My clients are smelly.
They are missing teeth, their shoes are falling apart, and their clothes are filthy. They are all diagnosed with psychosis. They are unpredictable.
“How am I going to do this?” I thought on my first day of work. “How am I going to love these people who smell so badly I can’t even breathe around them?”
And then, the gentle whisper I’ve grown so familiar with: “These are the kinds of people I hung out with.”
Jesus wasn’t deterred by smelly people. He embraced them. He didn’t struggle to breathe around them, He dined with them.
Then, and now, He pulls us close. He never uses anything as an excuse to keep us at a distance.
Sharing in this experience with Him, trying to love the people society typically rejects, makes His ministry here more real to me. It awakens me to another aspect of how He loves us. How kind He is. How gentle. How approachable.
And when I stopped allowing myself excuses not to love my clients, that’s when God stepped in and started helping me see them the way He does.
There’s the man with the kind eyes and long, curly beard, who asked me to stretch my hand out so he could look at my ring, and who then excitedly said: “Your ring kind of looks like mine!” And we compared out similar rings- the blue opal set in sterling silver. “My sister got mine for me!” he said. “And not even for my birthday or Christmas, but just because!” And my heart wrenched with affection for him, because underlying his words was this: “You and I have something in common!” And also: “Someone loves me.”
There was the woman with the beautiful hair and gold fingernail polish who said looked me dead in the eyes, furrowed her eyebrows, and said, “Someone’s been shitting in my sink and putting bong water in the coffee.” She then followed that up with: “Also, I don’t need my medication anymore because I’ve been eating candy now.”
And the woman with the blinged-out Halloween shirt and cranky face who was irritated that we were interrupting Ellen to talk with her.
And the woman with the backpack and book about joy, whose voice was tinged with pride when she said, “At my volunteer job, none of my coworkers know I have a mental illness. They treat me like I’m just like them!”
And by the end of this week, I found myself thinking, “Maybe I can love these people after all.”
I have prayed so long: “Lord, I NEED YOU!”
And I wonder if maybe this job is part of His answer to my prayer. “Okay,” He smiles. “Here I am.”
And daily I’m learning to see Him in the faint smiles and gentle eyes and unpredictable words of my clients who are crazy in the most endearing way.