Every so often in my life, God has taken part of His Word and pushed me deeper into its meaning than ever before. He did that for me last week with a Scripture that I have loved, treasured, and lived by for many years.

I spent last week visiting the Dominican Republic. It was a rich week, one I have hardly begun to process. We dialogued with Dominican social workers, pastors, and community leaders.

We had our hearts broken by the profound poverty, rampant domestic abuse and addictions, and as one pastor said, “excessive incest.” My brothers and sisters who were struggling against great odds, without resources, and yet clearly committed to faithfully serving God and the people in their communities, profoundly moved me. Their graciousness to us and to those they serve was a light in the darkness.

We spent one afternoon in an extremely poor barrio. The homes were fragile structures often put together with things you and I might throw away. The residents get water on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is not fit to drink, but drink it they must.

Trash, chaos, weeds, filthy water, and signs of destruction were everywhere. No sign of beauty. I will never forget the eyes of many of the people—dead and full of despair. They cannot get out. They cannot even imagine another way.

I was standing there, in the midst of the trash, breathing in the sour air when the words I love came to mind: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus entered a poverty-stricken, trash-filled, stinking world.

When we instinctively draw back from such a world, we see His glory. It is not the glory we will see some day—that glory would blind us and strike us dead at His feet. No, it is the glory of grace and truth made manifest in the flesh, as it walks the filthy dirt of this trash-ridden world. What an odd way to demonstrate glory, to show beauty! How unlike us He is in His ways.

He has called us to follow Him there. Are we not to go into the worst of the barrios—in the Dominican Republic, in our inner cities, and into the rotting, sinful hearts and minds of the people we work with who were meant to image God Himself? Are we not to walk in such places full of His glory, manifesting grace and truth in the external and internal barrios of this world? We cannot begin to follow Him there unless we first deal with the poverty-stricken, trash-filled barrios of our own lives. It is the only way we will know the Way out.

May we do what it takes, pay what it costs, to allow Him entrance into the barrios of our lives so that we might follow Him into the barrios around us, leaving behind us that beautiful fragrance of Christ Himself.

[Published in Christian Counseling Today, 2003, vol. 11, no. 3]