I think making a leap of faith to follow a dream sounds much simpler than the process really is. When I was homeless, I saw a side of life, and people, that deeply impacted me with the desire to try to make things different. We live in a society where we are often discouraged when we try to love others. It is not easy to put ourselves aside and try to make a difference for a greater purpose. I fully believe God used my time of homelessness and despair to embed in me a passion for change both in my heart and attitude, and in the world around me. I wanted to love people with abandon, with no strings attached, and to find out what it means to fully immerse myself in following faithfully wherever God leads. And it has been a beautiful, surprising, awe-inspiring journey for sure.
But it hasn't been easy. I would never tell anyone that stepping out in faith is easy, because it is not. It is one of the most difficult pursuits of my life, and it is challenging emotionally and physically.
The emotional toll can be wearing - and in more ways than one. I love the people I meet. Sometimes my heart just aches with pain as I listen to their stories, and life experiences. I have a soft spot for those society discards and discounts - and the knowledge that I can't help them all sometimes makes me achingly sad. I am also struck, as I drive through the neighborhoods where we go, by the numbers of individual human beings we are NOT reaching. I want them all to know how much they matter- whether or not they need the meal we are cooking - but also because I know and understand how completely lonely life can feel. And my prayer is what we are doing at the Torch will have a ripple effect that reaches beyond the people who we have been blessed to meet and know - and spreads out into the people they meet and know, and beyond.
The emotional challenge of working hard to become individuals who love others unconditionally has also taken its toll in an unexpected way. We often find ourselves chastised and attacked for trying so hard to love. Somehow, in our society the idea permeates that if we love people too much, they will never be able to understand that we are able to love because of what God has done and is doing in our lives. I have had people question my faith and understanding of God and my Bible. Yet, every morning when I read my Bible, and spend time with God praying for all of the Torch, and people, and this world - I know He has worked and continues to work a miracle in my heart to allow me to be His vessel of love.
I do find it hard to have compassion for those who prefer to criticize us rather than to figure out how they can love others. That really is a struggle for me. But I keep praying my way through it, and for them.
Physically, the Torch can be absolutely draining. Literally hours of planning and preparation are poured into every single event we do. We are blazing a new path, so we never know for sure how things are going to turn out - but I refuse to worry. Instead, I pray. Sometimes, though, I wake up a lot at night - and pray and pray and pray.
The weekly events take a lot of planning and organizing, as well. Any perishable food we wish to serve is picked up on our way to wherever we are going - so we often find ourselves rushing like crazy straight from work, and skipping dinner because we know traffic is going to be insane and lines might be long, and we don't want to be late.
Leaning through the window of the truck to help the precious individuals who arrive for dinner, puts a strain on my back which often leads to a headache. Sarah works constantly over the grill - and has picked up a variety of burns throughout the past few years. The repetitive motion of flipping and moving food around causes her bad shoulder to ache, and many evenings she is working hard to stretch it out the best she can while she works. After the meal is over there is clean-up, and the truck has to be re-stocked and made ready for the next adventure. Sometimes we are at the warehouse working on it for hours after we have served dinner.
Combining the emotional and physical toll of pursuing this dream can often send Sarah and I clashing. We are human, after all, and our personalities are very different - which is a mixed blessing. Sarah has a great deal of food service cooking experience,and can multi-task inside the truck with ease, but if I try to do too much at once, things start to go haywire for me. Sarah stays focused and works hard to get the meal ready, while I stop and talk to people - sometimes when I am on my way to do something important, like turning on the propane or generator - which she is waiting for so meal preparation can begin. And I might even forget why I was out there in the first place, and step back inside the truck without turning the generator or propane on.
As the line forms, I have learned never to look at the length, I pay attention only to the person in front of me, because if I see a long line, my stress mounts - and I try to go to fast and orders get messed up - and Sarah and I get mad at each other. And, about every other week we decide to quit.
We are learning, though, to let it go when things calm down and we are no longer caught up in the flurry of the moment. That has not been an easy lesson to learn.
So, The Torch is truly a lot of work. Taking that leap of faith did not mean we just started a non-profit and sat back to let God do the rest. He has done many things we could not do, but we are committed and understand that great things happen when prayer is combined with sacrifice, sweat, and tears. And we have seen tremendous and great things happen. Our faith has grown, our ability to love has expanded, and our hope for the things we see coming in the future has never burned brighter.