Yesterday was an amazing day. It was a heart-wrenching day. It was a redeeming day. It was a day that I found myself praising God and questioning Him all at once.
And I think God is okay with that. He likes it when I ask tough questions because it gives Him a chance to answer them.
I don’t know who is reading this or even if anyone is. But if anyone IS reading this, there’s a good chance that you don’t understand what it means to have a “conversation” with a God who can’t be seen or audibly heard. I don’t even understand it. So here’s my awkward attempt at explaining it, or at least explaining what happened to me. It’s sort of a glimpse into my heart and the questions I asked, followed by the answers I found.
Let’s see: the day started with my previous blog post about perspective. It was great story from another blogger, named Rachel Held Evans. You can read it here. I found myself walking away from the computer with one thought on my mind: “THANK YOU, JESUS.” Thank you for giving me a life where I didn’t have to wake up each day and wonder which child to feed or if my son could be kidnapped and forced into war today. Thank you for the life I was born into and the blessings you poured out on me.
And later that day I took my children to a boys and girls club here in the city. This is a club open to children of all ages. As I stood there watching my own innocent children who have been blessed beyond measure play with these beautiful Cambodian children who have so little and are in so much need, one of the staff members quietly explained the “story” of each individual child to me. As I listened to these stories, I had to look away as I fought the giant lump in my throat and became conscious of the tears welling up in my eyes. For the first time since arriving in Cambodia, the stories were real. I was looking into the faces of the children who I’d been fighting for. The numbers and statistics turned into faces with little eyes looking at me with hope and little hands reaching out to be held. It was a life-changing moment. Each of them had a history I couldn’t even fathom.
Many of them who come to the group have no home. Numerous others have no family. Some of the ones with families were sold into the horrendous sexual slavery industry by those very families and later rescued. Others may still silently be living that life without yet being rescued. Several were living with HIV at a tender young age. A few are continually sought after as they leave shelters they are provided because they seek to return to this terrible life they were forced into at a young age – the only life they really know . None of them had bathed and all of them were hungry.
I wanted to know why. My “Thank you, Jesus” prayer became a question of “Why, Jesus?” Why does this have to happen? What made me deserve a life of plenty and them a life of none? How is this fair? How can God create all people and yet allow them such dissimilar lives?
I guess the look on my face gave away all I was thinking – the anger, the sadness, the hopelessness. The questioning that was happening in my mind was forced out of my mouth as I was asked what was wrong. I couldn’t hold in my questions any longer as one of the NGO’s staff approached to question how I was handling the day. I blurted out all I was feeling and I’ll never forget the look on her face as she responded.
She was smiling. How can you smile at this, I thought? Have you been doing this so long that you don’t notice their needs anymore? No. That wasn’t it. As I shifted my focus from the children to her – and her smile - I began to hear what she was saying. She explained that this was not a sad story. For many children, it was a story of rescue. Of redemption. Of hope. Of success, even. After all, many had left the lives they had before and were pursuing a better life. The ones still on the street at least had a place to go every afternoon, and a shelter as an option if they’d choose it. They had friends who were like them and a staff who taught them about Jesus. And that’s when Jesus’ words flooded my thoughts.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
I’d memorized these verses when I was in high school, and they came to me at that very moment. Today I found myself still thinking about them and I looked them up. Matthew 5: 3-6. My Bible then sent me to another passage: Isaiah 61:1-3.
“…He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting for the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
See, God doesn’t feel sorry for these people. I don’t think so, anyway. He loves them just as they are. Rich or poor, hungry or full, clean or dirty, they are blessed. He loved them before this organization began helping them. He loved them before and during the hard times of their lives. He loved them even before they were born. Isaiah 49:1 says “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth He made mention of my name.” This is true for all of us, not just Isaiah. God knew these children by name before their parents named them. He knew what life they would have and all the terrible things that would happen to them. He knew I’d meet them today. He also knows what future each child holds and what their future generations will do in time.
And though I have so much and they have so little, He loves us the same. We are all His children.
So I don’t know WHY some people have such a prosperous life while others are born into poverty, but I feel peace in knowing that by His love, we can all have the same eternity, an eternity with our Father in Heaven. If we believe.
And I can’t change the lives of each of these children. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can change ONE. And then maybe another. And another. And with each life changed, many more are touched in our time and future times.
Father, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And so is each child I played with yesterday. I thank you for every single one of them. I pray you change their lives. I pray that the people reading this blog are inspired to help change lives as well. Bless each child, and thank you for giving my own children a spirit of enthusiasm and a heart for loving others. Use me to change the life of one child, Father, so we may all play together someday on the golden streets of heaven, praising You.