We visited with some friends recently, who had been asking for some time to hear about our experiences in Ethiopia and tell how and where we saw God at work. They didn't have to twist our arms too hard to get us to concede. After all a great dinner and a vintage bottle of wine seem to be the best place to unwrap the complexity of poverty and its effects on all who encounter it, dirty water, starvation, the presence of the Muslim faith and its impact, the western church's lack of visibility in the 3rd world, the American dream, orphans, invalids in Ethiopia, the beauty which co-exists in the midst of the above, and the giftedness of the locals. I was caught off guard by the pain I experienced reliving the assessment of the surplus and luxuries of my life in comparison to the lives of those languishing. And then those dreaded words that always get me in trouble: "I am crushed by the weight of knowing my living at 8515 Carli Cr., surrounded by the wanton pleasures of life, continuing to consume comes at a price to so many. My lifestyle, our lifestyles, mean many more starve, die of thirst and preventable diseases, millions of children go to sleep without knowing the love of a parent." Our host was gracious. She tried to console me. With a genuinely grieved heart over my pain, our host reminded us we couldn't live with joy (happiness) if our hearts were taken with guilt and constant thought of what we might sacrifice next and God just couldn't want this... Really? I think it's just where He wants me. Hurting. Grieving. Praying. Submitting. Broken but rejoicing all the same, begging Him to keep me devastated for those He loves who are wasting away, living a life that more closely matches His gospel. The conversation died off. I wasn't surprised. It was uncomfortable, not wasted.
Alas, our friend has a child who suffers from a terminal disease. When we were in the car riding home, the thought struck me how hard it would be for her to see people surrounding her who hold the key to healing her son, to remedying his disease; but as she encountered these people each one assessed the sacrifice involved in giving over the entity of healing. They look at what it would mean to choose to offer life to this child or continue on in the same place and choose death for her son. They look. They appraise. Ultimately they refuse. They "pocket" the remedy and carry on. After all, this belongs to them. They are not to feel guilty for enjoying what was theirs to begin with, right? They continue on with out thought. They world turns while he dies. But this IS what poverty looks like. I am not implying it can be remedied easily if at all...but that is no excuse not to intercede for many. How desperate I am to live what He desires. It's hard to live not belonging, not fitting, not relating. Ahhh, but I wouldn't trade it to return to the comfort of convenience and contentment in conformity.