The Gospel According to St. Joe

“Birds have nests. Foxes gave dens.
But the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.”
-Rich Mullins

My path crossed with a gentleman we’ll call Joe. Affable fellow from up North, Joe is polite, hard-working and occasionally homeless.

When demons are beaten back, he is focused and resourceful, daily walking miles to his $4.50 an hour bus-boy job. When he succumbs to temptation, he is undependable and subsequently everything gets derailed as happened five weeks ago.

I guess the same is true to a degree with us all and our secret sin. Except his struggles are tougher to hide and since his life has the slightest margin for error, one binge destroys everything.

Fresh from rehab he returned to his former job but the owner was forced to replace him when he left. He realized that his own choices had caused the reality but he was still dismayed.

“I was so upset.” Joe said, “I was ready to go to CVS and buy something but I went to a meeting instead. It was hard, Ms. Jinny, but I made it.”

His eyes glimmered as he shared his victory. He held up the neon two-week sobriety keychain as if it were a Rolex given to him after 40 years of hard work. He was incredibly proud of himself and I was as well.

How liberating Joe’s honesty was. What he was really saying was that he wanted to get totally drunk to lessen his dire disappointment. That was probably the most honest thing I had heard in church. Ever.

The thing about seeing life from Joe’s perspective is that he is acutely aware of his human frailty. We’re all frail but just with varying degrees of insulation and correlating confidence in our comfort. When you take a closer glance at this man’s life, the colors become a bit brighter than first glance might reveal.

The only debt Joe has is $100 outstanding on a ticket. Possession-wise, his only belongings fit into the smallest storage unit rented before entrance into the latest treatment program. He lives day to day like those in many other parts of the world do, a far cry from our Western ideal of security.

The good news for St. Joe- he overcame his demons, stuck to his guns and as of Thursday he is again gainfully employed by his former boss.

Jack heard Joe tell John about his job and commented, “I have never seen anyone so happy in my life. He has to walk 2 miles to a $4.50 an hour job and he was ecstatic.”

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