, they found it be a place of freedom. However, both girls realized that freedom was not enough. Being free from an oppressive situation brings comfort, but freedom needs to lead to something better. They wanted to have the freedom to choose life. All they had experienced so far was death and they knew that they were meant for something better. They never met and yet they were sisters. They were bonded by a common experience and pain. They belonged to the same world of the street life.
We knew these two young girls in the streets. Now they are both mothers and wives. They found a way out of the streets. One struggles to pay the bills every month. She never has been able to keep a steady job. She finds it hard to persevere when the situation gets tough. Even though she has been out of the streets for ten years, the temptation to give up everything and return to the streets is strong. She knows how to survive there. Her husband is a good man. He works as odd job laborer. It is hard for him to find steady employment. Life is a long and uphill journey for them. They are determined to survive.
The other girl is also married and has a child. Her first husband left her and she struggled as a single mother for a while. She never felt that she was a good mother and her ex-husband took full custody of her child. She did not fight it. She has remarried. This time her husband is a lawyer. He is much older than her. He treats her well and encourages her to better herself academically. She is studying law and hopefully in the next year she will graduate. She had nothing when she went to the streets and now she lives in a luxurious apartment and drives a fancy car. She has even been to Europe on several occasions. Looking at her now, it would be hard to imagine that she actually lived in the streets until she was eleven. Both girls came from the streets but now their lives appear to be miles apart from each other. However, they are still sisters.
Whenever I share the stories of these young women, I usually get applause for the achievements of the young woman who is graduating from Law school. People do not know how to respond to other woman’s present status. Both women are only different because of their financial status. This is a superficial difference and it is not relevant. However, if we judged them according to the standards of the world, one would be classified as successful and the other would not be classified as anything. No one would consider her a success. The standards of the world are cruel and superficial. They separate people into classes of winners and losers. Even if we try to avoid classifying people as losers, the applause is always reserved for the winners. Unfortunately these worldly standards are found in the thinking of the church. The way we preach the gospel has been influenced. It is not the gospel of Jesus. It is more like the gospel of the middle class where success is based on economics. We need to move away from gauging success in this manner: we have to change our standards. This can only happen when we allow the Spirit to transform our way of thinking. It is not pretending to see something different from the world. We cannot pretend to set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit. We can pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds. The perspective of the Holy Spirit makes the all the difference in our ministry. It helps us see the true treasure in the lives of these two sisters.
I refrain from using names for these two sisters because they are both are very dear to us. We have known them for almost twenty years. We see and speak with them often. One even addresses us as “mom” and “dad”. We are proud of both of them. The one who struggles financially also struggles with her faith. She does not doubt God. She does not doubt His presence in her life. She doubts her own worthiness. She wonders if she will ever amount to something good. Her saving grace is her daughter. Her daughter is giving her the strength to persevere even when everything seems to go wrong. She is discovering her meaning in this life. She is aware that the life is hard and the struggles might never get easier. However, she also knows that despite her doubts God will guide her through it.
The future lawyer has all the luxuries of this world at her disposal but she shares the same struggles with her street sister. She doubts her own self worth. Years of abuse and neglect have made her doubt own self-worth. No one can convince her that she is worthy of love. She needs to be constantly renewed by the gracious love of our God to realize her worth for herself. She struggles daily and struggles alone like her sister. Both sisters know that no one can truly understand their fears and loneliness except for God who knows them better than they know themselves. They are fully aware of this Truth. This is what we consider as success. We hope all our children and teens living in the streets will share this conviction. We would be happy and satisfied if we could contribute to their awareness of this Truth. Both sisters are successful because of this knowledge. They will survive in this world regardless of the challenges before them. They might never meet again in this world but they share a God who knows and loves them more than we can ever imagine.