An Angel appeared to Diamond
At Cup of Cool Water, we often say that we are a ministry rather than a social service provider, but with so many social service-like elements, it is logical to ask the question of what makes us a ministry. There are some practical elements that point to Cup of Cool Water being Christ-centered. For one, we are always praying. We pray before and after drop-ins, while we are interacting with youth, and when we see another staff member or volunteer interacting with a youth. Secondly, all of our staff and volunteers are Christians, this is critical because the work of the Holy Spirit is always apparent in the work that’s been done here.
A few years ago I was working in the drop-in center when a long-time regularly attending young person walked into our drop-in center. One of his many nicknames is Diamond and for those of you who have had the honor of knowing him, I’m sure you have had some mixed feelings.
Diamond has a big personality. You would know it if he walked into the room. He is large, flamboyant, and hilarious. At that time he was also a drag queen. When he was a regular attender at drop-ins, he would often show-up with a wildly inappropriate story. It would usually start off innocent enough, with generalities like, “I had a rough night last night.”
As a relationship based ministry, it is impossible to leave a comment like that hanging in space. I truly believe he knew that we couldn’t resist responding to such a statement. Before we could stop him he would be explaining in gratuitous detail about his exploits at a bar where he would do drag performances at that time.
He would inevitably resist our Prompts to end the story quickly and it would be so inappropriate that we would have to ask him to leave for the day. He knew we would invite him back the next day, so he would usually shrug his shoulders and walk out the door, only to return the next day.
Diamond came into the drop-in center one day near his 25th birthday. He had the unique experience of aging out twice. Our age limit used to be on a person’s 23rd birthday, so he aged out, and then when we increased the age limit to a person’s 25th birthday, he was able to hang out in the drop-in center again for a few months. Diamond had a different affect that day; he was more somber and reflective.
It was quiet in the drop-in center that day and he asked a question that felt like a punch in the gut. He said, “You guys are Christians and I respect you guys, but how can you really believe that God is good if he allowed me to be raped by my grandfather when I was a child?” I felt so ill-equipped to answer his question. I studied Theology at Whitworth and knew how to answer his question theologically, but my education and years of time in the church failed me in that moment. I simply said that people have free will and that God never intended for us to treat each other like that. He nodded his head and said he had heard things like that before. It was an insufficient answer. As I sat there with him, I prayed that God would give me a response that would feel more adequate. Nothing came. Drop-in ended and He left, like any other day.
At the end of drop-in, I sat down with Mark and explained the whole encounter. Mark said, “You said what you said, and that is enough, but what you might have been able to say is, ‘when Diamond was being raped, that Jesus was also being raped and he felt his pain exactly as he felt it. Jesus was suffering with him.” I was so disappointed in myself. Why hadn’t I had a said that??
The next day I received a Facebook message from Diamond. He said that an angel came to him and answered his question. I wanted to know what the angel said but he said, “pick me up for church on Sunday and I will tell you then.”
It was Friday when I received that message and I anguished for the next two days, wanting to know what the angel might have said. I picked him up for church and he told me that the angel told him that, “when Diamond was being raped, that Jesus was also being raped and he felt his pain exactly as he felt it. Jesus was suffering with him.” I was floored. How is this possible? Only God can do such a thing. I had to know what the angel looked like; I had never seen one and my curiosity got the better of me. He said the angel looked like a drag queen. I had to laugh, what a beautiful image of divine accommodation. This looked like the incarnation. God spoke to Diamond in a language he understood.
This whole encounter was one that was so personally impactful, but I think it also speaks to our role in the lives of youth at Cup of Cool Water. So often we use the imagery of the sower. We are sowing seeds in the lives of youth and possibly watering them, but rarely do we see the fruit of what we have to offer. God uses us in sometimes mysterious and confusing ways. In that moment, I didn’t have the “right answer” for Diamond, but God did. I was insufficient at best, but I was able to share that experience with him, it was a ministry of presence and in many ways, this is the most valuable thing we can offer the youth we serve at Cup of Cool Water.
By the way, the picture included in this post is an icon that symbolizes that whole encounter. I asked my friend Lauren Adams to paint it for Mark as a going away present when he moved on from the ministry.