Like I said, God is so good. I keep hearing Him say, "let me show you how to trade what is good for what is best." He loves us all so deeply and wants to give us good gifts. Sometimes that means He has to pry my hands off of the things that I hold so close and think of as best.
After our time at the orphanage, we had a few weeks to just simply 'be' as a family. So much of this time for me was reflecting on what we saw and experienced during our time of serving. This reflecting has continued since we have come home and it is deeply good but I feel so much like everyday I am on my face before the Lord because I am so humbled by so much of what I see in my heart. I keep picturing those things that are on a horse's eyes when they are led in a parade...like blinders that let them only see a little bit. It is like those blinders are being taken away and there are layers upon layers of them and in so many ways I have been so deceived. At the orphange the Gospel was so clear, the truths of Scripture rang so true...it changed everything.
Right after I graduated from college I left for a summer long mission trip to Romania. We lived in a Romanian orphanage and worked with 250 boys age 5-21. The orphanage was an incredible large, crumbling derelict that used to be a fancy casino. Regal paintings peeled from huge columns as you walked in and threadbare rugs showed snippets of a very different time. The place was empty, dusty, barely lit and you could hear echoes of both the laughter and tears of the children as you walked the dim halls. I vividly remember walking down the pitch black staircase to the dining room while hearing the screams of children being beaten somewhere else in the buidling. The orphanage was very poor and the cooks struggled to have enough food to put on the tables. Every meal was a small bowl of oily soup that was no more than broth and a few leaves of cabbage sometimes with a small bit of meat. The children inhaled it voraciously, they also inhaled what we lovingly called 'dirt bread'. We called it that after seeing the cooks run out of flour and step out the back door (the same place where they relieved themselves) and scoop up enough dirt to make up the loaves. Each day the cooks, with love in their eyes, handed us this bread. One time some of the children showed us their most treasured possesions....an old envelope with a stamp, a small tattered picture, they did not even have an extra set of clothes to call their own, only what they had on their backs.
Not long after I returned to America, I heard that a woman had brought one of the teenagers from the orphanage to America. I heard from friends that after being taken to a shopping mall he snapped, hid in his closet weeping for days. I do not know what happened to him from there.
This story started echoing in my mind when we were out on a child outreach trip from the orphanage, bringing milk and peanut butter to children in the villages while also teaching them about Jesus. We were told beforehand to be careful about even pulling on the children's arms while playing because their bones were so weak from malnutrition that they could fracture from just being tugged.
As we drove past their small homes, many built out of only what could be found watching kids pick up pop bottles out of the ditches to bring to fill with milk I kept thinking, "What would they think if they knew about my cupboards at home? How would they feel if they knew how we were able to live? How would it be if they knew that we knew and saw how much they need and yet continued to live in such ease at home?"
These questions are in no way easy and I have struggled to differentiate what is prodding from the Lord and what is guilt that I place on myself. I struggle daily with what to do, what to spend or not spend, how to move forward when I do know, have seen with my own eyes. What I keep coming back to is keeping myself rooted and focused on Jesus, open to what He is teaching. Asking Him to sort out my thoughts and my heart....being willing to give it all up and be totally changed by Him. I do not have all of the answers yet but here are a few things that He is teaching me.
He keeps whispering to me this passage from Matthew 6:25-34,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I do not know why but when I have read this before I have thought, "what a beautiful passage...especially for those that are in need. God promises to feed and clothe them." I have even read it to homeless women as a promise of God's faithfulness. And He IS so faithful to those in need, but I am learning that this passage is about so much more. You see, this passage is near the end of a chapter and the things that go before it are this: giving to the needy, prayer, fasting and what comes right before this passage? Here it is Matthew 6:19-24:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
For the very first time, I am beginning to see that He is pleading with me, the one who has plenty to not focus on what I will eat or what I will where. Oh how it grieves me as I look at my life and see just how much of every day is taken up with ME. What will I wear, will I look cute? Boy I am hungry for this or that or a latte sounds nice. Or what do I want to do that would be fun or pleasant for MY children and I? Oh how my eyes get so blinded by MY needs and desires instead of what God may be asking. So much of my day is filled with ME making decisions about ME and my children and the physical things.
And then He whispers with such deep love:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Again, this is a very familiar verse. One that I have taught on before, one I have heard used to bring about guilt and fear...but the thing that keeps ringing out of this verse is the love. God is begging me to come to Him, to take from Him gold refined in the fire and be rich in what is far better than the things my oh so human eyes want to focus on. He wants to clothe me and cover me and heal my eyes to truly see as He does....and the little glimpses that I have seen are so far beyond better than what I have had my eyes fixed on before. Because He loves us and knows what is best. How many times do I beg my children to make the right choice and see them settle for what might be quick and exciting? Oh how many times do I do the same thing?
I am so very aware of my hunger for Jesus...and how many times I fill that hunger with something that only satisfys for a moment. Our culture is so filled with 'easy fixes' and what is good but not best...and there are so many times when I find myself feeling so far from God and trying hard to find Him.
The final thing that I want to share is this. He wants to be found. He desires to be known and He is so clear on where He is....
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Oh so why do my eyes seek for Him to be in my comfort zone? Why is it so hard to break the shell that of 'what is easy and pleasing', why do I balk against risking more?
I find myself today begging God to keep prying my fingers off and to continue drawing my eyes and heart not to what is good but to what is best even if that means changing everything to do it.
That's what I am chewing on, for whatever it is worth :)
Be blessed today...