Saturday, September 15, 2007

poverty

Hello again from Darjeeling!

Beth gave us some alone time this morning, some space to be with Jesus and the quiet, and what a lovely few hours it was. I sat in a small cafe called Glenarys, had some tea and a muffin that tasted almost like home, and looked out over moutains wearing a wispy coat of fog. Here are some of the thoughts from that time.

We're talking about community this week-end as a team. Community with each other and community with the poor. And my world is flipping. (As India has already done to me several times. Jesus through the physical location of India, actually.) In true community, our roughest parts come exposed. Our deepest hurts and pains, the reality of who we are when only a few people are watching. I am seeing the reality of me.

A month ago, I would have told you that I was coming to Kolkata to serve the poor. Yet being with the poor shows me how abjectly poor I also am. In living with them, I see things that are hard to love--dependency, perpetual extension of needs, dirt, grim, smell, hardness. I realize that I cannot love them in some noble laying down of self. My inflated notions of being Mother Teresa II to a hurting world lose air fast when I see that these things (along with many other dark things) are in me too. I am no better.

Before India, I had a pretty set system down, a system of finding my worth in things that are very temporary. Most of the time, I could make the system work. "When I am pretty, I am valuable," I thought. Now I sweat all the time--too much to even attempt make-up, and I throw my hair back in a ponytail, and the water here makes my face break-out like I'm re-entering puberty. "When I can make people notice me, then I am valuable." Now the only reason people notice is because I'm different, and they aren't impressed, they're just staring at the differences. "When I can do something really well, then I am valuable." Now the people I hang out with don't really care about my accomplishments. It seems my personal resume has little relevance in a city where survival tops the list of priorities. "When I appear kind and selfless to others, then I am valuable." Now I'm living so closely with six other people that my selfishness is exposed for what it really is. These days, sin doesn't stay hidden quite as well.

Kolkata has stolen all my props, and I am standing on the stage naked and shivering, facing an empty theatre of abandoned seats, and now I know my own poverty, and now I am disgusted with myself, and now I am being dismantled.

All these thoughts had been floating inside me the last few weeks and came together this morning. I remembered that at the beginning of the trip, I had asked Jesus to demolish me and put me back together in His likeness. Internal whining began. "Jesus, it feels like I'm only being torn down. The reality of who I am is awful. I hate it. When I asked you to tear me down, I also asked You to rebuild me. Remember??"

I see my poverty, and I say, IMPOSSIBLE. What can I do?
I see the poverty of the world, and I say, WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?
How will You ever perfect me, and how in the world are You ever going to redeem this groaning planet?

Yet my Father sees my poverty, and He says,
"For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...
If God is for us, who can be against us? If He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceeding for us." (Romans 8:29, 31-34)

I can do nothing about my poverty, but He can do everything! I don't know that I necessarily relish this stripping, this grim encounter with my own empty coffer, but:

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who hhave been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:11-12)

I am lame.
I am weak.
I am poor.

But that is not the end of it. I am being healed.

Our God is so good. Press into Him, dear friends. May we trust our Jesus enough to let Him re-shape us however He needs to, though the process hurts.

One last thought from Jean Vanier, a man who lived for 25 years in a community for the disabled. His little book From Brokenness to Community has shown me a lot of truth.

"It is painful to discover the hardness in one's own heart...to discover who I really am, and to realize that maybe I did not want to know who I really was! I did not want to admit all the garbage inside me. And then I had to decide whether I would just continue to pretend that I was okay and throw myself into projects where I could forget all the garbage and prove to thers how good I was...
People may come to our communties because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered they themselves are the poor. And then they discover something extraordinary: that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, not to those who serve the poor!"

2 comments:

  1. Lara,
    My heart is truly touched by all the words you have shared in describing your heart and Kolkata here on this blog. The Lord is so good to challenge our hearts as well as provide us with hope.

    I have been challenged with poverty and homelessness here in little old Tulsa this past week. I walk across the street to Starbucks during my lunch break a few days a week not so much for the coffee (that you long for) but for a change of scenery and a chance to be quiet in the midst of a work day. I find a chair out on the patio and situate myself in the sun. Three days this past week the Lord has placed a woman in my path during my Starbuck's visits, on two occasions sitting directly across from me. She is a middle aged woman who wears a baggy plaid men's shirt and talks to herself. She is obviously homeless. It is difficult to make eye contact with her. She looks tired and worn. She is always alone. The Lord has placed her "right in front of me." my first response was, "what can i do? How can I relate?" but as I have reflected on my encounters with this woman I am challenged to think about who I am and who she is...we are both His children. God has called me to love.
    The Lord is sure to meet us where we are at and to urge us to come closer to Himself. I can see through the string of your blogs how God is changing you and conforming you. He is rebuilding you. Continue to live in hope--- keep looking for it.
    You are truly a blessing Lara. Thank you for sharing your heart and your experiences. love you.

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  2. Lara,
    Thank you for communicating so well what God is showing & teaching you! It's a privilege to have this window on a portion of His work in India.
    I can pick up some of your prayer needs from your blog...any other specific needs we can lift up?
    This morning I had my qt, using the coffee mug you & Kristin gave me. It was fun praying for you w/ your mug...look forward to when you can visit again! You are an encouragement!! russ d

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