I was privileged to spend some time today with two people I love and respect. Like REALLY love and REALLY respect. People who are living the call to love in the midst of the joys and successes but more often the pain, disappointment, and rejection. One was an adult and one was a child. Both fully engaged in life, focused on the command to love the poor and the hurting, but who are at two totally different places. The sixteen year old, who is poised, mature, and hungry for God and His broken people and the forty year old who is weathered, meeting people in their brokenness, and looking a lot like I do most days- tired…..As I left these interactions this afternoon, I thought…..Should I have warned the young one of the hard road ahead working in the third world amidst poverty, disease, and pain? Should I have told my peer that I am on the verge of giving up on reaching out to people every single day and we can both call it quits together and forget all this and focus on our own families??
Honestly, I was tempted to do both….I wanted to give them a “pass” because then I could allow myself one. So I pondered this for the afternoon, swam my laps for the day, and God literally stopped my spiraling thoughts and arrested my heart. In one second He changed me. Just like that.
I felt very strongly that this was the message He was giving me……
Loving and serving will never be easy. If it was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? We are a society that wants quick fixes, miraculous transformations, and sensational before and after spiritual walks and that is not how it works. Change is hard for everyone. Laying down our lives is a difficult task for all of us….why would it not be for the brokenhearted? Stay the course. Love when you don’t want to. Give when you think you have nothing else left. Pray when you are too exhausted. Sacrifice when you think you are entitled to be selfish. Make time when there seems to be no time.
As I think now about my two friends, I no longer want to take their pain….I am envious of it. I want a life where my investment in people’s lives is so deep that I feel all of it…..the victories and the disappointments. When I detach myself to the point of not feeling these connections, I have decided to no longer truly live and that is disobedience.
When I get the call from Haiti that another friend has died from a common virus or the reality that we have not fed our school in two months, I want to forge ahead- not fall into my typical mode of operation, which is wanting to give up because it is just too hard. I want to fight for the people I love in Haiti-educating and loving the “we take care of our own” Americans, praying for a solution for the orphan whose one relative just had a stroke, asking everyone I know how to get medication for children who are spitting up whole worms that are taking over their bellies, and teaching youth lessons about serving that I barely understand for myself. I don’t want to ignore the problems I know exist because it hurts my heart too much. I am responsible for how I use my resources and they are not just for the Ellis clan- it goes far beyond us. It spans the globe from Africa to Haiti to 33803 and beyond. When I narrow my focus to me, mine, and ours I have missed my call. I often don’t have the quick solutions or even answers of any kind but God says, “Be present. Just show up.” So I do….sometimes. But I am working on staying engaged more and running away less.
We have to allow ourselves to go to hard places with people and be willing to sit with them in their messes. We are not called to fix, we are called to love. And love is not always pretty. Sometimes it gets ugly because words must be said in truth and love and sometimes they are not welcomed.
How many of us really allow ourselves to go to that depth with people? I know I often shy away when it gets to that part because that is too uncomfortable for me and that is purely a form of self-love. If I am to be obedient to my call, it won’t always be neat and clean- it will be messy and dirty.
So I challenge you…..is your life engaged with others where it sometimes gets hard? Or are you too scared and run if it gets too deep? Do you stay with people just like you because that is safe?
We are called to leave our comfort and go be light in the darkness. Light will always break through, even when it seems like the dark is taking over. God already tells us the light wins in the end.