Most of the time it's true. There is a "high" involved in doing a good deed or giving to the poor. We can feel like a functional savior in someones life. We can appease the conscience inside us that knows we can't overlook suffering. The truth is we need to give, as Christians we are commanded to.
However, when you stick around a while, when the drive by missionaries go home, it feels different. It gets more complicated.
When you've given money to someone so they can buy medicine for their child and you see them take the money to buy something much less needed and noble with it,
when you buy someone a tarp for their leaky roof (because they were begging for it) and you see them selling it on the street corner,
when you see masses of little hands out, and little mouths shouting for more,
when you build someone a house and they steal your tools, the feeling changes.
At this point many people become disillusioned and go home vowing to only help themselves and no one else.
It can be very hard to know what to do because the need is still there. The suffering hasn't gone away. The lost are still lost.
We CAN'T ignore it.
We come face to face with the reality that this world is broken in a way that can't be fixed with charity, bubbles, shallow "conversions", and lolly pops.
I was reminded of this reality and those exact feelings today as I read a post from a friend living in Mexico. The friends that we will be living next to and working with ( and by "working with" I mean following them around like little missionary wanna-be apprentices ).
Check out her post here "Because Love is a Lifestyle"
As we load up our own SUV with extra blankets, toys, and kids clothes and head for the border I am reminded once again that giving can be complicated. We can't roll in like Santa with a loaded sleigh. What difference can we make in just one month?
I'm not saying we should never give things, money, food, blankets to those who need it, or would be encouraged by it, but I'm saying that helping is not always that easy. It takes prayer, wisdom, and some knowledge of culture and what the underlying needs are. It takes some trial and error and getting it wrong (which we have most certainly done over the years!).
Here's the reality of it...
Giving doesn't always feel good.
Loving doesn't always feel warm and fuzzy.
Money alone doesn't fix anything.
Can we love the hand the slaps us? ...or invest in the person who seems hopeless?
In fact, shouldn't we expect true love to feel like a whip on our back, the splinters of a cross on our shoulder, and nails through our hands?
So why is it that we expect giving, loving, serving to feel like rainbows and butterflies?
I want warm fuzzies, applause, and recognition. I want to demand gratitude and I want to see change. I am a sinner filled with selfish motives. That complicates my generosity.
When the candy runs out, when the rich Gringa's purse is empty, what do I have to give?
The answer is...nothing...but also everything.
I know the One who desires to give them exactly what they desperately need. All satisfying, soul freeing, eyes lifting, purpose giving, Spirit filling, adoption as sons and daughters.
What does it look like to love the unlovable?
What does bringing the Kingdom look like beyond the bags of candy, toys, and clothes? All I can do is look to the example and the commands of the One I follow. It probably looks more like joining them in their suffering. Something I know very little about.
Jesus gave people himself...not just some of his left overs.
He gave them hope that THIS is NOT all there is.
THIS parasitic filth,
this drug addicted neglect,
these hungry tummies,
these children without fathers,
this pain wracked disability,
these cycles of addiction,
those eyes filled with despair and hopelessness,
is not what we were created for.
Only the power of the blood pouring, tear stained, death conquering, scandalous grace giving, rescue mission from Heaven GOSPEL will ever break those chains.
What that looks like in each act of service....I can't really say.
Sometimes that looks like a shoulder to cry on.
Maybe it looks like a little girls lice filled hair combed up into bows.
Maybe that looks like investing in a child's life for years,
or teaching a young boy by example what it looks like to live like a man of integrity.
Maybe it looks like an ice-cream cone given to a child who has never tasted ice-cream, or a warm blanket, or a wheel chair to a man who needs mobility, or a fixed leaky roof....sometimes it means just showing up and trusting that the Holy Spirit is working and God has a plan beyond what we can see.
I am confident that anyone who sacrificially loves, forgives, and shows grace in a way that defies reasonable self preservation will tell you that there is no going back. It's the Good News gospel lived out....and that gospel is the very reason I live. That feels amazing.
So as we prepare to go...
I'm not sure what to expect, what to feel, or what to anticipate.
I feel humble.
I feel joyful.
I feel hope filled.
I feel a little scared and unprepared.
I feel totally unworthy to bear His name...but at the same time completely secure.