Monday, January 12, 2009

Comfortable Christianity



My friend Lorie Newman wrote this article recently
and it just so resonated with me. I felt like I could
have written most of it. I love it because it just
really describes meeting God outside of a "church"
building which is where I believe He intends for us
to meet Him, experience Him and learn about Him.
If we step out of our comfortable church buildings
into some unfamiliar territory we allow God to show
us who He is a what is really important to Him. You
never walk into those comfortable church buildings
the same again once you see God working in His
church - His people. This is a reflection of my own
experience with Christianity and I echo Lorie in
saying that I will never be the same.



Comfortable Christianity: Lessons from Africa



My most important spiritual lessons were not learned
in a Sunday School classroom, a Bible Study group,
or a Sanctuary. They were learned in the presence
of poverty, death, and suffering. They were learned
from the eyes of a hungry orphan, the words of a sick
widow, the smile of an abandoned little girl, and the
shame of a homeless man.

I can’t go back to the way I was. I’m not the same
person I used to be. Even in the simple things I do
every day, I will never do them the same way as before.
I’ve been changed. And I can never go back.

I used to get impatient if I had to wait more than 30
minutes for my food at a restaurant. That was before
I saw orphans at the Thulwane Care Point in Swaziland
who had not eaten in days.

I used to complain under my breath when I realized
someone had taken the Expo markers from the
classroomwhen I was preparing to teach my weekly
Bible Study.That was before I met a missionary in
Africa whotaught children about Jesus under a tree
each Sundaymorning and counted it the greatest
privilege of her life.

I used to stand before my closet full of clothes and
complain because I had “nothing” to wear. That was
before I met an orphan in Swaziland wearing rags.

I used to waste food every day. To toss half of an uneaten
meal in the trash meant nothing to me. That was before
I met my adopted daughter and saw pictures of her
tiny emaciated frame and found out her birth mother
abandoned her because there was no food in their
Haitian village.

I used to go to the mall and drop $50 for another pair
of shoes I really didn’t need. That was before I held
the shoes of a little seven year old Swazi girl as she
played. Those shoes were her most prized possession.

I used to arrive early when I would speak at retreats
so I could make sure my lectern, lapel mic, and music
were working properly so every detail would run
smoothly.That was before I met a female pastor in
Africa who preachedthe Word of God straight
from her heart to a full congregation with nothing
but a small tattered bible.

I used to complain about my mattress because it was
10 years old and I thought it was not comfortable like
the ones I sat on in the store. That was before I saw a
small boy in Haiti sleeping on his “bed”—a pile of dirty
clothes in the corner of a dirt floor shack.

I used to get frustrated when I had a doctor’s appointment
at 8:00AM and at 9:00AM I was still sitting in the waiting
room—the air conditioned waiting room that had a TV
and magazines. That was before I saw a desperate mother
in Port-au-Prince who walked all day in the heat to bring
her sick baby to a Mission Clinic.

I used to secretly sigh when I would get letters in the
mail from Christian ministries asking for donations to
help them support their programs. That was before I
became close friends with the director of an inner-city
ministry and saw first-hand how that ministry changed
countless lives with very little resources.

I used to walk into church with my big leather bible,
ready to be blessed by the pastor’s weekly message.
That was before I worshiped in a cinderblock building
with African Christians who had nothing of earthly value.
They taught me more about worship in two hours than
I had experienced in my entire life of “church-going.”

I used to want to protect my children from the horrible
atrocities of this world by keeping them safe under my “wing.”
That was before I put my 15 year old son on a plane with 18
other teenagers and 3 counselors to spend his summer in a
Third World nation. He came home completely ‘wrecked for
the ordinary’ with deep spiritual insight he’d have never gotten
at home under my motherly protection.

I used to read articles about AIDS and thought compassion
was just to pray for them. That was before I invited a widow
who was HIV+ and her son, to spend Christmas with
our family several years ago. She taught me about
true compassion.

I used to think that homeless people were in their situation
because they drank too much, took drugs, or had somehow
caused their own despair. That was before our family
ministered to a homeless family. The father had been
laid off and theycouldn’t pay their rent. God showed
me that they were nodifferent than me.

I used to see statistics about the 154 million+ orphans
around the world, and frankly those numbers where
too overwhelming for me. That was before two of
those orphansbecame my own children. Those
statistics are now verymuch alive in my soul.

I used to think compassion was saying a few prayers
for the sick, the outcast, the orphan and the widow. I
used to think if I gave some money once a year to a
ministry, I had done my part. But that was before.
That was before God patiently showed me true compassion.

What about you? When was the last time you decided
to ask God to break you free from your comfortable
Christianity to show you how to learn real and genuine
compassion? Ask Him. But, friend, beware. You’ll never
be the same and you’ll never go back.

Africa_113 Lorie is a busy homeschooling mother
of six children, including twins and two
children who were internationally adopted
—one from Haiti and one from Liberia.
She has taught and ministered in Bible
Studies for over ten years. She and her husband Duane
are founders of Reaching Hands Orphan/Adoption
Ministries. Through a partnership with Children’s
HopeChest,Reaching Hands Ministries enables
nearly 300impoverished African orphans to receive
regular food,clothing, and education. You can visit
her website at lorienewman.com.

1 comment:

Shanan said...

neat. love you.