By Sydney Gautier

I met Maria the summer of 2015. I was trudging around downtown Indy with a backpack full of water bottles and peanut butter sandwiches ready to give out to people living on the streets. If it hadn't been for the jar of change sitting in front of Maria, I would never have guessed she was homeless. She didn't look much older than me. She had pretty blonde hair and bright blue eyes. As I approached her, she gave me a smile and gladly took the food I offered. I sat down, and we began to talk. That day started a wonderful friendship. Over the past year and a half, I've seen Maria off and on. She can be hard to find on the streets, but when I do find her it's always a joyful reunion. She never wants help, but she always wants prayer. The last time I saw Maria was different though, and it has stuck with me ever since. 

Instead of being greeted with a hug and smile, she buried her face in her hands and began to cry. Her bright blue eyes looked distant and tired, and her hair was thinning. She told me she had just gotten out of jail and had stayed away from drugs while she was there, but living back out on the streets had quickly thrown her into her old habits. I invited her to New Circle, and she expressed interest. She told me how she used to be a Christian and still considered herself one, but she didn't want to go back to church until she had her life together—that she just couldn't go like this. That is what has stuck with me for so long. Since then, I have had this unexplainable desire to tell people how loved they are—not just tell them, but scream it at them so loud they can't ignore it. To tell them how their creator is constantly pursuing them, how there's grace upon grace upon grace. How even in light of all of our sins and bruises and brokenness God looks at us and still fiercely loves us and wants us. How it's not what we do that earns his love, but instead what he did for us. His love is perfect. Even when we waiver and trip and fall and screw up time after time, His love and grace stay completely consistent. How God wants us just as we are, not once we have our lives together or once we feel "good enough" to step back into a church.

Whenever I think of this, I think of Ephesians 1. This is a passage I read almost daily. Just like Maria, we've all felt less than, unimportant, not good enough. But that's just the enemy speaking. In Ephesians, Paul tells us that, as children of God, we are chosen and seen as holy and blameless in his sight, that we have been adopted in sonship through Christ. He calls us forgiven and redeemed through the blood of Christ, and he calls us included in Christ when we heard the message of truth. Even through our struggles and even when we just can't seem to get our lives together he calls us Chosen, Loved, Forgiven, Wanted, Redeemed, and gives us hope in him. It doesn't make sense, but this is grace. 

And as I stood there praying with Maria, tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted so badly for her to see that there is so much grace and that she is so loved. That there is so much hope in Christ and that God doesn't want her to wait, but wants her just as she is. That Christ died so she could live, that’s a lot of love, more than we could possibly imagine.

You are so loved.