Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When Heaven Speaks Through a Little Girl



It feels like it was a million years ago in another life...possibly a different planet...when a hunger for simplicity and less materialism made it's way into my soul.

In actuality it was only about eight months ago in the United States...a place so hard to believe exists from where I'm sitting right now.

We purged.  We cleaned out.  We tidied up and made piles and piles of "why did we ever think it was a good idea to buy this?"

We had a daddy garage sale and then some baby ones.

Shortly after our chart topper garage sale and the following garage sale remixes we found out we were moving to Haiti.

Selling our beautiful home in our perfect neighborhood...a neighborhood filled with doctors, lawyers, college professors, and an active, often-times nazi-ish home owner's association was very rough on me.

I wrote a lot as I was packing up our belongings...the things I loved and adored.  I wrote and wrote about how obvious it was that I had an unhealthy affection for items made of wood and earth and brick.  I sat in front of my computer, my face an ugly, mascara-less mess as I tried to put words to my emotions.

Sadness as I put batman costumes and my favorite wooden coke crates into boxes...unsure when I'd ever see them again.  Sadness as I held my things and cried into the carpet of one of the boy's rooms upstairs admitting to God that I was the rich young ruler.  I could not let go of this world and follow Jesus.  Sad that I was having such a hard time trusting the Lord and living as though I believe the things I claim to believe.

Shame as I admitted how much I love things that will one day be burnt up with fire.  Ashamed of the money we had spent to collect things that would never see eternity.  Ashamed of how many canisters and knick-nacks I possessed while so many around the world can not even eat everyday or pay for cheap medications to cure themselves or their children.

Thankfulness that God in His sweet mercy was waking us up from what seemed to be a nap that could have rivaled Rip Van Winkle's.

Humility as I came face to face with my greed and love of all things "so me", comfortable, and attractive to the eye.  It's strange to cry your way through every box and every room of your house as you pack it up and at the same time wonder how on earth I thought I was ever in the position to judge anyone...ever.  I cried and cried about the times when I had judged someone else about something spiritual.  I cried and cried about the markers I was using to gauge my own spiritual growth.  I cried that this one act...selling my home and packing away everything I loved said so much about my faith and maturity.

It was like owning a mirror at home that made me look thin and beautiful...looking into that mirror and leaving the house, walking around like an in shape, gorgeous specimen.  Then one day I walk past a different mirror...an accurate one and realize my mirror was distorted...I actually look like Shrek's wife.

How humbling it is to admit it does not matter how much of the Bible I have read...it does not matter how many classes I have taught...how much I have served the church and God's people...none of it mattered.  I was failing the most basic test that Jesus gave the rich young ruler when that young man asked what it took to follow Jesus.

"You want to follow me?" Jesus asks.  "Then sell all your stuff and give it to the poor."

Jesus did not ask the man to show Him his church attendance or ask the wealthy young man to define words like justification or sanctification.  Jesus didn't ask the man to give money or go buy things for the poor.  He asked the rich young ruler to give away

his

own

stuff

the things that were his...held his memories...were a reflection of who he was...his taste...his preferences...give them away. 

Jesus gave a test that I was failing...He wanted to know how attached the rich young ruler was to this earth...to himself...to worthless things that would one day make that rich man's life worth nothing.

I've now been in Haiti for over a week.

Our stuff is still stuck in this weird place called "customs."  I hear it's one of the most corrupt parts of this dear country.

I'd like to say that I've handled not having the few things we shipped to Haiti well.

Instead I'll tell the truth...

I have been having an internal sumo-style, sweaty fat fight with Jesus.

I want my stuff...just the few things we shipped.  God why?  Why can't I have that stuff?  It's not even that much junk for six people.  I want a few things that are familiar...I want a few memories...I want a few of our favorite foods.  Small throw rugs for my all-tile home.  God please.  This house is so plain and blah.  We're thankful for it but it's so not me right now.

There is nothing here that feels like home or me or us.  Nothing that feels like familiarity.  So God what the heck?  What are you wanting me to learn from my stuff sitting in a rat infested warehouse down the road?  What?

