Let’s start with the weather. I hesitate to complain because living in the middle of the desert makes you thankful for any drop of moisture you receive…and I know many of you are deep in the throes of winter and will protest that I have nothing to complain about compared to you. While both are valid points, hear me complain anyway (or skip to the next paragraph). We had three days and three nights where it rained without stopping. And the rest of the week was a wet mix of snow and on-again off-again drizzle. Like I said…so good for the land and the farmers…not so good for the yard or my sanity. Our yard is dirt. Wait, I take that back, our yard is mud – 3 inches of it. So, when it wasn’t raining and I chanced taking little t out to play he went hog wild (pun intended) rolling in the mud. It would have been entertaining had I been able to watch from a warm heated room, but sitting out there with him wasn’t all that enticing. Even kAkA who LOVES playing with him was kinda hands off when the little mud-ball wanted to play. And not to mention my laundry…that I would try to shuttle quickly from the bedroom drying rack to outside when the sun dared make an appearance…only to quickly collect it a few minutes later when the rain decided that unrelenting would be it’s characteristic for the day. On more than one occasion, I got stuck in said 3 inches of mud and wondered if I would ever see my sweet child again or I would become like Lot’s wife – a permanent laundry lady statue in the yard for all to gawk at. Not to mention the three inches of mud on my shoes that little t made several attempts at eating after we gave up and went inside. So yeah, the weather has been a little dismal. (I know this should have been more than one paragraph, but I promised I would talk about something else in the next, so I had be true to my word…)
All joking aside, last week was a mess. Our cleaning lady was attacked by one of our guards as she cleaned a teammate’s house in preparation for them to get back from vacation. You can read more about the situation here on A’s blog positivechangebythepeople. I am not in a mood to go into details. So we dealt with that…all week.
We are breathing a little easier now that the man has left. I have been reflecting on this a lot. I think the hardest thing for me was how closely it hit home. It doesn’t make me afraid to be here, or suspicious of the people around me, it just makes me sad. I have been so quick to err on the side of positive with these people. I have wanted to believe that they are good and hard-working and well-intentioned and have just been handed a bad lot in life. While I have known that there is a lot of filth that goes on in this culture – men beating women, rape, corruption, theft, violence, oppression of the poor and disabled, etc. I have wanted to believe that there was something better to the people here…or maybe just the people we work with…hoping that our Western Goodness will have rubbed off on them a little. For me it has been so easy to push for the positive because it seems like the majority of the world is ready to be done with these people and I just don’t think God is.
But I have been taken aback with this event.
In his original draft of his blog, A called the perp Scumbag and to be honest, this is what we still call him in our conversations. All week, I was not allowed (nor had any desire) to go to the yard where he was working and probably for good reason. Each time I played out the scene of crossing paths with him in my mind, all I could see myself doing was spitting in his face. I was so furious and disgusted by his actions. I was baffled by his protests that khAla is a bad woman so she deserved what she got. Who made him God? Who put him in charge of punishment? What kind of a man does that to a woman? I was pretty hot all week.
I had moments of hoping that we would have to leave because it seemed easier and less painful than having to deal with this any longer. I found the voices in my head repeating statements about people here that I have hated for so long, things I know are not true…and others I was hoping weren’t true.
It would be so easy to give in to the doubt and fear. I find it so important to take every thought captive and I must admit that I am not very good at that. I find myself staring down every man in my life, wondering how he treats women. I find myself bristling at the thought of what goes on in homes and yards around me. I find myself giving in to the gossip and backtalk that comes so easily in situations like this. I doubt that anything we do or say or teach or challenge sinks into the stony hearts so steeped in culture and religion and gossip and fear. I daydream about lying on a beach somewhere, spending time with family, doing something ‘easier’ or ‘more worthwhile’.
And then I take a moment to stop and listen.
This is what I hear:
How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ – the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own family with whom I can’t seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed?
If we believe that, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”, then this passage has a lot to teach us. Basically, Christ is connecting the command to “love God” with the command to “love your neighbor.” By loving the least of these we are loving God himself.
In this same chapter of Matthew, Jesus blesses some people for what they have done. Confused, they ask, “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 visit you?” (vv. 37-39)
His answer is staggering: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (v. 40). Jesus is saying that we show tangible love for God in how we care for the poor and those who are suffering. He expects us to treat the poor and the desperate as if they were Christ Himself.
God didn’t just give a little for us; He gave His best. He gave himself. John is saying that it is no different for us. True love requires sacrifice. And our love is shown by how we live our lives: “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Crazy Love, pgs 118-119
These words aren’t new, but they have rattled me. I think if I am honest with myself, the thing that has been so hard for me with this whole incident is the ugliness of my own heart and my own thoughts. There is a profound new realization that while the people around me are lost and broken, causing them to hate and hit and fear. I am no better. The hatred in my heart for Scumbag makes me a scumbag as well. I have found very few times in my own life where I have found it hard to love people. Be annoyed with them, sure. Judge them unfairly, of course. But I have always ‘loved’ them. Haven’t I?
I now find myself having to choose love. My naïve little heart that has always found it so easy, is breaking at the seams these days. How do we love those who steal from us, lie to our faces, take their anger out on human flesh, hate our guts? I thought I knew, but now I am at a loss.
I am so back to the drawing board here that it isn’t even funny. I feel so weak and humble in these days. I wish I could feel otherwise. I liked feeling confident of what God’s heart was. If I am really honest with myself, at this time I don’t quite share God’s heart as much as I have led myself to believe.
What does it mean to love this man? To be honest, I don’t know. How do I show the Father to the masses around me? I don’t have an answer for that. But He does. I sit at His feet, learn to love Him more and ask that through me, He would be poured out to those around me. Choosing love means choosing Him in these days. That is all I have to offer.
Excerpt from Francis Chan's book Crazy Love