Disclaimer: This is version twelve-and-something of this post. It’s been rewritten and reconsidered and rethought more times than I could count. But I keep wrestling through it, particularly in the events in our neighborhood over the past week. Ultimately, I wanted to post it not because it is right or finished, but because it is a part of our story here. It is a part of our heart breaking for these people and wrestling through black and white in a very gray world. It’s part of a learning process.
“I am not who I want to be, but I am on the journey there, and thankfully I am not who I used to be.”
Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings
It’s a holiday this week. It’s a Burmese Buddhist holiday, so not everyone is celebrating; but all our neighbors certainly are. The positives include a week without school for the kids and a variety of Burmese snacks being brought to our door throughout the day. There are fancy dresses and photos to be taken. The negatives include cheap, poorly made fireworks being set off by children we love from before 7am to midnight. That is a lot of loud, near-hospital-visit fireworks.
As part of the holiday celebration, people line their homes with candles at night. It is absolutely beautiful, and if it didn’t signify that we were Buddhist, I would certainly join in. Instead, it is a reminder of the vast number of homes that need prayer, love, and hope.
I think about faith and religion and truth so often here; I take it in and ruminate on it for months and years. Because really, this is why we are here. I don’t want to help our neighbors temporarily, and to be honest, I really can’t. They will likely still be poor and marginalized; they will likely still lack papers or education or access to healthcare. Development is a slow game.
But can I be really, really honest? I don’t want them to just pray a prayer, either. I don’t want them to just accept Christ to escape hell; I want them to know Him.
And that’s where the rubber meets the road, and I have to wrestle through verses and pray through why I’m here and ask questions of why we live on the support of the Church. What do we pray for? What are we working for?
I want them to know eternal hope. I want them to experience Christ in a way that changes them. I want them to see the way Christ changes our country and our marriage and our money and our afternoons and our discipline of children and our trash and our friendships and our breakfast. I want them to see Christ in our smiles and in our sleep and in our words. I want them to see Christ in our language learning and our books and in our car.
Because that’s where He is! He is in all of those things for us, and he is revolutionizing and challenging the way we see all of these things and make our decisions about these things. And when I see how beautiful it is in our lives–the redemption, the grace, the blessing, the hope that encircles our car, breakfast, trash, and marriage–I want that for them!
I don’t want them to pray a prayer and stop there. I see this analogy of a mansion and a tent–“I have experienced the mansion of Christ! It is beautiful, and it is worth living my life for! Oh, but here’s a tent for you. I’m sure it will get you through the rain.”
That is how we live here! We are always the ones in the “mansion”–our two bedroom house with walls–while they live in “tents.” That is what the world has offered them! That’s not what Christ has offered. Christ has offered something far greater, and that is what we ache for.
I wrestle through this constantly. How do we communicate this? How do I even communicate it to you?
I was reminded of all this again as I was driving in the car. We don’t have a working radio|music-player-of-any-kind, so I was singing. A song from way back came into my head, a favorite from high school. It’s a Jars of Clay song, Love Song for a Savior.
In open fields of wild flowers
She breathes the air and flies away
She thanks her Jesus for the daises and the roses
In no simple language
Someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all
He’s more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on her lips
Someday she’ll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He’ll call her and she will come running
And fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and she’ll pray,
I want to fall in love with You
While I was singing through this verse and chorus, God brought a picture into my head of one of the little girls in our community. I imagined her all grown up, smelling the flowers and thanking Jesus for them. I imagined her remembering her childhood and finally understanding why we played Memory so many times and why I gave her hug after hug. I imagined her learning trust, running to Christ, and praying to fall in love with Him.
And then there were the faces of so many little girls from our neighborhood. And moms and grandmothers. Seeing Christ in the flowers and in laughter; learning trust and prayers; calling to him and hearing him answer.
I was just struck by how much I want them to know that–mansions of love, hope, grace. Mansions of starry nights and wild flowers and laughter and music.
Sometimes I get lost in the theology. I ask myself, but what if they don’t have a tent or a mansion? Maybe a tent isn’t a mansion, but then wouldn’t a tent be better than nothing at all? And maybe a mansion is just a pursuit of some castle I can’t even comprehend this side of heaven.
I want them to know Christ here, yes. But if they accept him here; if they do just pray a prayer–they may not truly experience Him here, but they will in eternity. And I can’t claim to fully experience Him here, either–we are all only seeing in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I find myself in more theology than I know how to swallow. I don’t want to get lost in the language or the analogy, really; I want to get lost in the Savior.
I want to know him and experience him so that I ache for the same for them. I want to love our neighbors so deeply and so tangibly that I ache for them to experience him, too; that it is a prayer constantly on my lips. I want a passion for Him that creates a passion for them that comes out in every Band-Aid, Memory game, and alphabet song.
I want to live so that we are seeking a community mansion. A community that knows him and experiences Him–as much as we can here, but ultimately in eternity. A community that sees Christ in the day to day, and will someday know him fully.