I want to go! Oh God, send me. I have never wanted to be here. The American, suburban, middle-class way of life has never appealed to me. I long to be amongst the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. My heart is with them…it is not here. My fondest memories are the times I have spent with the “least of these.”
Playing hide and seek with a little Nicaraguan girl outside her tin shack in the middle of a city dump. Holding close to my breast the soaking-wet street girl from Recife, Brazil—-Nataliane, she of the big brown eyes and the beautiful smile. Teaching English to a room full of poor Brazilian children, who forever touched my life with their exuberance, creativity, and warm hearts. Holding the hand of a beautiful little Moroccan girl, who followed me around a city square and would not let me go. Crying as I listened to Paula, the dirty Nicaraguan street girl, relate matter-of-factly her life of abuse and neglect.
I ache to go back to ones such as these. But what does going really mean? Perhaps I have been rather naive about what is really involved in the actual going. It is not about merely feeling a nice feeling of sympathy….it is about laying down one’s very life. Every inch of it.
I just finished reading the book Chasing the Dragon, the story of how this one woman, Jackie Pullinger (the speaker in the video) obeyed God’s voice and laid down her life for the drug addicts, prostitutes, and the poorest of the poor in Hong Kong, and as a result she saw hundreds come to Christ. She didn’t just preach the Gospel…..she lived it. And her story—-which I would tell, only it’s too amazing to even sum up, one just has to read the book—has affected me in a profound way.
I have always had a heart for the poor, the broken, and the needy, but perhaps I never really understood till now that serving the poor means more than giving them a hug or a handout now and then….it means total sacrifice. Jackie described compassion as not just a nice feeling one has…..but as something that’s gut-wrenching and bold and propels one to action. Jesus displayed this kind of compassion. And He was willing to give His own life because of it. And that is what we, as Christians, are called to do as well. It’s not enough to send a check now and then, or donate to the food bank….are we willing to give up our time, our selfish pursuits, our resources, anything and everything, in order to show even one broken person Who Jesus is?
That is the challenge that God is laying at my own doorstep, and one which I must confront. How much am I willing to give up? Though I tell myself I’m not as materialistic as most people around me, God keeps nudging me, showing me how attached I actually am to so many worthless things. Where your heart is, there is your treasure also. Store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust and thieves cannot steal or destroy. Where is my treasure?? Is it in financial security? Is it in looks? Is it in clothes? Is it in ANY of my material possessions? Because if I am not willing to give up any of these comforts, then I have just betrayed where my treasure is.
So I’ve been feeling pretty convicted lately, as I’ve realized I have not been laying up my treasure in heaven. Following Christ is no half-hearted affair. And though I desire, more than anything, to GO, and to be Christ’s hands and feet to the least, I have to realize that ministering to the least means being willing to become the least myself. To take the lowest position, to be a servant of all. What did Jesus tell the rich, young man who came to him, asking what else he could do to inherit eternal life, after claiming he had kept all the commandments? “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Jackie Pullinger also had something else enlightening to say in regards to compassion, and she referenced I John 3:17, which says, in the King James version: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” She pointed out that the phrase “bowels of compassion,” while to our modern ears might sound very strange, is actually a very appropriate description. True compassion always pours out. It never holds in, or shuts itself up. What we have in this day and age, according to Jackie, are too many “constipated Christians.” God has given us so much, and instead of pouring back out everything He has given us—which is what we are meant to do—we have held it all in, till we have become sick and “constipated.” It would be a humorous analogy if it weren’t so true!
I no longer want to be a “constipated Christian.” Nothing I have is mine anyway—-how selfish and deluded I am to think I “own” anything. Everything I have is a gift, and if I do not learn to give more than I receive, then what a pitiful creature I’ve become. Thinking I am rich when in reality I am blind and poor.
But where do I start? For now, as much as I want to go, I know I cannot. I think it ironic that the ones who are so often hesitant to go, God sends with great urgency, and ones like myself, who accept the call with alacrity, are held back. At least for the time being. I am still in my Valley of Achor, so broken, so wounded, that I am tempted every day to give in to despair. This pathetic excuse for a blog has been my attempt to vent the pain that I feel, and I am ashamed of many things I have written, many things I have done and said, but God knows my heart, and hopefully He will redeem every broken, shattered piece of my life and use it for His glory. All I can do is hope that He is using all the painful parts of my life to shape me more into His image, and to prepare me for whatever lies ahead.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” (I Corinthians 1:26-29)
I’m certainly one of those “foolish things,” one of those “base and despised things.” I’m not wise, I’m not mighty, I’m not noble. I have absolutely nothing in the flesh to boast of. But maybe….just maybe….that’s the whole point. God has to break me to use me. He has to strip me of all pride and self-sufficiency. Part of the process of gaining that heart for the broken and outcast is to know what it feels like to be broken and outcast oneself. How amazing that Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, allowed Himself to be “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face.” If He “despised the shame for the joy set before Him,” then who am I to complain of my own shame and suffering, and how can I learn to even “despise” it, as He did?
Recently, God showed me some beautiful and thought-provoking verses in Micah, that I had never noticed before. Micah 4:6-7 says, “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will assemble the lame and gather the outcasts, even those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant and the outcasts a strong nation, and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever.”
What a beautiful promise! But I found it interesting that God doesn’t shy away from revealing that He is the One Who often does the afflicting of the lame and the outcasts. He who allowed Himself to be afflicted also sovereignly allows His children to be afflicted. Hosea 6:1 presents the same idea: “Come, let us return to the LORD. ForHe has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.” What a strange thing, and at first glance, it causes us to question His goodness.
But we have to understand that any afflictions He allows into our lives, He allows out of love, and bears with us, as He allowed Himself to be “smitten of God, and afflicted.” This is something that I am only beginning to truly understand.
So, regardless of how painful things get, I have to remember that one day I, who am actually privileged to be a part of that group of lame and outcasts, will be part of a “strong nation.” I, who am so, so weak, and so, so broken. It’s hard for me to comprehend, but it does bring me comfort. I can’t wait to see that day. Those who in this life are deemed the “least,” will one day be the “greatest.” The poor. The afflicted. The needy. The downtrodden. The oppressed. The broken. The lame. A strong nation! Not for man’s glory, but for God’s.
So send me, God! Help me to learn what it means to lay down my life. To die so that others may live. To store up my treasure in heaven, and not here on this earth. Show me how I can reach out to those who are around me even now….for there is need where I am now, though it might be harder to see than in a third-world country. Give me your eyes, your hands, your feet. Show me the path You want me to take. And in your perfect time, that which You have torn, please heal; and that which You have wounded, please bandage. Make me whole, so that I might better serve You.