And then a Haitian girl from one of the girl's homes came over today.

She walked in my front door...stopped for a minute and said..."Your house is so pretty.  Your baby has his own room?"  She was beaming.  Could hardly believe it.

Whistle blew.  Wrestling match was over.

Seeing my home through her eyes in that moment did it.  In God's ever gentle way of doing everything peace washed over my soul.

"Things" do not make a home.  They just don't.

In those moments when I'm tempted to complain or when I flat out go on a complaining streak, God has graciously put me in a place where all I have to do is look over our wall at the way the people are living just feet from me...

and repent.

Actually I look over the wall and say, "What the heck is wrong with me...I'm an idiot."  Then I repent.

If you're like me and find that not being content has made its way into your heart, I wanted to take a second and let God use Haiti to heal something that is broken in each of us...


Isn't God kind, gracious, and good to gently love us that way?

Granite counter tops, more bedrooms, perfect floors or "my stuff stuck in customs" just seem down right silly now, huh?

Thank you Haiti and thank you God who made Haiti and uses it to teach us new lessons every single day.

22 comments:

Megan said...

Heather - your post rocked me to the core. I, too, am the rich young ruler. This week I even patten my own back that I DONATED some clothes that were consign-able...in a "look at me - aren't I giving?" kind of way....There is much work to be done. Thank you for speaking with such clarity what God asks all of His followers to do.

Jana said...

Thank you Heather. That spoke to me more than you will ever know.

The Hargrove Family said...

As I teared up for the batman costumes I realized I am totally in the same boat. Praying for you guys. We love you.

Kirby said...

Okay...forget my email...I'm the idiot.

Debi Stoll said...

I love the enormous smile on the man's face outside his home. He looks so proud. I praying the Lord continues to sow contentment in you for the sweetness of Haitian life.

I am so excited to be along for the ride on your blog!

Grace and Peace,
Debi

thoughtsbyryan said...

Just this week, I was praying that God would use this time, when your stuff is stuck in customs, to help you to identify with the poor all around you. To realize that even in your semi-empty, white-walled, mismatched furniture house, you still have SOO much compared to so many people down there. I'm glad that God brought that girl into y'alls life.

I'm glad that we're able to journey with you guys and evaluate our life here and the things that we're spending money on and worrying about.

shawnaturtle said...

your journey is real...your faith is real...your honesty is real.

As weird as this sounds, I kinda feel like I am watching Jesus walk out into the desert. I am standing on the edge waving and screaming "YOU can do it!!!! Satan has nothing on YOU! Go Jesus Go!

shaWna

mandi said...

and here I am wondering if i should just go buy a new bookcase for homeschool books instead of waiting for one to show up at the thrift store. ugg. when God starts poking in those ugly places- it. is. hard.

The Kramer Family said...

I love you. I've forwarded this on to others. We need to read this and be made aware of not just "how good we have it". But so that we can GIVE sacrificially and let go of stuff.

This was on David Platt's status today. So good, so good.

"In your suffering, God may actually be plotting for your satisfaction."

Gwen said...

LOVE your post! Love your honestly and openness. I sent you an email a while back thanking you for your blog and how I'd bought some of the books you suggested. I'm currently reading through RADICAL-it's been so good. Can't wait to see what God will do with our family. I long for simplicity-a mega garage sale sounds fun!

Thanks for being an encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Oh Heather how I love your heart! Thank you for allowing the Lord to teach you and so passionately sharing what you learn!

You just broke my heart, but in such a sweet, sweet way. Haiti taught me alot about my stuff in a very short period of time, I knew immediately they did not need my "America", I needed their simplicity.

I love you and I am praying for you everyday.

Cindy

Robert B. Heath said...

Heather, I stumbled onto your blog just yesterday, by clicking on "next blog" from mine. And I am so "envious" of you and your husband. I can't tell you how long I have felt what you were feeling 8 months ago. My wife disagrees entirely with the ideas that led you to Haiti, not that I feel we're called to live in Haiti, but to live more simply, and to share more of what we have with the poor. And I can't force her.

