I have a friend who doesn’t know what a pantry is. She’s doesn’t have a single cupboard in her house. Or a refrigerator. A person would need to have actual food to understand why such storage units are placed in homes.
Her name is Judith. She wakes up most mornings without food. She strings beads and designs jewelry every weekday. She gets paid a good wage and is fed a good meal. Still, she doesn’t not know what it means to stockpile food. She would be appalled to see inside my freezer.
Almost every night, Judith walks to the cyber-center in her village, so she can tap out hope on a keyboard, words that find me here in my air-conditioned, comfortable, cozy life on an Iowa farm.
She sends almost-daily messages to me on Facebook, and I know why: She wants to make sure I haven’t gone hungry. She wants to make sure I’m not starving.
Full cupboards can be one way to actually starve.
She types words into my Facebook message inbox, day after day:
“I pray for you,” Judith writes. “Each day I pray for you, sister. Jesus loves you, sister.”
I shake my head in stunned silence when I read her words.
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I be doing everything I can to tell her that despite her suffering, God is with her? That she can make it, with the Holy Spirit in her? That I am praying for her? And this: That I have the means to help her?
But every night, she finds me first, with a prayer. Or a Bible verse. Or a small word of encouragement. My throat knots when I read these messages of hope, overwhelmed by the love of this one woman who knows what it really means to follow Jesus.
I know what she’s doing with her messages, even though she doesn’t say it outright: The woman with the empty, growling, knotted stomach wants to make sure I’m not dying of hunger.
Each night, as I scrape leftovers into a Glad kitchen bag, Judith walks along a rocky, litter-strewn path toward the cyber-center. She wants to deliver the Good News to me, a woman with a two-car garage, a full pantry, five kinds of cereal, hot water, fluffy pillows on my bed, twenty pairs of shoes, and more, more, more.
I write her back. “I pray for you, too, Judith. Are you OK? Did you get enough to eat today?”
The Facebook message indicator beeps back: ”Sister I love my BIBLE and this is my favorite food. I practice these verses.”
And I swear, it’s like she wants to make sure I know where the real food is.
My friend, Ed, co-wrote a book with Derek called Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.
Ed and Derek write: “While following Jesus brings unfathomable blessings and benefits, there is a very real surrender that must occur, a letting go of practices, possessions, goals—and even ourselves.”
I read those words on the night that a storm named Isaac blows into Judith’s village. For two days, I message Judith: Are you OK? Is your family OK? Did the storm come into your village? I am praying, Judith!
Two days later, she responds: “My house was discovered by the wind.”
I panic. What does this mind? Did she mean “destroyed?” I type questions fast, asking her for more information. But she responds with this: “with jesus everything is going to be all right.”
And then this:
“He is all I need. He is my everything. He is GOD.”
Out of my mouth, those words would sound hollow. I can say He is my everything, and I can sing the words to this song in the sanctuary, but what if it were all taken away? Could I say it then? I have to ask myself daily: “Jennifer, is your faith a mouthed abstraction, or is it true and deep? Is Jesus really enough for you?”
I know this: Judith has more faith in one strand of hair, than I do in my whole being. She lives out her words. And it makes me wonder: Would I need to get to the point of having nothing, before Christ could really be my everything?
In this “hazardous faith” that I am called to, my excess is the biggest hazard of all. I am the hazard.
Emily Wierenga said it this way this week: “It is easy to say I see God in the faces of my babies but would I still be able to say that if our lives were being threatened for going to church or speaking the good news or even just claiming to be Christians? Would I risk my children’s lives for the gospel?”
Sarah Bessey writes this: “I’m scared of my own privilege.”
I think that’s part of the reason why God put Judith in my life. To show me what it really means to pick up a cross, and follow Jesus. To show me what it means to live like an actual disciple. To show me that it can happen: a person with nothing can actually have everything. There are real, modern-day disciples actually living like they believe what the Scriptures say: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”
Dear Lord, I fall before you now, in confession of the ways I haven’t lived that. Help me live what I believe. Help me know that you are enough.
I’m guessing Judith will take a walk to the cyber center tonight, with a word for her hungry sister sitting here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But Judith, … she is the most free and bravest woman I know.
I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.”
To find out more about ViBella Jewelry, visit the website here. I am on the board for this organization, which provides jobs for Judith and many other women in Haiti and Mexico. Consider becoming a ViBella sales consultant by clicking here.