I’m generally not a link-clicker. You know how some people post links almost every day on Facebook and while some of us actually read them, others just pretend they never saw them and scroll on by? Yeah, I’m definitely in the latter group. But whenever my friend Elaini shares a link, I just have to see what’s inspiring her, since her heart for Christ is amazing and I’m constantly encouraged by what she posts. This morning it was a link to a blog entry written by the lovely Ann Voskamp.
I must admit, I’m a lurker on Mrs. Voskamp’s blog. Ever since I first heard her name a little over two years ago, when I discovered she was also signed with the same literary agent as me, I’ve been continually encouraged by the beautiful posts about life, Christ, and the beauty in the world around us. But I think this was one of the best posts I’ve read yet.
First off, look through the post without reading the words. Read the smiles. Soak in the joy on the faces and the arms wrapped around each other and the sparkling little girl eyes. Notice the outstretched hands, reaching to Heaven, serving each other, and braiding hair.
Then read the words. All of them. Just do it, okay? I’ll wait patiently until you’re finished.
Do you feel what I feel? That burning ache in your chest that we were created to do something other than what we see in the four walls around us? The realization that the God who is bigger and greater and more beautiful than anything we could ever imagine has plans for you that far outreach your own expectations? And that those plans are for you to show that love to others?
I’m the first to admit I fall prey to the symptoms of a first world lifestyle. I like my closet full of shoes and my well-stocked refridgerator and the fact that I always have enough money to keep gas in my car and to go out with my friends to a movie on a Friday night. I get cranky when my laptop dies for two weeks or when I find out I was put in the infant nursery when I like the toddlers ten times better. I’ve fallen prey to passionate political discussions and have seen people around me get into arguments and verbal debates over health care, taxes, and whether or not to wear ties or sneakers to church. I’ve stressed about jobs, wondered about college, and bit my nails over the prospect that I might never fall in love or get to travel the world.
And yet how many nights have I tossed in my bed sleepless over the hearts that are breaking around me? Over the millions and millions of women and children and boys and girls that are barefoot and scabby-kneed, waiting for the love of Jesus to warm their calloused hearts and spread a beautiful smile on their faces? While I’ve grumbled about tax forms and complained about our lack of cookies and cream ice cream, how many hearts have I forgotten?
In her blog, Mrs. Voskamp reminds us that:
Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.
It’s about realizing– Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place – wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa or side street America.
Because it isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love. The reward of loving is in the loving; loving is itself the great outcome of loving. The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing. The value of loving is in the value of being like Christ.
People are starved for Christ everywhere; there are poor too down our streets and down our halls and downs our pews. Radical begins finding them and radically loving them.
Who am I loving right now? Am I loving myself, with all my selfish flaws and whims and desires? Or am I loving those around me?
It’s the age old question–how does a Christian lay down his life for Christ? By laying down his life for others.
When I was twelve years old, I went on a short mission trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to put together a mini bible school for the children of the migrant workers who tended the tomato crops there. It was a mind-reeling trip, in more ways than one. The most significant part of the trip–the image that was ingrained in my mind, was of the home that housed many of the children. It was this big old warehouse, with peeling white paint and a tin roof. The windows were all open without screens, because of the slight breeze outside and the lack of air conditioning inside. And as we pulled up in our church van, the windows were suddenly crowded with little boys and girls, sticking their heads out and waving their tanned hands at us.
I remember feeling something pull inside my heart. And I went home and wrote about it and my dad put it up for the whole church to see and I had lots of people tell me that my words saddened them or encouraged them or made them want to go on a mission trip. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my whole life is a mission trip, in a way.
Who am I? I am a missionary. And to tell the truth, I do a pretty crummy job at it.
Those migrant worker children opened my eyes to a big truth that had been right in front of me the whole time. I am surrounded by children, and women, and families all around me. Men and woman with that same God-shaped hole in their hearts despite the smiles on their faces and the shine of their well-maintained cars. Human beings with the same needs and aches and desires that we all have, and with no way of knowing how to fill those crevices in their souls.
How well am I reaching out my hands to these people? I may not have been sent by God to Africa (at least not yet), and I may not have been entrusted with the lives of little orphans girls like Katie, or a family with mouths to feed and hearts to tend like Mrs. Voskamp, but God has put me in this life, in this part of the world, for a reason. And how am I opening my heart–opening my hands–and reaching out to others?
Mrs. Voskamp talks about the Esther generation. The women who have been gifted by God with the ability to minister to others–for a time such as this. Who am I? I am an Esther, in my small way. And the sooner I embrace that calling and live my life with open arms and an open heart, the sooner I can fully understand the joy that is found in loving people.
Oh, God, may that always be my number one prayer in life. And may others always see that reflected in me.
As Mrs. Voskamp said:
Hospitality is Life with no Gates.
Hospitality means if there is room in the heart —
there is always room in the house.