Sometimes pain is good. It hurts like a good massage. This story is like that.
In the interest of illumination, I share the story, because I tend to hide things in the dark that I don’t want to be seen. That’s why I need the Light of World so badly.
Like other stories on this blog, this is my story, and nothing more.
This year (oh wonderful me) I decided to adopt two angels from our church’s angel tree. Here are their wish cards, which I received from the person who did me a favor and grabbed them from the tree:
(I had a reason for asking the person to get the cards for me, but I’ll skip that.)
Immediately, I noticed the big ticket requests: iPad, laptop, Xbox. And immediately, multiple points of light from the last two years of study, scriptures, our pastor’s messages, books I’ve read and other sources aligned perfectly before my eyes on those cards into one brilliant sunlight patch, but I ignored that. More on that later…
My first reaction was shock and dismay, because I was not financially prepared to fulfill those wish lists. My second reaction was anger, which I’ll spare myself the embarrassment of explaining further. My third reaction was that I should return the angels to the angel tree, sheepishly admit to my missions director that I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and retire to my corner to regroup.
(If I’d returned the angels to the tree, it was almost too late for them to be re-adopted.)
That night, I lay awake distressed and mulling over my predicament. Thankfully, I prayed over it, too, and sincerely asked the Holy Spirit to guide me. Surprisingly (while I’m being real), He did just that, and the direction I got was not what I thought it would be. There were big, strange lessons for me to learn from this situation. I’ll try to explain.
I’ll start by listing a few facts I realized when the dawn broke after my sleepless night.
- I thought I could adopt the angels on the cheap.
- I thought I could adopt them on the cheap because they are disadvantaged children, and I believed they should be satisfied with less.
- I believed they should be satisfied with less, because I believed them to be inferior.
That’s the simple truth of the matter.
Once I stopped lying to myself, I advanced to the next stage of understanding, and I realized and connected these things:
- Disadvantaged children are like any other children in our society. They want the same things our own children want.
- According to Jesus, there are two great rules that fulfill all other rules of Christianity, and the second one is to love my neighbor just like I love myself.
- I claim to be a follower of Jesus.
There are other aspects to this story and other issues represented that I am not discussing, but they are not the point.
Here is the point:
This is not a story about a simple, harmless mistake. The superior, selfish attitude in my heart is foul, ugly and filthy to God. It is a grave and serious problem. The attitude that some people are inferior is at the root of the worst evils in society and its history: the holocaust, racism, slavery, and human trafficking, for starters.
I got exactly what I deserved in those two angel cards. My own son’s Christmas gifts are generous, name-brand, and were secured by Thanksgiving. Those two angels deserve nothing less.
So, here’s what happened:
After an epic battle with my humanity, I surrendered, and raised my hand as though I committed the foul, because I did. I realized that my assignment was to purchase every single item on those lists no matter what it cost me, and to trust God with the outcome.
That assignment was the sunlight patch mentioned earlier. To purchase every single item on those lists was what (deep in my heart) I knew I was being called to do as I first looked at the angel cards. In the past two years, almost everything I’ve learned spiritually pointed to the truths above, and to my assignment in this, but I just didn’t want to see it.
After I accepted the truth, and accepted my assignment, I had one of the most joyful, free-spirited days I’ve had in months.
So! I finished my shopping. I Googled my heart out, found the best deals, got advice from Game Stop managers, drove all over the planet, dragged shopper friends along, took family polls, hunted down the coolest clothes/shoes, and wrapped and delivered the gifts to the angel tree as fast as I could, before in my natural panic I chickened out and took it all back. The credit card (not a revolving account, entire balance due each month) is wheezing, staggering and raising a white flag of surrender. At times during this process, I felt doubtful, fearful, and plotted human ways to make it all work. But at every turn, the sunlight blinded me and kept me walking by faith and not by sight. I have no idea how it will all come out.
One thing is for sure: After the surrender, the process was surprisingly fun and fulfilling. It was also terrifying. And yes, it hurt, just like a good massage.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
(Hebrews 12:11, NIV)
If you want to delve further, you might check out the links below:
Follow Me by David Platt
7 by Jen Hatmaker
Pastor Todd Gray’s sermons
How it Feels to Be a Kid on Welfare
Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Trash to the Poor