Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Redistributed Heart

I would consider our family to be more informed about poverty-related issues in the world than the typical American household- at least, enough that it felt like we talked about orphans "all the time", phrases like "fair trade" and "slave free" were common to our children's vernacular conversations and worldview, etc.

Honestly, I thought about poverty all the time.  I was burdened by it.  I was always questioning myself.  Always wondering if we were giving "enough".  How much is "enough"?  It's all God's, of course, but, how much should we just give away?  Were we keeping too much?  If we give, where should it go?  I was always uneasy- children without what my children have in the way of even basic necessities were daily on my heart.

We do need burdens like this to mess us up, to keep our perspective fresh, to keep us discerning the heart of God.  But it turns out, I was burdened in ways God never intended.

Once I went and saw, once I'd been welcomed in to their homes, and most importantly, once I'd met so many beautiful people on this journey, something in my heart got loosed.

I didn't know I was chained until I was free. 

This surprised me.  It was unexpected.  I mean, it rocked my world.

It's not about the money anymore.  Not at all. 

I realize once I publish this, no doubt I'm going to be misunderstood.  All I can tell you is my own story- and that's it.  It's not about the money anymore.  Period.

I'm free from guilt about my status, my materialism, and the multitude of things I have.  Does that mean materialism has been erased from my life?  Not at all-  the daily walk of discernment never ends.  But I'm free. 

I have so many things they don't have.  They have so many things I don't have.  We need each other.  We need each other.

My burden before wasn't healthy.  It kept me worried, afraid of messing up.  Honestly, it paralyzed me from doing anything at times, I was so afraid I wasn't doing enough, or that we'd help in the wrong place.

The argument could be made that, instead of spending thousands of dollars to travel to Zambia and talk to people, I could have bought blankets, food, and shoes for an entire compound of people in need.  It's true.  I could have.  But they don't need blankets from me, some American woman 10,000 miles away. 

They need people to come and stand with them.  Someone to pour love and honor into their lives.  Someone to tell them they are beautiful, strong, vital to the world.  To tell those who don't know that there is a God who is for them, who has plans for them that are full of light and life and hope. 

They need to know that someone would spend all the money they have, just to travel to the other side of the world to hold their hand and to see them.

Presence is powerful.

And once that connection has been made my heart, and their heart, is made fuller.  We see each other.  And then, if I give them a blanket, it comes from a sister in love- not from a safely disconnected stranger far far away.  And my heart is open to receive from them as well

We are all just so, so needy.

A blanket can be stolen.  No matter what, it will wear out.  But an investment of true love, hope and empowerment lights nations on fire.

Our hearts were so broken for orphans- we knew we'd adopt if God ever made it clear we should.  And we still would.

But we want to be a part of a revolution that erases the need for orphanages and relief organizations altogether. 

That isn't easy.  It's not simple like buying 3000 blankets would be.  The work is messy, long, hard, and it takes a life commitment.  The results are priceless, but not quantifiable.  It provokes what Shane Claiborne calls the "tension between efficiency and faithfulness".  It doesn't make you feel good and satisfied like you've done your part.  It wrecks you for life, and it's beautiful.

I encountered true religion in Zambia, and I will never be the same.  I saw examples of sacrificial love and community that I ache for in my own life.  I saw something so beautiful in the hearts of my brothers and sisters there- and I need them to teach me.  I'm humbled they'd invite me in.  I'll greedily take up all they want to give me.

I don't see an impossible chasm between us anymore.  I just see hope. 

I see that redistribution doesn't have to be complicated.  We just need to live with one another, serve with one another, to daily hold one another up.  And then I think we'll find the redistribution of riches- theirs and ours- will happen quite naturally on it's own.

I first read this book several years ago, and I worked through it again this week.  With everything that's swelling in my heart since returning home, it's been one solid affirmation after another.  I never could have fully grasped this before my time in Zambia...
"Simplicity is meaningful only inasmuch as it is grounded in love, authentic relationships, and interdependence.  Redistribution then springs naturally out of our rebirth, from a vision of family that is larger than biology or nationalism.  As we consider what it means to be "born again," as the evangelical jargon goes, we must ask what it means to be born again into a family in which our sisters and brothers are starving to death.  Then we begin to see why rebirth and redistribution are inextricably bound up in one another, as a growing number of evangelicals have come to proclaim. It also becomes scandalous for the church to spend money on windows and buildings when some family members don't even have water.  Welcome to the dysfunctional family of Yahweh.

So it's important to understand that redistribution comes from community, not before community.  Redistribution is not a prescription for community.  Redistribution is a description of what happens when people fall in love with each other across class lines."

-Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, p. 163

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I'm feeling really frustrated from all of this. I haven't been and seen and experienced. I'm sure you've already planned posts about this, but what should I do? I don't know. I want a simple answer, which I know doesn't exist, but I feel an overwhelming guilt about it all - that I don't know what you know, but somehow should and I should do something, but what?