It is heaped with extragavant joy, and with tremendous pain, and I — a gape-mouth, tear-streak human being — bow in stunned awe. I don’t know what, yet, to do with the range of emotions stirring here. I do not think I knew fully how a human could experience such range within a few miles, a few minutes, a few breaths.
Indeed, I did not know that those depths and heights could occur so jarringly fast within one human soul.
Frederick Buechner once said that God calls us to places where our “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
I always figured the quote spoke about someone like me who had the financial resources, security and faith to go out and do something — with God’s help — to repair the abysmal rancor of this world. And I suppose that is part of what Buechner meant.
But I look at these people, and think this thought: Their hunger is excruciatingly deeper. So, too, is their joy. They are missionaries to me.
A friend of mine here said it this way: “Sometimes, it’s more fun to be dumb and ignorant. It’s certainly easier.”
But we’ve crossed a threshold, and we can’t turn back. We’ve made real relationships with real people. These are real human lives. This morning, a woman I met will wake up and put her feet flat down on a dirt floor and wonder how she’ll feed herself and her child. Chances are 50 percent or more that she won’t.
I might try to make myself feel absolved by saying something like: “Oh, but they know Jesus.” Which they do.
I might try to excuse myself from doing anything more by saying: “They appear to have more confidence in God’s faithfulness than I ever did.” Which is also the bold-faced truth. I have never been in a position to have to trust God at this level. I could then, perhaps, walk away to my cushy life and never do a thing, reminding myself every day that “at least they have Jesus. And that’s what’s most important.”
But Jesus is not OK with this.
He came to save people from their sins, no doubt about it. But he also commanded us to help the widow and the orphan and the hungry. He didn’t tell us how, exactly, he just said to do it.
He called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I met my neighbor. I met her just off of a rocky path, with her head, heavy in her hands, and she says life feels hopeless. She used the word “dark.” I met another neighbor at my hip, a little neighbor with begging eyes who wanted a drink.
I stepped back on our air-conditioned bus and took a sip of water. It was the most wonderful and horrifying drink of water I’ve ever taken.
This world, it’s a beautiful and hideous world.
The bungee-jump of emotion took us back to the orphanage, where we experienced the sheer joy — and slight chaos — of escorting 72 orphans to the beach. That’s 72 swimsuits, 72 sets of Crocs or flip-flops, and 72 little heads to keep track of. Then, a few of us raced back to the orphanage to hide 800 candy-filled eggs for the most rapturous Easter Egg hunt I have witnessed.
Happy-tears rolled down my cheeks as those children raced through their home looking for eggs, and as their “mommies” cheered and rooted for them, and lifted them high to find eggs in the high places.
Yet, tonight, they will go to bed without someone rubbing their back, or singing them a lullaby. And I find myself, again, in that strange place where the human spirit tries to figure out what to do with these wildly conflicting emotions.
Yes, it’s a beautiful and hideous world. And dear God, help me to make it just a little bit better with love.
(Scroll down to find a 20-second video of those children racing in to find Easter eggs. Subscribers, you can click here to find it.)