Darkness – Pt. 1

Ben has been a regular at the ministry for five years.

He suffers from several mental illnesses including paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

He’s a delightful guy who often makes us laugh. Like the time he burped during a prayer and said, “Excuse me, Jesus.”

A couple of weeks ago, Ben came into Midtown Commons for our weekly gathering. He sat on the floor like usual and started playing with his phone.

Then, when one of our homeless regulars greeted him, Ben jumped up and started shoving the man, accusing him of sexual harassment.

Ben was imagining things. There was no sexual harassment.

Aware of Ben’s mental illness, the homeless man didn’t retaliate.

But Ben wasn’t done. He threw his hot coffee at the man, tried to punch a visitor, and paced around the building looking for an invisible “man in stripes.”

Then he sat back down on the floor and lit a cigarette.

I called the police.

Eventually, Ben went outside and sat on a bench next to another one of our regulars.

When the police showed up I explained what happened. They’re familiar with Ben and were as surprised as us that he was acting out in violence. It just didn’t make sense. We all know Ben to be a gentle soul.

I told Ben I was sorry, but had to call the police because of his behavior.

He said, “That’s okay, I understand.”

Then he turned to the guy sitting next to him and punched him in the face. And right in front of the police.

Within seconds, Ben was on the ground and in handcuffs. The police searched his belongings. They asked if I wanted to ban him from the property. It was a hard choice, but people need to feel safe in the building.

So I told Ben that I loved him, but he couldn’t come back for a while.

He smiled, told me he loved me too, and said, “Okay.”

Man, it felt like shooting Old Yeller.

This was the first time in my five years in Midtown that someone acted violently at the ministry.

Honestly, it was the first time I was scared.

I’ve always prided myself in not being scared of the neighborhood or the people we serve, so it felt weird to be afraid. I didn’t really know how to react.

The small band of neighbors present jumped into action. They helped clean up Ben’s coffee mess, they picked up the tables he had knocked over. The man Ben punched decided not to press charges, but chose to forgive him instead.

During our gathering, we prayed for Ben.

When I went home that night, I thought about Ben’s accusations of sexual harassment. What he said is too obscene to share here, but it revealed something.

There’s a good chance Ben was having a flashback of sexual abuse.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I really don’t know for sure.

Even if I’m wrong, the truth remains: Ben had a horrific childhood, and it set his life on a tragic course.

I pictured him as a little boy, neglected and abused, and I just started weeping.

Lamenting.

Sometimes in the moment, that’s all that can be done.

But there is more that can be done, and I want to talk about it next week. For now, here is a thought to chew on:

“There are no God forsaken places, only church forsaken places.”

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2 thoughts on “Darkness – Pt. 1

  1. Such truth in this story, I think you are correct in him having a horrific childhood. I believe that he feels like you are a safe person and prayerfully, he will always see you as safe and loving. That is because that is what you show, Christ’s love.
    I think it is a neat thing that the regulars jumped in and helped clean up. Also, that the other guy did not press charges. Where did the police take him?

  2. Wow! I am really glad you posted this. I want to respond to it, and probably offer a post of my own.

    I used to attend the premier homeless church in Lubbock (before I got kicked out). And I saw a lot of people get banned – usually short term. AND sometimes over violent outbursts in which the cops were called.

    Theologically speaking, I have a HUGE problem with a church calling the cops to rescue it from violence. (This is the aspect for which I likely will write my own post later.) The church is a higher authority than the cops or than any civil authority. And our weapons are LOVE, not handcuffs. We might cast demons out, but the possessed, we would keep.

    Nevertheless, I have been faced with violence and seen the church faced with it. I am certain that the Philippian church would not have had the option to call the authorities to rescue them from violence. On the contrary, over exposure to the “authorities” was itself a great risk of violence for that assembly. And yet, I have encountered wolves among the sheep on several occasions, and though I personally did not call the cops, I was relieved when they arrived.

    That said, I am not arguing, here, against your action, but putting it in this other light – for sure. And it is a light in which I personally struggle to make sense of it.

    BUT…

    In my experience with the premier homeless church in Lubbock, I noted that when the brother amid our ranks was cast out – led out of worship in handcuffs no less – I asked the pastor to lead us in prayer for the man. I saw shock on his face at the suggestion. (Probably a prelude to my being banned, btw). And though he did lead such a prayer on that one occasion, there were no further prayers of that sort for such individuals on any other occasions nor for that man until he returned.

    ON THIS POINT…

    I commend you! Thank you for praying for Ben!!! Even if we decide that he must be removed from the group briefly, his identity is still as one of a member! He faces the discipline of being “put out” alright, but with an eye (and heart) toward his return! The prayers over his empty place at the table are heard in heaven and prepare hearts gathered around for his eventual reconciliation. And that is all of Jesus. That is all part of the cache of weapons stored up by the Final Authority, God the Father!

    Yes. Thank you for posting this.
    I am blessed…

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

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