Uncomfortable Beauty

When someone strips a man of his clothes, we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not – should not he be given the same name? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.

-Basil the Great

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

-James 4:17

Recently I have been challenged to look at my life, at what I have not as my own, not as my right or entitlement. It was only by chance that I was born into an American family, have freedom and opportunity, can get a job, have a nice house, have food on the table at every meal, take vacations, buy a new car, change jobs and houses and cars, have hobbies like skiing climbing and jewelry making… I did not merit this blessing, but because of it I have a responsibility to give out of my abundance. Recently God has rend my heart, turned me upside-down, broken me and put me back together, and broken me again, shaken up everything I thought I knew, and challenged me to step into an uncomfortable beauty.

The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food than the Christian is guilty of murder.

-Irresistible Revolution 

How do we live truly transformed lives? We have to seek out the poor and destitute, we cannot remain in our insulated lives where the poor are nowhere around us. We have become such a sterilized society, scrubbed clean of all of our poor and unseemly; we look around and see everyone smiling, looking just like us. We have removed the gnawing reminders of the destitute poverty that most of the world is drowning in every day. We have stuffed our untouchables into the dark cold gutters and walked back out into the sunshine, proud of how we have squelched the problem. These are our brothers, our sisters, our family who are hurting, and we have the resources to help them. We are called to go out to those in need and to love them with the love of Jesus, who ate with tax collectors, befriended the prostitutes, and embraced the leper. But instead of going out, taking steps into this broken and scary world we don’t understand, we throw our money at institutions who are, in our place, being the hands and feet of Jesus, the active, grimy, heartbreaking love that cares for and embraces the untouchables. We toss our money and then go about our lives, living in so much excess that it rots around us while our brothers and sisters are alone, hungry, cold and dying. Where is the church, the body of Christ who is called to be the hope of this broken world?

Ask the poor, they will tell you who the Christians are.

-Gandhi

Our culture, in addition to instilling in us the ridiculous and false priority, nay necessity, of independence, the every-man-for-himself ideology that leaves you in the dust if you don’t fight and scratch your way to the top, has blockaded us in with an overriding and blanketing fear that if we do reach out, open up our doors, go out and find the poor and invite them to eat at our table, that we are in danger of something awful happening to us. We’re petrified. We are caged up by our fears, chained up and locked in, and the world is locked out.

God speaks to this fear that we have of man in Luke 12:4-7, “My friends, do not dread and be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear: fear Him Who, after killing, has power to hurl into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And yet not one of them is forgotten or uncared for in the presence of God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be struck with fear or seized with alarm; you are of greater worth than many flocks of sparrows.”  His intent is not to scare us into serving Him, but to point out how ridiculous it is for us to fear man, and how much value that we hold. God’s love is powerful. It created life, died at the very hands of its beloved, and always welcomes us back in no matter how many times we walk away. This same love can cast off fear, go out and find the broken, and give them dignity and hope.

Once we conquer this fear, we must tackle the daunting task of getting past ourselves. It is uncomfortable to love as Jesus did. It takes our stepping out into sadly neglected and unchartered waters, and hearts pounding, sticking our hands into someone’s brokenness, someone’s poverty and pain, and most certainly getting their mess all over us. That is loving with abandon, loving till it hurts, loving your neighbor as yourself, that is perfect love.

It is easy to hide, and much more comfortable. Even though we have moved here to one of the most dangerous and hopeless cities on earth, plopped ourselves smack dab in the middle of poverty, destitution, corruption, brokenness, powerlessness and pain, even though my heart is breaking, crumbling to pieces for my brothers and sisters, my flesh and blood, and I get more passionate every day that this must change, I find as I read the words I’m writing that I am still hiding. Hiding behind language and cultural barriers, behind our metal gate and razor wire, and behind my wall of hard questions. How on earth can my actions truly make any difference? And even if they could, how do I even begin? What will this cost me? Even in the magnified simplicity that we are now living in here in Juarez, I feel like a gorged pig, reveling in my plenty and wealth while our next door neighbor just yesterday was wondering how he was going to feed his wife and children that night, while little Abby comes to our gate inquiring if we had eaten, saying she is hungry, that once again her parents couldn’t buy food and she and her 9 siblings went hungry. So we give her something to eat, and walk back through our gate into our cozy little house where the cupboards are stuffed with food, tripping over the shoes that fell off the pile by the door, we sit down on our giant beanbag sofa in front of our large screen computer, we put in a movie, grab our overflowing bowl of popcorn, turn up the volume, and forget where we are.

 

True generosity is measured not by how much we give away, but how much we have left…

-Shane Claiborne

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2 Responses to “Uncomfortable Beauty”

  1. Again! Your writing has brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for opening up your heart Misty! What challenging and honest words you write.

    It’s so hard to know where the balance lies. Should there even be a balance? How far do we go, how much do we give, should we feel guilty for having more, how much is too much, how little is too little??? Questions Dallas and I struggle with all the time. Especially lately. I know the answers to these questions are different for everyone but are we even brave enough to try and find out the answers for ourselves??

    Love you so much Misty!! You and Matt are so inspiring to us!! I love how your hearts are exploding with newness from God! Thank you for sharing a little bit of that with us!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement. God is definitely schooling us here, opening our eyes and hearts to things we could never bear without the hope and promise He brings, knowing that He asked us to come, and others to stay back and support, and through us all He will love and set free multitudes of lives. It is humbling and exciting, hard and beautiful, heartbreaking and encouraging, desperate and life-giving. There is nothing wrong with provision, but their is something wrong with lack. I am certain that God did not make too many people and not enough stuff. What I do know is that we are all a family, and when some are hurting, the rest of us need to pour out what we have to ease that pain. We just need to know how to begin, and then, to begin.

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