In which I really don’t want to admit this…

by Craig on May 5, 2011

A while ago I wrote about the “core” of a man (here).

The core is a complicated thing – and to slay a man – you attack part, or all, of the core.

Maybe the biggest part of the core to attack would be this:

Convince him he’s a failure, and is never going to succeed, and, if married, that he’s a terrible provider. That’s the core of a man.

It’s that core that makes this a hard post to write. It’s embarrassing. But I promised you way back in January that I’d drop all of my masks.

Truth is: I have some talent, some charm, education, a good heart…

I. Have. Faith.

But I’d be considered a miserable failure based on the above part of the core.

It kills me – it reduces me to a tear to admit that publicly.

I’ve always been kind of an expert at being underpaid. Then came the last 15 years – not having any real sleep for all of it – that didn’t help.

When you can’t say with any confidence that you can be at a job tomorrow – and if you are – that you’ll be any good…

that makes it difficult to hold a job.

The skills are there – but think of how your brain worked when you were pregnant – and then had your child – that infancy – and how little sleep you got. Think of your typical bad day.

That’s what my good day is like.

It’s just a thorn in the flesh.
It’s made me a better person.
No complaints.

And here’s something even harder to admit.

Oh, why am I writing this?
Won’t you all want to go away when you read it?

I was homeless for a year.

There, it’s said.

In the spring of that year I was in the Seminary Library and ran into my former pastor. I asked about his life, his family, his church, trying to keep the conversation on him. Because I knew the first question he’d ask would be “What have you been doing?”

I ran out of questions – and that question came.

I was honest.
I told him I was homeless.

His response?

“Well at least it’s warming up outside.”

End of conversation – as he walked away, wishing me well.

I understand now, exactly what James means, when he writes:

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15,16)

Up ahead in the Book of James, he’ll tell us that faith without good works is useless. These two verses are a mini parable about just that thing…

So what’s the “so what?”

If there is a legitimate need I see, that I can help with, I can’t let it go unanswered. I think it’s why Our Lord was always healing everybody he met.

A simple, “I hope things get better” isn’t really enough.

If I can meet a need

I have to sincerely offer help,

and not just wish the person well.


if taken up on my offer to help,

give of myself cheerfully and not begrudgingly,

not doing it with an, “I can’t believe they took me up on that” attitude.

Makes you think huh?

Me too.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora May 5, 2011 at 11:45 am

Maybe I’m paranoid, maybe convicted, maybe REALLY seeing for the first time what homeless looks like. But it does seem that this was aimed at ME. Yeah, once again, it’s all about ME. I’ve been bombarded for over a week now. Seems that the Lord is coming at me with this with “shock and awe” type of tactics. Between you, Craig, and Kristin over at Ponderings, and an inbox full of comments and responses, a pastor’s sermon, and friends who have made me aware of places to serve. . . . even a Hallmark movie about homeless kids.. . . it won’t go away. It’s been several hours since I read your post, and this comment box has been empty, and I’ve been staring at it. You said, “If I see a need . . . (I have seen a need). . .I have to sincerely offer to help”. . . . I’m putting myself out there. I have made a decision today that I will NOT be like your
pastor. I will find a need and I will meet that need. And I will remember that person’s name.

Craig, you are not a failure. You may have scars —- don’t we all. But in my 63 years of life, I can truly say it is the people with the scars, the ones willing to show them and testify of where the Lord has taken them and brought them through. . . the ones who limp badly as they walk with me. . . it is these who have meant the most to me. They show me mercy. They show me grace. They show me compassion. They show me understanding. They understand where I am, but don’t let me stay there. And through the short season of reading your blogs, you have done these things for me. So. . . you have shown me Christ as He truly is, not as a guy in a suit all puffed up . And that is not failure. Even as old as I am, I get new beginnings. And as long as we are given another day, He gives more grace. . .again, and again and again. Thank you, Craig, for this post, for honesty, for scars, for picking up the pieces, for showing us all the way of the law of love.


Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

Cora – that response of his – it just left me speechless. No judging – just – it left me speechless. And it is EXACTLY like this verse. And you are so right – if I hadn’t gone through it – I couldn’t understand it – I couldn’t relate. And Cora – I’ll be the first to admit that I have failed mightily and often – my faith is the one thing lift standing – the thing I haven’t failed at – and even that I give Our Lord credit for. But from the standpoint of the world – I have failed and am still a failure. No matter how much a man believes – that does strike at his core. And Cora – the amount of people who read this and didn’t comment – it had me worried too. I thought – too much – take it down – but I promised honesty – I have to keep my promise. You were a blessing to me today Cora – a blessing. Thank you.


Dawn May 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm


The “tricky” part for me is knowing what the need is. Sometimes people go from one soft heart to another with their hands out. Sure they need money, they squandered the last money that was given to them. Giving them more money will not meet their need. What do they REALLY need, what will really help them move along in a positive way? A. and I have talked about this. I think Cora has such well-developed empathy that she can spot needs I pass by with ease. She is so bombarded with the pain that others feel that it immobilizes her. I like her strategy: to pick ONE need and meet it. All of us, though, need to really see, to really hear and to really be with the other to know what the needs are. Like your pastor, Craig, we too easily walk away. Meeting needs demands our presence, our being with another till the need is met. Most times I think we are taking care of symptoms and not really getting to the need at all, and, therefore making very little difference. I’ve been thinking about this issue of presence as it relates to world events, but your post has made me think of it as it relates to my simple everyday life…very challenging.

