Therefore I will not lose heart

Here I sit, with my personal computer, in my regular routine, in my quaint little apartment above a cozy cafe, my stomach full, and my body well. I am comfortable. Oh how quickly I forget. It wasn’t that long ago that this reality fell away and I entered into something else. Something completely different. No resemblance to this place, this comfort, at all.  And I thought I would never forget. I thought that this was the pivotal moment and my life would turn around. And it was. It did. But now I am here. Far from the place where stories and pain and joy and grief were sewn onto my heart. And I remain unaffected. I live as though it never happened. I brush the elementary kids off my arms at work and sigh at their stories and am absent of patience. I move through life undisturbed by the brokenness of those I am close with. I do my duty and all that’s expected of me and am done. I hate that. It’s not me. I am more than that. God has done a beautiful work in me and I refuse to let routine and apathy take over my compassion and love. I want to live in full remembrance of where I’ve been and what I have learned. 

So I look back and read what I wrote then. I allow myself to feel and remember. And I am moved. 

July 20, 2012

Morning at Shishu Bhavan, one of the Mother Teresa homes for children. 

We walked into the courtyard, totally clueless as to where to go, so we wandered until we found one of the sisters and got our assignment for the day. We would be with the “toddlers”…the healthier children up for adoption. We walked in, no one really noticed. I found a place on the floor and two girls “read”/ memory-vomited nursery rhymes to me in their little school uniforms. I went with one of the sisters to drop them off at their school. I held the hand of a girl about 8 years old. She had plastic glasses and her short dress uniform, high socks, and black shoes. I held her fisted hand as she clung onto the two pieces of candy the sister had given her for the day. As we walked I was so frustrated. I felt lost and unwelcome. And the girl walked so slowly…dawdled along, twisting her body to watch the things and people we passed. When she turned to look, her leg also turned, which made her limp awkwardly and even more slowly. She almost ran into a pole and then again into a bamboo ladder that men were carrying down the street. I was irritated and even said under my breath, “What is your problem? Seriously, let’s walk normally and just get there!” I recognized this hardness and impatience and anger…I prayed “Jesus, I need you. I want to see you here. I don’t know how to love them.  Why can’t I love this girl? I feel so frustrated.” We continued down a little ally and up a dark staircase to the classroom (I literally pulled her up some of the stairs…I showed no love to that child). The classroom was worn and old and faded and dusty. I hate that…why couldn’t they have nice things and beautiful schools like the ones I had?

I came back to the playroom. The toddlers all wore yellow patterned clothes…simple and handmade. They didn’t like the plastic glasses they wore, strapped to their heads with a plastic spiral or a coated wire, and most of the kids tried to take them off. The kids were bald…all shaven heads. It must be easier to take care of…and cleaner. It was shaving day today. Even the girls lost their pretty curls or tiny pigtails. Their heads looked misshapen and awkward. I hated the fighting cries as they went off with the sisters to the little designated shaving room. I peeked in once…the sister holding him across her lap, so calm as she moved the razor across the head of the screaming child. I rocked one boy in the plastic chair horse. He had no expression or emotion, no reactions. His legs were lifeless and so were his eyes. He stared at nothing…jerking his heavy head forward and back to rock the horse. He didn’t like to be touched. I saw him later on the floor alone, rocking back and forth. A sister came by and said, “He is so lazy and needs to walk.” So for the rest of the time he was held by his arms, his body dangling without the support of his legs. 

All of a sudden they all were taken away to eat. I sat and waited, hung some laundry out on the terrace and thought about all of my frustration. I was frustrated with the kids, but also with the sisters. Yes, they played with the kids and held them and kissed them, but it didn’t feel intimate. Not like a parent’s love. But they aren’t the parents. These kids are still waiting for parents. How long will they wait? My anger is at the system and the situation, but I still feel bitter toward the people who are a part of it. It’s easier to be angry at people than at systems. 

I entered the small room where lunch was being served and was hit with a carrot and a glob of rice. I looked to where it flew from and the boy just smirked at me. I sat on the grimy rice floor and began to feed a girl, who soon got whisked away to be shaved. I watched the volunteer next to me feed two kids. She smiled and laughed. The little boy blew raspberry kisses on her arm and touched her face. He pulled her face close and kissed her cheek with his smiling rice coated lips. She fed them without frustration or routine. He ran off to get a bald Barbie doll head to play with. She didn’t look at it disgustedly, but joined him in his play as she continued to feed him. He got up and came to me, held my face, kissed me, smiled and sat back down. He didn’t even know me, but gave me love.

