I wrote this down in my journal during the first year we moved here into our homestead and things were "rougher" than I was accustomed to back in my California lifestyle
Journal entry, September 1, 2016
"If you really want to love, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love."
One minute you find yourself sitting in a church pew and silently praying, "fill me with compassion for those people in need."
Then the next morning you have a very awaking conversation with your husband about finances and how you just don't have enough to make it through. You find yourself waiting with other people to receive government assistance to help your family. You stop and think of your scholarly degrees. All those years spent at a prestigious university, all those years spent earning experience and climbing the corporate ladder.
You are reminded of that time two years ago when you spent handing out groceries at a food bank with your church group. Brows lowered at the lady loading the free food into her expensive Mercedes car. Scoffs made at the man with the Bluetooth attached to his ear and his smart tablet in hand as he accepted the free hand outs.
You look down at your own Nike shoes and check your text message on your iPhone. You are one of them. The scorned. The sneered at. The undeserved of these free gifts.
You cry out to God "what happened? Yesterday I was on top of the mountain with you? And now I'm in the depths of need! Life was so easy in California. Save me from this rough place!"
Its safe and comfortable in the church pews just praying for "those in need" without having to dip my hands in their mess.
Art DeMoss says, "Many of us in our Christian lives have been wallowing around in shallow waters, assuming it to be safer there. No need for miracles. But one of the divine paradoxes that I've learned over the years is that, contrary to normal expectations, it can be much riskier, much costlier to stay in the shallow water, rather than to trust the Lord and launch out into the deep."
We came here not knowing why or our purpose but in an act of obedience and open to the sacrifices ahead. Could it be that God is taking us by the hand and taking us down to where he needs us to be his hands and feet? To be in ground zero of those in need. We can't be there without compassion.
Compassion doesn't just mean to feel sorry for. Compassion literally means “to suffer together.”
He makes us one of them. We suffer. He teaches us unforgettable love.
Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
A few years ago I sacrificed my time and money by giving to those in need but I didn't understand mercy.
I love the way Lori Manry explains the two:
"To sacrifice, is the act of giving up something that is mine.
Mercy is entering into the brokenness of another, joining them in the darkness of their sin. In the pain of their insecurity. In the loneliness of their selfishness. In the weariness of their anxiety. In the shame of their anger."
What I saw in the faces of the people were all those things. I saw it. I felt what they felt. I felt shame. I felt need. I entered into it and my heart became heavy with God's love because I understood.
Both Jason and I have met so many beautiful people through this journey, we have had some moments to even share the gospel with others. I am saddened to think that had we never experienced this season of being humbled, we would have never made such wonderful friendships.
I am reminded about Jesus in his years of ministry, and how he fed the multitude, but didn't stop to ask them how much they made first or asked if they deserved his hand out. He gave and he gave and he gave. He loved and he loved and he loved.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
And the King will answer and say to them, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me.'
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they deserve it.