by Joel Brown, Kaio Community Member
I was cooking in the Ministry Center when Emilio burst into the room and snatched his belongings out of the cupboard. “This place is no damn different,” he muttered under his breath. As I reminded him to respect the space (the men agree not to swear in the MC), he exclaimed “I’m gone!” and strode out the door.
Back out on the streets these days, Emilio has been using up the money in his bank account for drugs to escape and to quench his anger. My coworker Andrew had just tried to explain to him that he (Andrew) couldn’t do what Emilio had requested—in this case, contact Emilio’s mom about the debit card she was holding for him. Emilio’s anger choked off all our attempts to reason with him.
Many times at Emmaus, we’re called to love the guys in the ways they need, not necessarily in the ways they ask. It’s difficult, and there’s always a work of discernment in understanding, from knowing their story and situation, what’s most likely to give them a foundation for moving forward.
Emilio reminds me of the title character in the film Good Will Hunting. Will is gifted with a remarkable intellect. He is able to solve a complex theorem that has the students at MIT—where he works as a custodian—scratching their heads. But past abuse haunts him, giving him an uncontrollable anger: a defense mechanism in the harsh street culture of South Boston. He lands himself in jail, losing his job before he is discovered by a math professor who takes him under his wing. As he slowly opens up through the help of a therapist, it becomes clear that past abusive treatment by his foster father is undermining not only his most important relationships, but also his ability to accept and use his gifts.
Like Will Hunting, Emilio’s anger has deep roots in a hard past. It derails his attempts to move forward, even at Emmaus, which is a safe place to grapple with the past.
Sometimes the path forward is messy. We encounter the bitter fruits of a past filled with unimaginable abuse as we point the men towards Christ. But this is the Christ who took on terrible pain and humiliation, and triumphed over the powers of Satan in His cross. With our pain-accepting God, we walk through the hurt, in the hope that by His wounds our guys might be made whole.