Sunday, August 17, 2014

Love Stinks

There are so many things that have been tugging at my heart the last couple weeks: the persecuted Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, the innocent civilians who have been caught in the crossfire in Gaza, a community on edge in Fergeson, West Africans loosing the battle Ebola in their communities. But the thing that has been most on my heart has been a lot closer to home. Two doors down to be exact.

We bought our first house and moved in a month ago. It's a large old house in a historical neighborhood. "A bit of a fixer upper" to quote the movie Frozen. In addition to the house, we acquired several things with the purchase. We acquired a fire pit in the back yard. We acquired a mold problem we had to deal with in the basement. And we seem to have acquired a fourth child.

Nick (not his real name) lives two doors down. He is nine years old, and a generally nice kid. We've pieced together a bit of his history from his own account and from talking to others who know him. Nick lives in a tiny one-bedroom garage apartment with an uncle, who, in Nick's words, is the only person who cares about him. I see the uncle frequently coming and going. He is friendly, but I have yet to see him fully sober or wearing a shirt.  Nick's parents live in the main house in front. I've never met them, don't really care to right now. Nick was struck by a car when riding his bike a year ago. He told us he received money from the accident, but his dad took it out of the bank account and bought a new truck. Nick suffered long term difficulty with his leg after the accident, possibly from a broken bone that was never set properly

Two days after we moved in, I saw Nick riding by on his bike when I was out in the back yard with the kids. He kept going back and forth up the alley looking at us. Then he just stopped by the back gate. The kids started talking to him, so I invited Nick into the yard. I was cooking hot dogs in the backyard, so I invited Nick to eat with us. He stayed, and  has been at our house almost every day since then. He is often here around meal time, and I was told if that wasn't the case, he might not have a chance to eat.

Nick is a polite kid. He generally tries to follow the rules. He is louder and more active than my kids. His only walk is a stomp that resonates through our ancient hardwood floors. The most difficult thing about Nick is the odor. Nick does not practice hygiene that I can tell. Not at all.  He does not bathe and no one washes his clothes. He was sent home last year from school a couple times because of his odor. He advised the principal that it wouldn't do any good because they did not have any soap in the house. From what I have seen, I don't think he was bluffing.

Nick leaves a trail of odor wherever he goes in our house. He sits with my son on my son's bed. The bed stinks. He sits on the couch when we watch a movie. The couch stinks. I invited Nick to go with us to the water park and advised him to bring an extra change of clothes.  I was really hoping he would bring them in a plastic bag or something. Nope  He handed me a hideously dirty, barely recognizable putrid shirt and pair of shorts. I had no choice but to place them in our bag on top of our clothes. 

I don't know where all this is going. I don't know how long Nick will be our neighbor. Will he grow up with our kids? Will he will tire of us and find a new family to haunt? But I know that as long as he is in our path we are going to love him. And if we have to do a little extra cleaning to keep up with him, that is what we will do. Perhaps our relationship will reach a point where we can advise him in things like hygiene. But we will love him stinky or clean. And maybe through it all Nick will get a chance to meet the God who loves stinky people just as they are. The God who also redeems those people, making them shine, making them a breath of fresh air to all those who meet them, regardless of how they smell on the outside.

Love stinks sometimes, but so do I . 

Thank you Father for loving me anyway. Thanks you for your work, little by little transforming me, cleaning me up and making me smell good.

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation. (2 Corinthians 2:15 The Message)