A Confession and An Invitation
*This post was written in response to some of the feedback that came in from the Brunch, Tears, and the Question “Who Will Go?” post, which I wrote a couple of weeks ago. (To see some of the responses go to A Response)
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with on another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 3:2
I admit it. I am not humble, gentle, patient, or loving. I am judgemental. I am bitter. I am at a loss to as to how to reconcile the vast differences I see in the poverty of the inner city (and THAT isn’t even real poverty compared to Ethiopia, or India, or Guatamala) and the wealth that I am now surrounded by (and I’m not even in the super wealthy part of Orlando). My heart is deceitful. My mind is confused. I fail. I grapple. I’m sifting through all I have witnessed, the pain that people continue to live through, the systems that perpetually keep people in poverty of mind, heart, soul, and body. I know there is hurt in the suburbs. I know there is brokenness and struggle and cancer and divorce. But when you go into an inner city setting or to India or to Ethiopia, it is in such a concentrated form that your eyes are opened to the “common grace” that we have taken for granted in the suburbs.
I am processing a cross-cultural experience right now. My first cross-cultural experience was entering into the ghetto. And believe me, it wasn’t pretty. I went in trying to help, trying to bring people to Christ, trying to teach them how to live. I came in to be their savior. I failed to love unconditionally, I failed to really understand, I failed to show grace. It was so painful-I was stretched, broken, shaken to the core by the immense need and the ability of my neighbors to suck even last ounce of anything from me. But in it God started lifting a veil for me. A veil of how self-serving my Christian walk had been. How self-absorbed my spirituality had been. How darn selfish I had been. (some of these musings can be found here. ) God started lifting the veil that had been hiding a “blind spot” in my life. I had always loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, I just didn’t realize that my desire to serve Him was only manifesting itself in a desire to serve others exactly like myself. (how convenient!) Now He has moved me back to the suburbs where I am now going through the cross-cultural experience of “re-entry”. And again, it isn’t pretty. The Lord just continues to lead me down this journey of exposing the dark places of my heart. The first part of of Isaiah 58 describes me well:
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
And the second part reveals the “veil remover”. The spending oneself that ends in actually finding oneself. I’ve only begun to crack the lid on this one. It is an awesome, hard journey. At times I am miserable on it. At times I find my self-righteousness in it and start pointing fingers. But it continues to bring me to my knees, crying to the Lord, “Keep dragging me through the fire, no matter how much my flesh kicks and screams, I want that healing, that light, that supernatural nourishment that always seems to come when I am spending myself.” And when I spend myself, I come to the end of myself. the end of my own little world that seems so important to me. the end of my own righteousness-constructing efforts. the end of me. and there I find Jesus. I find a Man Resurrected that proved His Godhood in that resurrection. I find the Risen Christ’s Spirit that has somehow, miraculously decided to come live in me. I find a Humble King who takes up residency among the poor. I find Him on the streets of Newark. I find Him in the margins. I find Him among the outcast. We are all broken, poor outcasts inwardly, but there is something about working among them in real life, in physical reality that turns this often-only-mind-truth into a physical one and then a heart one. And what may have been a harsh lashing out in my Brunch post, is really a question and invitation. May I invite you to join me on this journey? There is healing in the journey. And God’s presence in the journey. and repentance, and refreshment, and glorious restoration in it. The kind only God could work, as we spend ourselves.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.