I look at what we throw away every day, and I tell my children that most children are lucky to have a bowl of rice and beans once a day, who would probably love to eat what we throw away. It is heart-breaking.

Anyway, I admire your family for what you are doing, for your courage in trying to do God's will. And I hope, if someday God calls us to something similar, we will have the courage and the unity to respond whole-heartedly.

Do me the favor, please, and pray for my wife and I. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Megan Fletcher said...

thank you. your posts from 8 months ago challenged us to examine what would go into a crate for moving. are we ready? why do we even have the other things? they are just things. things to dust and move and distract. thank you for this next installment.

we are in our prayers. so neat to read this post and then the next. so grateful for that young girl and her influence on you so you could influence all of us.

Marla Taviano said...

Sooooooo thankful someone told me about your blog today.

Anonymous said...

Praise God from whom all blessing flow!

It has been neat to be able to have a peek into what God is teaching you through this. Thank you for being willing to share.

Tracy said...

All I can say is WOW. I also stumbled on to your Blog and I can say you are truly inspiring.I too pray everyday to hear God's voice and shed the worldly things. It is a little harder fight with my husband.LOL Your family is doing things I truly dreamed of doing.May God Bless you and your family and keep you safe and healthy.

CindyC said...

Thank you for your obedience, and your humility, and your openness. You are a blessing.

I am praying that your stuff checks out of customs ASAP. And praying that Jesus uses you in glorious ways while you are in Haiti.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very sad post. Why are people so terrified of being rich? It's just bizarre.

The poor will always be with us. So, too, will the rich. Society could not function if this was not the case.

The airplane that took you to Haiti was designed by a rich, rich person. The computer I type this on was developed by Bill Gates, the richest man in the word. These people work hard to earn their fortunes legitimately. It's just bizarre to expect them to give all their possessions away.

If people really DID give away most of their money and possessions, international business would collapse. Scientific investigation would grate to a halt. People would have a far more difficult time helping others in need, if everyone just gave away what they own for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. People - such as that little girl you mention - would suffer even more if that was the case.

There is nothing inherently sinful in owning a lot of property. There is no highest level of possessions that you can own listed anywhere in the Bible, or anywhere else. Jesus was very much at ease with the wealth of others. Mary Magdalene, for example, had a house large enough to hold feasts for Jesus and his disciples. And she was rich enough to support the disciples out of her own funds.

The only way to determine if you have "too much" is by comparing yourselves to others - which is precisely what Christ said NOT to do. It's all relative. You will simply end up creating confusion and despair within yourself - and possibly envy.

Compared to most people in the U.S., almost everyone in Haiti is poor. Compared to U.S. doctors and lawyers, most regular U.S. citizens are poor. Compared to millionaires, most doctors and lawyers are poor. And compared to Bill Gates, EVERYONE is poor. And compared with large businesses like Disney, even Bill Gates is poor.

How much money does a person have to have to qualify as "rich?" How many possessions can a person own before it qualifies as "too much?" In truth, there is no answer. No progress is possible in this area. You can think about this for the rest of your life, and you will never reach a satisfactory answer.

This is an area of something called "fuzzy logic," meaning that it is intractable, non-articulate. It is an area where there is no genuine solution, no matter how much you choose to think about it. You will simply make yourself crazy if you decide to do so.

It's no wonder you have "arguing matches" with Jesus. Because on some level or other, you are sensing a conflict. You feel attachment to the happy memories some of your possessions have for you. But you give them away anyway, because you feel ordered to by Jesus. This is absurd. It is very bad reasoning. You have misunderstood that part of the Bible.

A Catholic moral philosopher once said to me, if God wants you to give, He will make it unmistakable. It's not something you even have to think about. Go work hard, be rich - and God will direct you. You may only be moved to give once in your life - or perhaps not at all, depending on what God has in store for you. There are far more important things in life than giving money or possessions away. Giving of your intellect, your experience, service to others, to God, etc - these are more important than any giving of money or possessions will ever be.

A grandmother dying in a hospital doesn't want money or possessions donated to her - she wants to be visited by her family and her friends.

