"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7)
I frequently stroll around Long Beach, but it's more than just for exercise. And it's more than just for soaking in the great art along the many city corridors. I walk around my city to pray. I pray for folks in my church and I pray for folks around the city. I'll say a quiet prayer for someone when I pass them by. When I pass a store front, I'll pray for the business and the business owner. I'll pray for the baristas when I walk by a coffee shop. And, as I cruise through the downtown streets, I'll shift my intercessory focus toward our mayor and other city leaders.
I'll also take a moment to walk in silence simply listening to God's vision for the city.
On a recent walk, as my heart broke for the evident poverty that blanketed blocks and blocks of city streets, I began to understand that underneath the financial hardships of many is a spirit of desperation. I began to feel the same sense of hopelessness that many of my neighbors feel every day. I began to feel an overwhelming desire for freedom.
And, as usual, when I determine a problem is at hand, my mind shifted to fix it mode. My mind began to race thinking up ways to alleviate the cycle of poverty. I started thinking of clever ways to provide jobs for people. I brainstormed ways to secure donations to help those in need. I mentally drafted up programs we could create for folks to become more educated.
But, after exhaustion kicked in, God simply whispered, "That's not the solution. Sure, these programs and efforts will temporarily address the surface issues. But you’re not dealing with the foundation. You’re not tackling the deeper roots that are causing cracks in their personhood. You're missing the main piece."
He continued, “The problems. The desperation. The hopelessness. They all stem from the lack of self-worth.”
It made absolute sense.
See, as noble as my solutions to the surface level problems were, they only addressed, well, the surface level problems. They didn't really tackle the deeper issue. That's not to say we, as a church, stop our efforts to help. That's not to say we eliminate Food Distribution and Laundry Love. That's not to say we don't adopt schools and feed folks who are truly hungry.
We just can't stop there and pat ourselves on the back.
What I began to realize during my recent stroll is that people need to be reminded that they are loved. People need to be reminded that they are loved by God and by our community of faith. People need to know that they truly are valued. People need to be reminded that they are worth something.
And when that happens, folks will begin to realize that they can experience freedom. When that happens, hope will slowly be restored. When that happens, the desperate will rise above the darkness. And when that happens, the cycle of poverty will slowly be broken.
So take a moment today to remind yourself that you are valuable and look for the many opportunities to tell others that they are too.