When I was just out of college I was pretty hell-bent on changing the world. Hopefully I still am but back then I was far less patient to see the results of my efforts. I had moved to the heart of Los Angeles to study a year of urban studies as well as fulfill an internship at the First Church of The Nazarene on Third & Vermont. I was ready for adventure, but not for the hard work of everyday care and concern for other who sometimes annoyed me. Nevertheless something clicked at the county hospital one day when I tried to help “Ninja” get his teeth fixed.
On this particular morning two other interns and I set out to pick up one of our homeless friends and help get him to the dental clinic to have most of his teeth removed. Once we were there we stood in line to ask which line to stand in, where we stood in line to get a number to be called to a window who would fill out some papers and show us where to stand in line for the clinic to open, so we could stand in line and wait to be called. Its a good thing we already had an appointment or we might have celebrated one or more birthdays there.
When they finally called Ninja (for the record, they called him Bobby, not Ninja) he went in behind the sliding door to join the ominous white coats waiting for him. Not too many minutes hasd passed before we began to her some odd banter from behind the industrial beige colored walls. The mumbling got louder and clearer. “Bobby?…Bobby can you hear me?” We sat stiff in the row of our fiberglass seats, cross legged and forward facing. At first, each of us was silent, our imaginations churning out the possibilities of what gruesome scene was unfolding in front of us.
A few minutes later the dentist emerged from behind the veil. They had warned Ninja to not drink any alcohol within 48 ours of the surgery and he thankfully complied. What they neglected to mention to him that any crack cocaine was a bad idea for at least two weeks prior. Long story short, Ninja was tripping, high as a kite.
We poured him into the back seat, did our best to manage the inevitable giggling we did at the absurdity of his chatter, dragged his seemingly boneless body to a couch upstairs at the church and fed him juice packs. Around five that evening he slowly descended back to reality. He remembered nothing of the day.
We sat exhausted on our office floor wondering what the heck we just spent the day doing. It felt wasted, he didn’t even remember the heroic kindness we had tried to show him. A sighs later we kinda figured out what we were doing, we were learning what we needed to learn about the love of God. God’s love is relentless, unflinching. God does not begin to love us only in the hopes that we will provide the perfect and fruitful response. We rarely do. God does not love “so that…” God does not love us so that we will pay God back, or inspire a generation, or even just say thanks. God loves, because God loves, because God loves. In my learning I one day hope to inspire a generation or just say thanks, but looking back I know I have a few fuzzy memories in which I think God may well have been feeding me juice packs.