when you want the first step in fixing a broken world
I don’t know really how to come back to this space.
What to write about, what to say, what doesn’t sound flippant, indifferent… negligent.
When our Compassion team debriefed on our last night in Guatemala, each of us were asked to share the one image we would take home, share one word picture that encapsulated our experience. I couldn’t speak. I had no words. Just this weight in my chest, all busted up. What I felt just kept trickling down my cheeks. I kept staring up at the ceiling, the light, trying to keep everything from spilling down.
Shaun asked me before we all left the table, “Are you sure, Ann? Anything at all? Say…. something?”
I could only shake my head. No parting the lips, lest everything leak away. Just keep everything sealed, hold on to it all, so nothing leaks away, so no one can get in to all that’s happening on the inside. No. No words. Nothing to say.
What is there to say?
I whispered it through tears to a Compassion team member as we flew home, “I feel like in giving voice to those who have no voice —- I have lost my voice.”
How do I return to my quiet, humble stories — when the world has desperate, urgent stories to tell?
Telling my stories now seems — wrong.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel so —- hushed.
I come home to the farmhouse, to the fields, to this family. I open the mail. I find a pair of socks. Two pairs of socks. Pink. Striped. Soft. From Elizabeth.
Beautiful Elizabeth who had written weeks ago about Priorities Unseen, Elizabeth who said she had: “five children, two of whom are more challenging than most (one with down syndrome, one with cerebral palsy, on oxygen, feeding tube and all) and I have cancer, which we continue to battle — for the moment.”
Elizabeth has knit me socks. Prayer socks. One prayer per stitch. Nine thousand six hundred stitches per sock — plus the heel and toe. So nine thousand six hundred prayers per sock — plus the heel and toe. Four socks — forty thousand prayers.
It is my first day home from shanties and dumps and squatter towns. I slip on Elizabeth’s socks. I remember laughter. I remember smiles. I remember the holding on and the silky black hair.
I open emails. I find letters from families who have made the decision to change the world and sponsor one more child through Compassion. I smile, brim. Heroes! Co-labourers with God, making miracles! Wonder!
I read words from missionaries living out Christ in lonely shacks around the world. Notes from homeschooling mamas who have started orphanages several continents away. Of parents who have adopted from Ethiopia and Guatemala and China and who have made their hearts big and lives humble, of women who serve in food banks, of fathers who plant churches in poor communities, of families who begin letter-writing ministries. I pray, moved. I give thanks, marvel. I see people fixing the world in Christ, right where they are, however they are, doing something to reach in a million ways all around the world.
I cheer! Saints! All!
I read words of women overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness, a sickening sense of what in the world can I even do, a reality of having little to give and feeling the need so great. I nod, understanding. Quieted.
How do we do this?
I curl my striped feet up under me, write a letter back. I tell him people read his story at (in)courage and more than a hundred children were sponsored because hearts on the other side of the screen wanted children to grow up to be like him.
His response blinks back on the screen:
“I am glad to know because I am encouraged to continue making a difference in my country and thus be able to give GLORY TO GOD, MY FATHER BEAUTIFUL …!!!”
I am warmed right through, from striped toes to heart. I can’t stop smiling, blinking it all back.
I think this is the thing: We do something to make a difference — in our country, in our world, in any way we can, — for even the smallest can be made large by God — all for the glory of God.
I think of Elizabeth and five children and stage three cancer and knitting prayer socks. Doing something. Even from a bed.
I walk through the day and I think of impoverished children on dirt floors and rats that scurry over feet and the fermented bottle always to the lips draining all the life away.
And I remember light in their eyes and the smiles that tugged and when I close my eyes— I can hear the laughter of Guatemala, the laughter of the children that danced to the love of God experienced anywhere, everywhere.
Experiencing God anywhere, everywhere. Now. We who are loved much — serve much.
I can always hear their laughter, church halls ringing with their laughter.
And listening to happy memories reverberating off inner walls cracked, I realize I don’t need a voice, I don’t need to know what to say, what to do. Maybe that isn’t the first step for any of us. Maybe something else comes first. I wiggle my toes in socks.
Maybe before doing, before speaking — maybe we first need to listen — fervently, faithfully listen.
Listen, so that “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
God will be the voice that draws near, that whispers right into the ear, warm and close, “This Child, this is the work I have for you in the world, to change the world, to love this one heart, and this one heart, and this one heart. Do this and do it with a love. For this is your work that will ripple out into eternity.”
Listen — and then do.
I have loved until it aches, and found that the love consumes the ache, so there is only love — much more love.
I have lost my voice — and I have found His. “This is the way; walk in it.”
I am going to be okay; it’s all going to be okay and I remember why all is well.
“For the Author has written Himself into the Story and now walks with us until the Story is finished in His time, in His Way, for His Honor and His glory. All is well.” (~Peretti)
I have twenty thousand prayers on the feet and I walk out into a whole new and broken way of being and living and giving. Walk out into a world that is hurting and can only be healed by His stripes.
I wear love and I listen and speak fewer words and I walk. I walk.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~Isa. 30:21
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