As I write this, my heart is racing and my hands are shaking. Is it the coffee? Today is, after all Sunday, which means my body is 90% caffeine, 10% sleep.
But I don’t think it’s the coffee, or the sleepless nights; I think it’s excitement.
I feel excited…I feel freed to be doing what I’m doing, knowing that it matters. Knowing that it’s enough.
Let me explain.
I’ve been reading a lot of things over the past year that has pretty much wrecked me for all eternity. It started with this:
Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. Psalms 82:3,4
And then this:
Is this not the fast that I choose:… to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him…Isaiah 58:6,7
And more recently, this:
If we love him, we will do this. We will find a way to rescue the helpless. It would be easier if he’d hedged a bit, only using words like ‘care for, pray for,’ or our flexible favorite, ‘love,’ which can so easily be shaped out of a mud-on-our-boots, action-packed directive and into a mood of general agreeability. If we love salsa, sleeping in on Saturdays, and Parks and Rec, well, yes, we can also love orphans.
Instead, he just goes for it. Give. Uphold. Rescue. Deliver. These are the verbs attached to God’s intentions for our care of orphans. He tells us to spend ourselves on their behalf, to let our arms grow tired from propping them up.
–Falling Free, Shannan Martin
As someone who was raised in a conservative Christian faith for most of my life, I was confused why this major theme of the Bible seems to go largely unnoticed. The words seem to leave little room for error or misunderstanding. This is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to care for the lost, the hurting, and the oppressed. End of story. Not theoretically. Actually. Like social justice should be an actual part of our life.
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 2 Kings 5:13
Today in church we read the story about Naaman, this guy who had leprosy, a horrible disease that made your skin and the occasional body part, fall off. Ew. Anyway, Naaman was in one city, but heard of a prophet in another city who might be able to heal him, so he went. Naaman trotted off to his potential healing with grand visions of a miraculous showing of magic and wonder, with him at center stage.
Instead, he was given an instruction to go bath several times in a dirty river by a prophet who wouldn’t even come out of his house to give him the instructions in person. Naaman, was ticked. Enter verse 13.
Here’s the thing. I really, totally, 100%, get Naaman. He had this thing that he hoped to accomplish in his life, and he wanted fireworks. He wanted pizazz. He wanted the whole dog and pony show. He wanted to experience something glorious in the greatest of ways. Instead, he had to humbly accept someone’s directions that took him to a place where he was unfamiliar, uncomfortable, unaccompanied.
In order for Naaman to experience his miracle, he had to get dirty. He had to go off to a filthy river, alone, and dip his sore and aching body into the waters…repeatedly.
Naaman had to of been embarrassed. His body had to be hurting. He had to be desperately hoping it would work, but secretly worrying that it wouldn’t. He had to be scared.
I’ve been there. I am there.
I realized today that my great thing, like Naaman, won’t come from greatness. From being great. My great thing will come from humility. Through stepping out and taking a risk by daily immersing myself in dirty waters, far from the crowd, far from the place where everyone else is experiencing their great things in great ways.
The thrust of my day can be rather, small. The ways I reach out, small. The goals I have for myself, small. The people I serve, small. I’ve been worried that it wasn’t enough. I’ve been worried that if I’m not actively researching adoption options or serving in a soup kitchen that I’m not doing enough. That I’m not reaching out to the people in need.
Then, after a really encouraging conversation with a friend, I realized I’d been looking at my situation with the cloudy, self-centered, high and mighty eyes of an American. In my mind, I had elevated myself as the giver and viewed the oppressed as those in other countries who have less than me. Surely they are the ones in need! Surely they are the ones to pity! This friend, though, gently reminded me that Americans are some of the unhappiest souls on the planet. We have and we accumulate and we earn and we spend and we are terribly, terribly unhappy. Our bank accounts are full yet are hearts are empty. We have so much, and yet our need is terribly great.
I realize, now, that I mush love other’s with God’s eyes, not my silly American eyes. This means that sure, it would be great to swoop in and love on someone is some great big dramatic way – like adoption – and maybe that will still happen some day! But I have actual people in front of me right this very minute that I’m serving on a daily basis. And that has value.
I feel passionate about serving the people I serve. I feel passionate about being a mother, about reaching out to friends in need, about feeding new moms and families who could use the encouragement. My husband and I feel particularly passionate about connecting with other people who are estranged from their family. Are those who are estranged from their family any less of orphans? Do they feel less loss? Do they not need love and a spot at someone’s table?
For the past few years, we’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house and invited those who didn’t have family due to either distance or disfunction. I realize, now, that the word ‘orphan’ in American can take on many meanings. There are so many people who feel disconnected, uncared for, and alone. Serving them is just as real and as valuable.
I daily dip myself in the pool of isolation, of struggle, of actual dirt and mess and chaos. I’m a stay at home mom who, at best, might take a meal to someone, or drop a card in the mail for friend. Sometimes, in the face of so much hurt and need, it feels so…small.
But that is just it. There IS so much need in this world. Right here. Right around me. And sure, it would be an exciting adventure to do something big, something risky, something that everyone would gather round us and oo and ah and say how great our great thing is.
So I get why Naaman’s servant had to give him a reality check. The servant basically said, “Dude, if you’re willing to trust God in bringing you a great thing in a great way, why wouldn’t you be willing to trust God to bring you a great thing in a small way?”
I believe God has great things for my life. But, at least for now, my great thing isn’t something I’m doing. My great thing is something HE is doing.
I’ve chosen to walk away from pursuing a career. I’ve chosen to walk away from making an income. I’ve chosen to focus on these crazy little kids that steal my food and keep me up at night. Why? Well, to be honest, it’s not really about the kids. It’s about making the time and space to do the thing I’ve been called to do – love people (and yes, that includes my kids 😉 ). I’ve chosen to make time to have people in my home. I’ve chosen to have time to do nothing but cook all day for others. I’ve chosen to create a home of refuge where I pray God brings people in need of a hug, a meal, or a place to stay.
These things, are not glamorous. They are not ‘great.’ They are not the big and flashy ways in which I had hoped God would work through me. But the end result, is still awesome. Each day, like Naaman, I immerse myself in the grimy waters. I return, time and time again. I show up, usually alone, without a crowd of spectators to cheer me on. I show up, having hoped for something more exotic. I show up, tentatively following my heart, secretly hoping it all works out. I show up, knowing that my great thing isn’t all that great in the world’s eyes – and isn’t the great risk I would have chosen – but is still, great.
I would like to point out that this is not an anti-adoption post ;-). Quite the opposite. I simply needed to remind myself that in the space between doing what I’m doing now, and doing what’s next, what I’m currently doing has value, even if it seems so small and simple. To you who have taken up the call to adopt, to foster, or partner with the countless agencies who reach out to those in desperate need of a safe haven – you are my heros! As are you who work to care for those without food and clean water. As are you who work to free those in the sex trade. Your efforts to be the hands and feet of Jesus are such an inspiration to me.