By: Eddie Martin
For the past year and some change I have lived in Bayou City, USA more commonly referred to as Houston, TX; or, as my Southwest Airlines flight attendant put it so aptly, Hot Humid Houston. I live two blocks from where I work, and walk there every day. Though, during the summer months it feels more akin to swimming than walking. And every day on my walk I hurry past the poor and homeless of Houston.
I was born and raised in Choctaw, OK a predominantly white and moderately prosperous suburb of Oklahoma City. I was raised in the United Methodist Church, and baptized by my great uncle — a UMC minister. I attended Oklahoma State University, and was active in the Wesley Foundation there. I came to Houston and the first thing I did was find a church family. Now, having been surrounded by the church for all of my life, why do I feel so woefully unprepared to handle the poverty I see around me every day? Why do I feel failed by the Church?
I went to lunch with some co-workers last week. On our way back from lunch there was a man on the corner. It was chilly, and he was huddled in a dingy blanket. My co-workers walked right passed the man. Staying in their conversation acting as though they never saw him, not acknowledging his existence, they walked passed him. I was walking behind trying to hide from the man. I saw him…I could not ignore his presence…but I could not bring myself to engage this man. I cast my eyes down and muttered that I had nothing to give…I have plenty to give.
For Epiphany we recited Wesley’s Covenant. In my 25ish years of Methodism I know I must have heard this before, but this year is the first I can remember:
I am no longer my own, but yours.Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;put me to doing, put me to suffering;let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,exalted for you, or brought low for you;let me be full,let me be empty,let me have all things,let me have nothing:I freely and wholeheartedly yield all thingsto your pleasure and disposal.And now, glorious and blessed God,Father, Son and Holy Spirit,you are mine and I am yours. So be it.And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.
Now, it has haunted me since its recitation. I in no uncertain terms made a covenant with God, and committed myself to it. I know many in the congregation saw it as merely a verbal exercise, but I made a promise that day that left no wiggle room for what I am to be for the Lord. I am no longer my own.
This past year I have been blessed with a marvelous friend. She has been able to talk candidly about the homeless and poverty with me. I have witnessed her interacting with the poor, and providing me my first framework for how I could do this too.
So, for this year, I pray that God sends a person in my life to hold me accountable in my actions with the poor and homeless. Until he does, I pray he continues to keep the covenant that was made at my baptism, and reaffirmed this Epiphany, at the forefront of my mind. And no matter what condition I may see people in – homeless, hungry, alone, poor, suffering — I pray that I remember to see the person beyond their circumstance.