Brace yourselves. This may be a long one.
Last week, Friday to be exact, I received an *ahem* not-so-sweet FB message from a "friend". You know, because all of my FB friends are close, personal acquaintances who I know very well and who know me very well (sarcasm in case you don't have a sense of humor). It was a response to something totally unrelated to orphan care...football, but tucked away in the message was the following statement, "When you're not making tacky remarks about football, your self-righteous duplicitous views of the world drive me absolutely insane." (Not gonna lie, had to google "duplicitous" to find out what it meant). Frankly, I was very hurt by the message. I was also angry...my initial gut reaction was to get all defensive. Thoughts like, "Who does she think she is?!? Or, how dare she say that about ME when SHE (insert critical thought here)?!? But then I went to God seeking peace and guidance about the message. Since then, I've been really praying and thinking about how I come across to people. Honestly, I probably seem a little schizophrenic. Here's why...
God is constantly convicting me of sin in my life. For example, a couple of years ago I was listening to a morning radio show and the hosts were talking about how they had given up their football passion because it had become an idol to them. I thought to myself, "Well good for them, but not me. Football isn't a problem for me...it's entertainment. I'm a fan. There's nothing wrong with that." But a seed was planted. It was kind of like the pea under the princess' mattress. I kept being bothered by it and it made me uncomfortable. So recently, I've had a real change of heart about football. I've realized I need to see it for what it is in my life: an idol. It's hard. Very hard. I grew up on football in the South. I love it with a passion. But I've been so bothered by the obscene amounts of money I've spent on it, the time I've wasted on it, the way I feel about the other team and how I see people mistreating each other in the name of football rivalry. Now if you have known me for very long, this is kind of a big change for me. So it may look a little schizophrenic when I have always been an outspoken fan of my football team, then I suddenly change my position on the whole football fanaticism issue. It may seem hypocritical to some at first. I can't control the way it is perceived; I just have to do what my heart is convicted to do. Obviously from the message I received that I referenced earlier, at least one person perceived that in a negative way.
Similarly, I have been extremely materialistic in the past. In fact, I STILL AM. Confession: I really like "stuff" and I battle with Satan every. single. day. over it. Sadly, sometimes he wins. Does this mean that I can't speak out against materialism? Does it mean that just because I don't have complete control over my own materialistic nature I can't challenge myself and others to do better? I don't think so...I think Jesus used people who didn't have their act together all the time. If he didn't, he wouldn't have anyone to spread the Gospel. In fact, he kind of uses the most unlikely people sometimes...the worst sinners, the least of these, and even people who started out as his mortal enemies.
The thing is, as long as I'm allowing God to transform my life to better fit with his plan (which is simply to spread the Gospel...that should be the entire purpose, the one and only purpose of my life), I'm going to be continuously convicted of things I need to change, let go of, and get rid of in my life. He's going to be cleaning out my closets and getting rid of the yucky. What is yucky for me may not be yucky for you. We all have our idols, but they aren't all the same. What is the same is that these idols make it impossible for us to love others like Christ needs us to love others. I want to do what God tells us to do in Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Let me be clear: the LAST thing I want to be is a turn-off to people in my advocacy for social justice issues and the importance of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves because of the yucky in my life. I know that sometimes my messages may be misunderstood because they come from a human heart...a heart that is not always pure, but a heart that is sincerely longing to be more like Christ and less like myself. I want the outside and inside to match, but sometimes it doesn't because I'm a work in progress. I struggle with making the outside match the inside DAILY. Who doesn't??? Even the most "perfect" Christians struggle with it. Mother Teresa penned the following:
"I have no Faith - I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart and make me suffer untold agony," she wrote in an undated letter. (Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2007/09/New-Book-Reveals-Mother-Teresas-Struggle-With-Faith.aspx#ixzz1EtjYNiYI)
The truth is, I'm a work in progress. I'm a HUGE mess. The people who know me best can vouch for that. I have maybe three or four friends who know the good, bad, and ugly about me. All of it. These people could tell you that I have sinned in ways that are TERRIBLE. Let's face it...we are all just big 'ol piles of poo...but God loves us so much despite everything we do to try to mess up our lives. I take great comfort in that, don't you?
So if that comes across as self-righteous, that is definitely not my intention. However, I know that skeptics will see it as they may. I will be misunderstood. I will lose friends over my faith. God promised that when we're living for him, we will be persecuted. 2 Tim 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." I would actually be more upset if I wasn't persecuted. I'm not saying I want drama to follow me around everywhere, or maybe I am...this is something I'm wrestling with right now...so I'm not exactly how it's supposed to look for me. I really just want to encourage people to think outside of American borders and have a more realistic world view, because it's a process that I'm going through and I see how much peace God gives me when I'm trying to live outside of my perfect little American bubble. More than anything, I want to challenge everyone, myself most of all, to think about what kingdom they belong to...earthly or heavenly...in every area of life. I'm pretty outspoken & passionate in my temperament (I know...shocker), so I really struggle with saying what is on my heart in kind of in-your-face ways. I really want to be gentle, and I'm working hard on that...knowing what to say, when to say it, and in what tone. I often think to myself, "Should I just shut up now? Are people thinking I'm that annoying, crazy, over-the-top person?" So I don't say anything when clearly I should. Then I get mad at myself for being silent. Other times I think, "I said too much. I turned someone off. I made them uncomfortable or angry or attacked." Then I get mad at myself for speaking at all. So saying too much or too little...I'm constantly doubting myself. I am schizophrenic. Then I see a picture like this:
This is not a photoshopped image. It is a real picture taken by Kevin Carter. It has changed me. It haunts me at night. It makes me wrestle with things that make me very uncomfortable.
It's a little girl, dying of starvation in Sudan, and a vulture in the background waiting to pick her bones clean. Images like this make me realize something. Being quiet is not an option for me. It just isn't. Even as I struggle with how to flesh it out in my own life, I will unapologetically advocate for human beings. This little girl had a soul. Who is responsible for her? Who will speak up on her behalf? If not me, then who? Can I really ever say too much about how much people in this world need us...aren't we supposed to be Jesus on this Earth? When I ask myself those questions I realize I really don't have time to bother with what people think of my "world views". Even if I seem a little schizophrenic. I won't answer to them when God asks me what I did for the least of these. I feel an urgency to be outspoken for them, and for that, I will not apologize.