Soon the girl came back, shaven head. I tied a soggy bib around her neck and she sat down in front of the pie tin and spoon full of cold rice and chicken mush that resembled a chunky sort of vomit. I lifted the spoon full of food to her mouth as I had seen the others do. She opened her mouth mechanically and I put the spoon of mush in and scraped it off with her teeth. She sat with it in her mouth, her eyes absent of all life or thought…pure loneliness and lifelessness. Soon she chewed and slowly swallowed. I had to put more in her mouth. I hated it. “Why can’t she be fed and loved. Where are her parents? What is this, God? Why? Why can’t she be loved more?” I held back tears as I looked on this child…holding the mush in her mouth thoughtlessly and blankly. “Would she even know how to be loved? If she were adopted, what would she do? Would she know how to eat? Will she ever know that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be?” I fed her a few more spoonfuls, getting frustrated because my heart hurt so much. “C’mon, chew chew swallow. Eat this. I know it’s disgusting. I’m sorry I have only this to give you.” I thought of Matthew 25, “What you do to the least of these you do to me.” It felt dumb…”Okay, so I’m feeding you Jesus. Literally feeding you in the least of these. But its gross and this isn’t right and I want to love you more but I physically don’t know how and can’t right now.” Soon it was time to leave. I didn’t finish feeding her…I just left.  I hate that I dropped everything and left…will this child ever know real love?

Tonight we prayed as a group and read 2 Corinthians 4. The verse that stood out to me was verse 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Today I saw my outwardness, my sinful, gross, disgusting heart. My selfishness and ugliness was apparent. I was ashamed of myself. But I was reminded that through this I am being renewed inwardly. My heart is changing. Rid me of myself, God. That’s what I prayed, and you are answering. You are changing me. Give me grace and teach me how to have grace for myself. Continue to reveal my outwardliness and rid me of this sinfulness. I want to be more like you, Jesus. 

 

This is not Abba

“A false and illusionary notion of God…sees God as someone who is gracious to me when I am good, but who punishes me relentlessly when I am bad. This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite his people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people because their king, motivated by pride perhaps, takes up a census of his empire. He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son, so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger, a god who is still all too familiar to many Christians–is a caricature of the true God. This God does not exist. This is not the God whom Jesus reveals to us. This is not the God whom Jesus called “Abba.”  ”

-William Shannon

 

Father, Abba, Daddy, I want to know you. I want the REAL you and not a false caricature. I want YOU. I know in my head that you are the Father, and I know in my head that I am your child; but I don’t understand that kind of love. I want you to come near to me and love me with the tenderest love and deepest compassion. I want to be held and kept in your love. Oh Abba, I long for you.

He Loves Me That Much.

I am so far from Him. Why would He want me? I have turned away and gone after other things…my efforts are fruitless and destructive. The life is gone from me. My heart lacks all joy. The laughter on my lips is scarce. I’m tired. I’m questioning everything. I’m unsatisfied. I’m losing my heart, my soul, my spirit. I’ve turned away from the One who brings life, who speaks life, who IS life.

I am ashamed to turn to Him. Why would He want me back? I will probably do it again anyway. I will never be good enough or have anything to offer that is worthy of being offered to One so great. I should just stop. And never return. I am not deserving of Him.

But then I hear Him.

Hosea. A story that speaks of God’s anger at a people who continue to turn away and worship other gods. People whose words are empty and full of hypocrisy. They are a harlot while their God remains faithful. Their sin is ugly and full. Their efforts to worship God have turned into selfish, lustful worship of themselves. They see their sickness and turn to other things for healing. And oh how great is His anger. And they deserve nothing less than the full outpouring of His wrath.

But He gives them yet another chance. They are called to repentance.

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
 After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

He says out of the depth of His love,

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst;
And I will not come with terror.

They are called to return.

O Israel, return to the Lord your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;
Take words with you,
And return to the Lord.

Lord, this is what I say to you.
“Take away all my sin; receive me graciously, for I will offer the sacrifices of my lips. Not money or security or unfailing strength will save me; I will not depend on the security of earthly things, nor will I say anymore to the work of my hands, ‘You are my god.’ For in You the fatherless finds mercy.”

Lord, I hear you say to me

“I will heal your faithlessness. My love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to you a refreshing dew from heaven. You will bloom like a lily, whose roots go deep into the soil like a cedar. You will be rooted and immovable in Me. Your branches will spread out like a beautiful canopy, and your scent will be fragrant and lovely. You will again live under my shade. You will flourish and blossom and be sweetly fragrant. Oh daughter, stay away from idols. I AM the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.”