I look forward to the day when Christians will stop fearing how many possessions or how much money they have. It is truly sad to see people basing their lives on such worries, instead of leaving such things to God where they belong. God loves us unconditionally. It's about time we started seeing Him that way.

Hendrick Family said...

Anonymous...

I'm sorry. I think we're reading two different Bibles. But thank you for your input. I wonder if what you said is exactly what the rich young ruler thought the days after he turned away from Jesus.

Heather

Anonymous said...

Here's and interesting thought. You don't believe in owning very many possessions. But how do you know when you've given away "enough?" How do you know FOR SURE you have donated enough of your belongings to get into Heaven?

The short answer is, you don't. You have absolutely no idea. You might be on the road to Hell right now, for owning anything at all. You state in your above article that your house in Haiti is "bigger" than that of the little girl who came to visit. According to your interpretation of the Bible, that's a sin. Christ said you have to give EVERYTHING away, not just a "fair amount" of your stuff. And you haven't done that. According to your own view, you have failed to give ALL you own to the poor, and are in danger of Hell. You must live a very uneasy life.

Philosopher Bertrand Russel, in his book "Why I Am Not A Christian," said that "giving away all you own to the poor" is an honorable thing. But the Christian person does it out of terror of Hell. An atheist would do it out of genuine compassion for the poor.

Russel said that he himself personally would not give away all he owned to the poor, even though it is a praiseworthy idea. But then, he notes, "giving away all you own" has very different consequences for Christians than it does for atheists.

Russel also noted that no Christian truly lives up to Christ's message of ACTUALLY giving away all they own to the poor. Anyone who does would likely end up a beggar, and be forced to rely on the charity of others. And where's the good in that?

Russel noted that most Christians SAY they follow Christ's words, but they don't really. They SAY they should give all they own to the poor, none really seem to. And small wonder. They would starve, otherwise.

Another thing is that by giving so much of what you own to the poor, you are helping those poor people to become richer. Since it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven," you are thus making it harder for those poor people to enter Heaven. You are putting them in danger of Hell. Can you say for sure that your God will judge you well after helping other people to be rich?

The only way out of this is to adopt a belief system that DOESN'T make entering Heaven reliant on how much you own. Or you can always become an atheist.

Bertrand Russel said that most "Christian giving" is done out of fear. And it is the wrong motivation. Fear of Hell causes all sorts of psychological problems and bad behavior in people. And to top it all off, the Christian God does not reward you if you give out of fear, that is, grudgingly, as you do in your article. You complain about how hard it is to give stuff away. But in Corinthians 2, it says that "God loves a cheerful giver." The Bible itself teaches that those who grumble or give grudgingly "already have their reward," and will not be rewarded in Heaven. Because of your grumbling, I suspect your God will not reward any of your giving at all. "God loves a cheerful giver." And you make it very clear that none of your giving was done out of cheer, but reluctance.

Food for thought.

Hendrick Family said...

Anonymous,

I'm not sure how you have stumbled upon this post. Thank you for taking the time to write out so much information. That is food for thought for people who think that doing "something"...anything gets them into heaven.

However, I don't believe that anything we're doing in Haiti...anything we're giving up...anything at all that we "do" is going to get me into heaven.

When I give I give because I have been so richly given to. I love because I have been so deeply loved.

I do not do any of these things out of guilt or terror. I do these things in response to the fact that God has so dearly loved me, doing so to others should be a natural response. Because I don't think I can earn heaven, there is no fear or guilt that can motivate the way that I live. Only love.

Nothing but Jesus' death on the cross has made me worthy of heaven. Nothing I do here. Nothing I give. Thankfully, nothing I don't give. I'm forever thankful for that grace that gives to me no matter when I'm selfish or selfless. I pray I learn to live and love the way Jesus lived and loves.

Respectfully,

Heather

Anonymous said...

Wow, this was deeply moving. Thank you so much for your honesty. I don't think I have felt this touched in way too long. I have read things that were lovely and nice but this was truly powerful. Thank you. I hope I too can make some real changes.