Heavenly Places

by Molly Bosch

For all of my nursing career, I have worked in the field of homeless outreach and addiction medicine. This side of the healthcare system is unique to modern medicine; it requires embedding oneself directly in the communities of those who are marginalized from traditional spaces of healthcare. It relies on processes of slowness and trust building as the foundation for all types of care. Nursing school did an excellent job at preparing me in the realms of drawing blood, taking skin assessments, and explaining medications. It did not, however, teach me how to step patiently into the world of despair that comes with loss, trauma, sleeping outside, and being shunned from society. It did not teach me how to serve some of the most beautifully and wonderfully made children of God whilst knowing how to regulate my anger towards the systems responsible for disparity and bias. 

During the peak of the covid pandemic, another epidemic started as well – Fentanyl made its way into the scene of Seattle. Individuals that were beloved to our community passed away weekly, and the despair and hopelessness of addiction donned an even darker cloak. Instead of offering care and compassion to individuals gravely suffering and surviving, we saw local leadership pull funding from evidence-based drug user programs and housing options away from the very individuals that needed it the most.

Over these past intense years, I have seen many moments that have almost led me to a place of hopelessness. I witnessed demeaning interactions between the general housed public and individuals living with psychoses outside. I sat with a woman who had overdosed in a sewer while being ridiculed by a First Responder – her fingers and lips still blue from 4 minutes of not breathing. I saw with over 30 armed police officers carelessly remove an encampment of individuals and harass them to pack up everything they owned in under 60 minutes with only 12 hours of notice. With such interactions, I grew angrier, and my heart grew colder. I found that I was not angry with the specific individuals involved. I was most upset at something much more intangible – the greater systems perpetuating such bias, stigma, and cruelty towards the very people whose stories I was coming to love. 

Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

I can tell you that in my line of work at least 90% of every day is uncertain. The one thing that is consistently, certain, however, is that the patients I see are a part of the greater stories that create “heavenly places.” Being welcomed in to accompany journeys of courage, resilience, and the will to survive is a gift that God freely gives me each day. I do not take this gift for granted. This gift, however, is easily overshadowed when messages of hate and exclusion are professed to our clients. 

There is indeed a “cosmic power in this present darkness,” and, in my opinion, that power is a lack of empathy and understanding of our intricately linked humanity. No person placed on this earth is any less human or deserving of dignity than the one next to them – no matter if they are sober or using, clean or dirty, sleeping in a bed, or sleeping on the streets, sound of mind or experiencing psychosis. No aspect of creation is greater than another in the eyes of a tender God. 

During days of such darkness, I think of my heroes in the world of liberation theology and social justice – Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Gustavo Gutiérrez, to name a few. Such leaders who walked the roads of solidarity with those on the margins remind me to find softness in the hope that God has promised salvation for those who are suffering in this life. I am reminded that these holy leaders walked through protests, riots, fist fights, and shouting matches and offered only gentle words of redirection rather than violence. I always think of how Dorothy Day chose to go to labor strikes with laborers not represented by unions and instead of fighting, she sat amongst them and offered kinship. She simply showed up, and she reminded them that her humanity was no less intertwined with their own just because her path looked different.

If we want to see any change come about when the world is held with such cosmic powers of darkness, we must first be kind and soft, remember that violence will only create more violence, and then allow God’s love to infuse the spaces of division. Ephesians 6 does not hold back on imagery of donning the armor to fight for such love: 

“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:14-17).

When I am met with the conflict of division, mistrust, and marginalization in the realm of my work each day, I must remember that the shoes I wear are not shoes for battle. Rather, they are shoes that are ready to proclaim peace and unification to any ears that are willing and open to listen. 

I will leave you with my favorite prayer from Mother Teresa, reminding us to have integrity to our mission to promote peace, even when it seems senseless to do so: 


People are often unreasonable and self-centered. 

Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. 

Be kind anyway.

 If you are honest, people may cheat you. 

Be honest anyway. 

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. 

Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. 

Do good anyway.

 Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. 

Give your best anyway. 

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway. 

    -Mother Teresa

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