By Michael Curry, excerpts from Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times
I was in my office in the church one day when I answered a knock at the door. It was a young guy, in his early twenties, whose face I didn’t recognize. Apparently he had seen our group singing spirituals on the corners. In fact, he was one of the dealers staring at us from across the street. He asked me if we could sit down and talk. I didn’t show it, but I felt myself stiffen with anger. I had spent years now trying to keep kids safe from the crossfire, to hold them tight so that the magnet of streets couldn’t pull them away. For all I knew, this guy had killed Dwayne, the young man I buried while his mother wept. He represented everything I was against: selfishness, violence, and exploitation as a way of life.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself what I believed, what I said in so many ways every Sunday. Church was the one place where everyone was welcome… I invited him to sit, but it was an intellectual decision. My gut was still screaming at me that this guy was no good and undeserving. Even unredeemable. Still another part of me was nervous that we had ticked someone off, and this guy was here to deliver the message.
“I want out.” Those were the exact words he used. They tumbled out of him the second he sat down. I said, “Tell me what you mean by out.” Eddie, we’ll call him, wanted out of the drug world and wondered if I could help him. Thinking practically, I asked about social services, places he might go. He shot them all down. None of them would protect him from his gang, he said.
Eddie told me a little bit about this life that day. When he asked if he could come back, I said yes, without really knowing why… The more I came to know his background and to know him, the more I realized that we weren’t that different at all, and it became harder and harder to dislike him. Eddie wasn’t a drug dealer; he was a person, a child of God, like me. I was now in a relationship with him—and the result was love, whether or not I saw it coming or even wanted it.
One day, he said, “Tell me about Jesus.” … So we started talking about the son of God. Initially, I wondered what the point was, given the life he was living. But eventually I understood what he seemed to have known instinctively. His spiritual emancipation might need to come first. It seemed like he was stuck, but here was a point of departure that was in his control. Maybe it could lead to emancipation in other ways.
One day he said, “OK, what do I have to do to seal the deal?” That led us to talk about baptism… After his baptism, Eddie called me every so often to check in, but I lost track of him when I left Baltimore… I don’t know whether he is dead or alive… What I do know is that he belongs to Jesus, not the dealers. Whatever happened, he found his way out. Eddie belongs to Jesus. He belongs to God.
The words of Michael Curry.