how frustrating it is to be a Christian in America, and how frustrated I am with not only the church’s failures concerning human rights, but ALSO MY PERSON FAILURE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE SOLUTION. – Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, emphasis added by moi.
Earlier this year I heard that every day 16,000 children die due to causes related to malnutrition and hunger. That is a child every five seconds.
What I learned quickly is that God gave me a heart where I have no ability to un-learn that. And I shouldn’t. What I learned from that is that something in my life needed to change.
I came home and talked to my husband for a long time. I said things like, “Doesn’t it seem like we should be able to fix that? There must be a way to solve this problem.” I agonized over it. I’m the mother of a young boy who was horribly malnourished before he became my son. I cannot help but imagine my sweet son’s face on the bodies of these starving children.
In Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz he talks about participating in a political protest. After the protest, he has mixed feelings:
When we were done, I started wondering if we had accomplished anything. I started wondering whether we could actually change the world… The problem is not a certain type of legislation or a certain politician; the problem is the same that it has always been. I am the problem… I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about myself… I don’t have to watch the evening news to see that the world is bad, I only have to look at myself… True life-giving, God-honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting.
Miller’s words left me convicted. Of course I AM the problem. All it takes is a quick walk around my house to see that. My kids each have enough clothes for ten kids. Our pantry and refrigerator are so full that at times we have to throw things away just because they have gone bad. Our level of financial giving to local and international causes has always been just okay – very easy, very comfortable. Lukewarm. Rational.
I started to realize it was time to be less rational and a little bit radical. Because, after all, Christ was a radical, wasn’t He? Hanging out with social misfits, sinners, murderers, lepers. It slowly began to dawn on me that the reason I’ve struggled at times with my faith is because it is hard for me to reconcile Christ as I see him with the way we Christians live.
Earlier this week, I started reading the Gospel of Luke. I’ve never just sat down and read it. I read a familiar scripture in Luke 3:11 –
“If you have two coats give one away. Do the same with your food.”
The next day I was reading over Miller’s words on giving and that scripture popped into my head. I was sitting by our entryway coat closet and I thought “You need to clean out that closet and donate extra coats.” I tried to keep reading, but I couldn’t. An overwhelming urge to get up and DO IT already came over me and it was too strong to ignore and so I stood up, turned and faced the closet.
An hour later there was a mountain of coats and hooded sweatshirts piled on my floor. I counted the ones I was boxing up for donation. I counted 30. That is 30 EXTRA coats, jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts for a family of four. And our closet STILL LOOKS FULL.
Our Father… forgive me.
Mother Teresa (she’s a wise gal, you should google her) said:
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and start with the person nearest you.
The God I believe in is a radical God. And so the still, small voice that urged me out of our recliner and into our crowded coat closet urges me onward. When I cannot be radical, when I cannot solve the problems of world hunger or children suffering from neglect or lack of medical care, I can still look around me at our excess, and seeing two coats where there should be one, I can act.