The Way Things Are.
“What do you see when you look at the pain and suffering in the world? Do you see a malnourished child – or a future farmer? A child with out schooling – or a potential teacher? Do you see a frightened child huddling in a refugee camp – or do you see a prospective leader? When you look into the faces of the poor, the marginalized, and the downtrodden, do you see hopelessness – or people made in the very image of God, with the prospects of a hope filled future ahead of them? We, as Christians, can look at our broken world, shrug our shoulders and say “That’s just the way things are.” Or we could instead embrace a vision of what could be if we’d each pitch in. Isn’t it better to light a candle than curse the darkness? What could be accomplished if we lit not one candle, but many? The light of even one challenges the gloom, but the light of a million could obliterate it.”
– Richard Stearns, “The Hole in Our Gospel”
In an ironic and sad twist in today’s “always connected” world it seems as though the more vehicles for communication we have and the more avenues for devouring information we’re afforded, the easier it is to disconnect from reality. Hearing about a tragedy or injustice is commonplace in today’s world, and yet unless you live through or directly witness it, disconnecting has become rather simple, and at time feels like a necessity to keep your sanity.
When I was first invited by my good friends to visit Haiti I thought it’d be a great opportunity to see my friends, soak up that Caribbean sun, and offer up any help if they could use me. I never had queried my friends exactly on what they did down there anyway. I was aware of the poverty that clung to the nation, just as I was aware of the devastating earthquake that hit the country. What I was not aware of, until I was thrust into a world different than my own, was my alarming sense of disconnect to my brothers and sisters in need. Not just in Haiti, but back home as well. The love, joy, and heartbreak that the people of Haiti shared with me hit me like a ton of bricks. While I strive to be kind and compassionate in my day-to-day life, I realized I was only offering up that compassion during the convenient encounters in my life. I waltzed through life believing I had to figure out my life plan and strive for my own measure of success before I could offer up any real help anyway. After all, that’s just the way things are.
My experiences in Haiti have taught me more than I could hope to even begin writing down. A simple smile, hug, or whisper in the ear to let someone know they are loved by both Jesus and yourself can affect more change than we think. The beautiful thing about serving others is that it’s often a two-way street. I felt I took away more from Haiti and her people than I could ever give back. Their reverence for community comforted me, their vibrancy for life excited me, and their spiritual wealth in the face of material poverty challenged and convicted me. God placed a burden on my heart to challenge the notion that “that’s just the way things are” and share the love that He has so graciously gifted me with as many people as possible.
As we enter the home stretch of the holidays I want to challenge you and myself to light a candle in the darkness. Extend your love, compassion, and encouragement in meaningful ways that avoid withholding those gifts for only the convenient moments of life. Pause throughout your day and send up a prayer for what would otherwise be a fleeting view of another tragedy or injustice across your television or computer screen. The time to start acting out love is now and while that looks different for all of us just remember what could be if we all took to that challenge. “What could be accomplished if we lit not one candle, but many.”
– Jake Stebbing