photo © 2009 Melissa Gray | more info (via: Wylio)
Most of my life, religion has existed in my head. A list of things to know, facts to get straight, specific opinions to hold about life and politics and morality.
The last few years, God has opened my eyes to the story wrapped around the bare bones facts. God reveals Truth to us through stories, through the lives of real people and ultimately in Jesus, a person who walked and talked and lived among us. Meeting the One who restores and redeems and forgives isn’t supposed to turn us into catalogs of facts. We’re supposed to become God’s hands and feet, the Good News with skin on.
Jesus turns the world upside down. He taught that the things we cast aside as insignificant are, in fact, the most important in God’s world. He said that helping the needy is so significant that it’s as if helping Jesus.
I’ve been reading the book of Isaiah, and instead of depressing me with gloom and doom, it has knocked the wind out of me with its relevance. As I wrote on my blog last week, God nailed me in chapter one where it says that being “church-busy” is sin if we’re not also defending the homeless and defenseless. Ouch.
Then I got to Isaiah 58, where I found myself again – the church-busy one who looks all bright and cheery on the outside, but who knows that something just isn’t right.
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
God answers their questions about fasting, and then God says:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Did you catch that?
Of all the things God could tell Christians to do, he says to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and give shelter to the homeless.
That isn’t what I expected. I expected extra-credit assignments like “memorize the entire New Testament” or “don’t drink or smoke or chew and don’t hang with boys who do” or “be in church every time the doors are open” or “go stand on street corners and proselytize.”
But this? Feed the hungry? Help the poor? Upside down.
And I haven’t done it.
I’ve ignored His call to reach out to the unlovely because it’s awkward, and I feel impotent and frail in the face of the widespread suffering around me. I’ve insulated myself from suffering instead, filling my calendar with music practices and planning meetings and play dates with people I know well. Besides, I think to myself, I have plenty of time, and surely God doesn’t expect a young woman with little children to do anything.
The truth is, I’m a slave to comfort and consuming. It’s an addiction stronger than my need for caffeine. I know this because every time I try to overcome it and make sacrificial choices with money, within hours something in a store aisle or flickering screen beckons me back to gorge at the feeding trough of instant gratification.
I’ve watched the lives of people who leave the cocoon of suburban U.S. life and enter the “real world” of poverty and hardship, even for a short time. Those people experience something that turns them upside down and transforms them into the kind of minister of mercy that I want to be.
Their lives show me that I can’t beat my addiction by learning information. If I’m really serious, I need to go and be changed.
So when I received the invitation from World Vision to go with a group of bloggers to see first-hand their projects in Bolivia, I knew two things: God is giving me a chance to escape my slavery and get into his upside down world, and I must take it.
Nish and I, and the rest of the Bloggers for Bolivia team, will fly to Bolivia on July 30. Our task is to report first-hand on the work World Vision does among those trapped in poverty there. Each of us will write on our blogs every day, Nish and I trading off between our personal blogs (The Outdoor Wife and Joy in This Journey) and Deeper Story. We return home on August 7.
Will you pray for each member of the team, as we work out the remaining logistics and prepare our hearts for what we will experience? Pray that God would give us the privilege of being his hands and feet while we’re there, and that he would give us the words to share with you? And will you pray about making room in your life to sponsor a child and enter the upside-down world too?
Thank you.Click here to get the scoop on the trip and the rest of the team from World Vision. All photos ©2011 Jon Warren/World Vision