The Quiet Power of Love
The sonic landscape outside my bedroom window at the YWAM base on Ellis Street presents new and mystifying surprises with each passing day. The rattle of the garbage trucks at 10pm and ever-present gospel music sessions played at ear-splitting volume can be tolerated, and even welcomed after a time.
In the end, it is the loud, profanity-saturated arguments, wild, confused ramblings, and raw, escalating threats that often leave me wondering whether God could possibly be at work in this place.
On the street, there are no doors to hide behind. The unruliness found under my bedroom window presents the image of the human heart clearing out the darkest corners of its basement and holding an altogether unsavory rummage sale.
Thus, after volunteering in the Tenderloin for a year now, I have come to realize something: while brokenness thrashes and wails, love is much quieter, more easily missed—and yet its power speaks and invites us to hear.
This is a paradox: God’s love seems so quiet while the world’s brokenness is so loud in comparison. But Jesus said in John 18, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Jesus’s kingdom on Ellis, Eddy, Turk, and their cross-streets requires that gentleness confront violence, forgiveness replace condemnation, and mercy overcome judgment—all through dependence on him.
The contrast of the quiet of love and the noise of pain is real on Monday at Nail Day. Women long for community and to be known by name. They enter the door, find a seat at the grey fold-out tables with sticky brownies and hot coffee in hand. The art table erupts in laughter. One woman gives up her favorite nail polish to another. Someone else speaks a compliment to a near-stranger.
This is Jesus; these are the hushed tones through which his love overcomes.