“You can be free,” I heard myself tell her. “You are beautiful and loved and this is not what’s best for your life.” She laid her head on the window and sobbed as I held her hands. She said she was ready and we handed her our card. The next day she called our hotline and we took her to rehab. One week later she left rehab and went back on the streets. When we see her on outreach now we greet her by name, we pray for her, we love her, we tell her that God has an amazing plan for her life and that we will always be here for her.
It’s a breathtaking, and sometimes heartbreaking, thing to watch someone leave it all behind, to no longer feel the bondage of the streets and to experience grace. To watch them rise and fall in the struggles of life and then experience grace again and again and again…
Freedom and grace are words we say a lot during outreach with AWOL and over the last couple of years I’ve been given a whole new perspective of what those two words mean in my own life. Looking back, I cannot point to a single incident or moment. It was a series of events, conversations and situations that made this clear. It’s ironic, but I didn’t realize I was in bondage as well when I met her, the enslaved. It was a different kind of chain that needed the same kind of grace. I was cuffed by legalism, blinded by my foolish ideas of religion, trying so hard to portray perfection and follow some fabricated list of rules in my mind.
But then He brought me here; to a place I like to call “the beautiful collision”. The place where grace meets my rebellion, where I feel the full weight of my sin and at the very same moment it’s all taken from me. It’s the place where love shakes me to my very core. This place is where I find freedom from the law and relief from trying to carry the weight of my past failures and of my future. This place is where I’m completely covered in righteousness. This place is at the foot of the cross.
I find myself here not once, but every single day. It’s a whole new way of following Jesus for me. It’s the most authentic version of Christianity I could imagine. Here I can spill the very depths of my heart and He loves me the same. Here I’m free to admit my failures and to voice my doubts. I can surrender everything and be led into the unknown. I’m free to love radically and stop feeling guilt. Here, I can be absurd, unpractical and unbridled. I can actively and courageously do God’s will. I’m not afraid of messing up, because grace is such a lovely hand to hold.
And now, when I see her on the streets of Detroit, I look into her eyes and I tell her how beautiful she is, that’s she’s loved beyond belief, that there’s a God who sent Himself to take her shame and cover her with HIS righteousness. That she can be perfect in His sight no matter what, because it’s all about what HE has already done for her. I glance into the side view mirror and I see the suburban girl who thinks she knows, the wayward prodigal who never left home. She needs to be reminded of these exact same words and so I say them to her too.
Galations 5:1, 13-18
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
All Worthy of Love
Bethany McMahon is a self-employed, independent contractor currently working as a Lifestyle Photographer and Product Specialist for General Motors. She enjoys music, coffee and all things “outdoorsy” (especially if it involves a lake). She loves traveling and adventure, but will always call the mitten state home. Bethany has been on the AWOL team since 2014 and is passionate about and dedicated to setting the captives free!