Who is wise?
Let him understand these things.
Who is prudent?
Let him know them.
For the ways of the Lord are right;
The righteous walk in them,
But transgressors stumble in them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJHukvnRkHI

“If you could feel those words and the way I mean them right now, you wouldn’t question whether I’m capable of loving you or not. You would say, “Wow. He loves me that much?!” “

 

Scripture taken from Hosea, chapters 6, 11, and 14. 

Daddy Love

Lord, show me how you are a Father.

He walks in with her at his side. I see how he delights in his daughter, this small, wide eyed 5 year-old. He hugs her, smiles, and tells her to have a good day at school. She hugs him again and then runs off, but comes right back. “Hey daddy? Can you wait until I put this in my backpack and then can I hug you again?”  “Oh of course, absolutely!” He looks at me and I see the love in his eyes, “She melts my heart!” he says. They hug again and he holds her as he kneels. He comes to me and tells me that she has been picked on at school; an older student assigned to be her lunch buddy said he didn’t like her. She came home and said “Daddy why don’t the other kids like me? Is something wrong with me?” He was hurt for her, he was sad for her, he wanted more for her.  He asked me if there was anything I could do. Could she change to a different buddy? This boy doesn’t like her and now she has to sit with him…isn’t there a different option?

Oh the love and delight and defense that He has for me. My Father. 

He saw her in the hallway as he came to pick her up. She ran to him and he lifted her up, his blond haired 5th grade daughter. He put her down and came over to me, “Well obviously I’m her dad!” he said grinning as I handed him the sign-out sheet. They waited in the hallway for her sister and she told him an animated story with hand motions and he responded with the same movements. His face showed that he was delighted in sharing this conversation with his daughter. He was enjoying himself, he was listening, he was intrigued with her.

Oh the love and delight and intrigue that He has for me. He claims himself as My Father.

He went out and found her on the playground. She saw him and ran to him and was swept into his strong arms. Her excited, joyful squeal was heard from such a far distance and giggles bubbled out of her smile.

Oh the strength of His arms and the joy that exists in His presence.

He came and his son walked over straight into his arms to be held for a moment. “Hey buddy, I’m glad to see you,” his dad said.

Oh to know His quiet delight as I come to him.

Oh God, you are a good father. And you call me your daughter. Continue to bring this intimacy into a reality where I can see and know and understand. I desire to be Yours. 

Anger in love

Remember… 

Kolkata. July 24, 2012

 Matthew 13:47-50  

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,  which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Anger rises up in me when I read this. All the fish brought in and then separated…some thrown into the furnace. The wicked from among the just. I think about the people here–who’d be thrown? So much of their idol worship and the injustice is because they just don’t know the truth. They are forced to live in survival because of the darkness and evil here. They were created pure, but evil has corrupted them. It’s not their fault. 

I held a two month old baby today while I was in the slum and he fell asleep in my arms. He was so light and warm, innocent, precious, and beautiful. I kissed his forehead. God created him and knows him here. He really was beautiful. He is loved here in the slum. The power was out in the small school room, so the younger kids came up and fanned me and baby with notebooks and slates to keep us cool. They are still so innocent too. But they are growing up in this place… evil is so present here in this slum. It’s not their fault they are growing up here in this system. It’s not fair that they could grow up to be rickshaw pullers because of intractable poverty. The men who fight, who cheat, who assault, who swear and murder and kill…they all once were innocent children. They were babies once. They were held and kissed and cuddled. And now they are living wickedly and are corrupted and would be of the fish cast into the furnace.

Jesus, I don’t understand. I want to know. I want to understand your love and justice for these people. If you come back now, most of these people would be cast out. It breaks my heart and makes me angry. I have fallen in love with these people. I dream of this place being beautiful and worshipful. I prayed as I looked at the dirty rotten road that one day it will be a street of gold. That the billboards would declare your life and glory and love. That the people would be full of joy and their eyes full of life. I have the deepest desire for this place to be renewed and restored…and that not one of these people would be absent from it when it is restored. One of the things I fear is that your kingdom will come in full and this city will be empty. Jesus, have compassion on these people. Have VICTORY over this place…I want them to know, to LIVE! Jesus…let it be done. Save your people. Crush the evil and oppression. I love these people…and my heart aches to think that they would be thrown away. It’s not their fault! It’s the system, the evil, the demons, Satan’s sly quiet destruction. God, these tears and this desperation shows me that this love is real. Help me understand your justice. Give me wisdom. Turn my anger and sadness into righteous emotion. 

When your kingdom comes, may the trains be just as full and the streets just as loud with the children flooding over everything with beautiful joy and laughter.

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Spirit reign, flood into these thirsty hearts again. Jesus come. You’ll come.