Your experiences enlighten me,
God bless you, Craig,


Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

Your comment was so good Dawn – that I featured it in my post today. You are right on. Just giving out “help” without knowing what would “help” best – or if any help will help at all – it takes love and wisdom. So I made you the star of my post. Maybe you should just come over and write all my posts for me so I can take a break – this two posts a day thing is murder!! :)


Debra May 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I’m sorry Craig, but I had to laugh at your former pastor’s answer: “Well at least it’s warming up outside.” Really??? What kind of “pastor” was this? Remind me to never step foot in that church. Talk about being judged according to our works… Wow, this is scary stuff here :(
But this story is one of the best modern illustrations I’ve heard of what James is conveying, plus it’s your own personal experience – which makes it all the more interesting. You have inspired me more than you know. ~ Warmest blessings


Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

Debra – I never laughed – but that response of his – it just left me speechless. No judging – just – it left me speechless. And it is EXACTLY like this verse. He seems like such a good guy – He never really got me – he’s very much an “in the box” kind of guy – sometimes I don’t even know where the box is – I kind of don’t blame him on that – I’m just getting me myself. Still – it’s so like this verse it’s scary. And Debra – even your comments inspire me – and I really needed this one today – I didn’t want anyone to read this – and so many did. I wanted to take it back – I was certain they’d read it and run – thank you for not running away because of reading it. You were a blessing to me today – really – and I needed that – it was an awfully dark day.


Debbie May 5, 2011 at 9:55 pm

No scaring away here. :) But that pastor’s insensitivity? Ouch. No matter how warm it was getting outside, that was cold. I read the other comments and am taking them in. I know what Dawn is saying and have done that . . .given money, thought I was helping, but wasn’t really. So I need that discernment to know what the need really is.
God bless you and all the ways He moves through you. :)


Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

And you Deb – I knew you couldn’t be scared away :) And Dawn is right – I featured her on today’s post she was so right. Deb ) needed to see friendly faces in the comments today – this post ushered in all sorts of darkness yesterday – thank you – thank you.


Michelle May 6, 2011 at 5:40 am

I guess this is why God has had me praying lately for opportunities and the BOLDNESS to step into them – whether with listening, praying, talking, giving, whatever He is showing. And I am seeing them, and (mostly) moving into them with what God gives me to do.

He’s stepping up His people in the world, to stand on His authority and do His works. Makes me excited, Jesus is coming soon. :)

Keep on bringing His message.


Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

Michelle – I heart your openness to Our Lord. God bless you – he hearts it too btw. We always have to be ready for that return. No? Thank you as always Michelle. You are a gem. I heart that you read me – I really really really do.


Kris May 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Craig- no running away here. I am shocked at what that pastor said to you. But it made me think too, how many times have I done that? Probably more than I want to know. This is a tremendous study, I look forward to reading more and appreciate your honesty. Bless you, brother.


Craig May 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

Chris – it made me think the same. No judgy here – nope – can’t. And thank you for NOT running away – it weighed heavy all of Thursday – you got trapped by my spam catcher again – I rescued you – and I am very glad I did. Thank you Chris. God Bless you.


Bristol May 9, 2011 at 10:29 am

There was a lot in this post for me. I have also had long stints of homelessness (am in one currently!) between jobs and school and life. I have always had a generous community of friends (and even strangers!) come under me to make sure I was safe and fed. And you are not alone in feeling nervous about telling that part of your story, or in struggling to resist the feelings of failure that come along with not meeting the world’s standards for “success.” How successful you are though, Craig, in sharing your heart and your faith!
What I loved about this post was the reminder that deep need can be around us, in the people we know well. They can be suffering from hunger, depression, doubt, eating disorders, financial strain, anxiety… I love your reminder to have open eyes to those needs and give what you can. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it has to be something more than conciliatory responses about the weather.
Thank you, thank you for the reminder to respond with Jesus-like hospitality and cheerful generosity. Our possessions are not truly ours and our real treasure lies in our hearts.


Craig May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I’ll email you about the homeless thing Bristol – homeless is not easy. I’d like to know more. And thank you – sharing Our Lord – well – that’s a good thing to succeed at. So really – thank you. And deep need is ALL around us – everybody just pretends their fine. I get it. I do it too. But really – if we would all just take the masks off. First we’d have to all be more accepting. This world – it’s all we know – but it’s so imperfect – drives me crazy!!! Thank you Bristol. OK to shoot you an email??


A. May 10, 2011 at 10:49 am

Craig, I am reading very late here because i was having trouble accessing your blog…days later finally can. this post made me cry, just cry. i am a sucker for people in need…i have been there in spades myself a few times. there is so much i could say, but just know that you are a blessing, a tremendous blessing, and that pastor was missing a huge opportunity when his path crossed yours for that brief moment. when we help others, we are helped so much in return, even though that isn’t why we do it. your honesty here is a brave and good thing. i am glad you shared.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: