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.
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I’m praying for you and Judith. And for God to nourish our souls.
Thank you, Kristi. I’ve really been trying to wrestle this one to the ground. What does it really mean when I say, “God you are enough?” How do I live that day in and day out? Grateful for you here, walking this road a while with me today. And for your prayers. Thank you …
This is an amazing story, Jennifer. Judith is incredible. My faith? So flimsy and weak. Judith just makes me shake my head.
That, she is. Incredible. Earnest. Committed. Devoted. I’ve never met anyone like her.
Our pantries are full, and our freezer too, and we take all this for granted when the wind discovers a house where one lives that has nothing. May God grant Judith and those who suffer loss to find help to restore that which was lost. May the God of all comfort = = Comfort their hearts today.
Yes, Hazel… Praying that God ushers in His comfort to the people of Haiti. Thank you.
Jennifer…thanks for this story…this story makes me think of Ann’s story…the man from the concentration camp…all is good…God is good…to be stripped of everything that I might I use to define God’s goodness…house, home ,family, food…knowing God… who He is apart from all the stuff…a gift…one I hope I would embrace from His Love. I going to try to write for this link-up too…my coming to Christ did cost me everything family, education, my home…sometimes I want to go back to those days…only me and Him getting through a day. but I don’t know if I can write it by tomorrow…God knows…a good exercise for me no matter if I can hit publish or not:) have a great weekend~
I loved that piece by Ann. Brilliant. …
I look forward to your piece with the linkup. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Hazardous. It looks like a really great book. I’ve only read part of the first chapter, which Ed has made available through his website.
Even Jesus told us how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. What a precious testimony Judith is – needing nothing but Jesus, not by her words but by her life. Oh for a heart like hers.
I thought of that story exactly — the rich man entering the Kingdom — as I wrote this post. Thank you for drawing attention to it here.
Love you… xo
Absolutely riveting, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing this. Even now the Lord is opening up a “cyberspace” friendship across the world to me… one that speaks so similarly to me and makes me wonder as you do too… hungering for the Word as they do.
Your words so reflect my own thoughts this last year as He brings me into truth. We’ve been in my biggest trial yet in the last couple years, and it’s caused me to have to redefine my own Christianity, running regularly to the Word, seeking the answer to, “God, is this really YOU in the midst of all that’s going on?” What do my words and heart betray about who I really believe God is… when the stripping comes?? Thanks for putting the answer into words.
Wow. thank you for sharing such an intimate, touching story Jennifer. I’m honored to have it as part of the synchroblog today!
There is so much to learn about the bondage of possessions and busy schedules. There really can be freedom in simplicity. And even when life is hard, we can trust that we are not abandoned.
My thanks to you for hosting the synchroblog. I’ve only read the first few pages of the first chapter, and already my heart and mind are stirring with questions about what I really believe about following Christ. Your book is important, and I’m glad that I could be a part of this kickoff.
Praying that lives will be touched by Hazardous.
Wow, what an inspiration she is. So glad you have such a sweet blessing in your life, Jennifer.
Thanks for sharing this story. I reckon we each need a “Judith” to remind us about the real food of life.
Judith is a gift from God. No kidding. She just is. I miss her so.
Oh, Jennifer. Is that what she meant? Was her house destroyed? I’m thinking of Shaun Groves and his Third World Symphony album–the song “Enough.”
Please don’t give to me wealth or poverty, but God I ask only for enough, just enough.
I look around and realize I have much, too much. And in some ways I’m less content than when I had not much.
Please tell Judith I’m praying for her. I bought two necklaces and a pair of earrings from ViBella. Now I wonder if maybe her hands touched them. 🙂
Judith inspires me… You asked about her house. I am still unclear what she means, when she says the wind “discovered” her house. Her house has concrete walls — not a tent. But something happened, and I don’t yet know what it was. Language barrier is an issue. Thank you for praying for her, Sandra. And thank you for supporting these ladies with your purchase of ViBella jewelry! That business has been life-changing for these women.
Thanks for sharing the Shaun Groves song here. Love his music.
Oh. My. Word.
Spectacular story, Jennifer. Spectacular friend. Spectacular God. And spectacular YOU. Thanks for this.
Jennifer, please give Judith a verbal hug. I thought of your friends as the storm approach and as it passed, praying for their protection. I prayed for the whole island.
I would be interested in going if you ever have room.
WOW! What a testimony!
I’m convicted by the your words… How easy it is for us to follow God when He’s paved our paths with gold. Truly our strengths become our weaknesses, our weaknesses our strengths. I humbly acknowledge this truth as I seek to find His truth living this out in my soul.
I’m praying for Judith. May God lift her up. She’s building her treasures in heaven… What are we building?
Oh Jennifer…bittersweet. The battle of the western culture Christian. We have sooo much, sometimes it seems criminal. Yet we’ve been given so much…in order that we may give it away! But the more we have, the more we hang on to it. From whom much is given…much is required. Every one of us needs a ‘Judith’! to keep our heads on straight and our hearts set on The Savior. We cannot outgive Him.
This story undid me. Completely. The food. The real food. Judith is beautiful, a faithful saint. And I don’t know really. What would I do if I didn’t have my comfortable home, my pantries full? I hope that I would just lean on Him, praise Him, know that I know He is all I need. But would I?
And here is Judith. Living the Word. Completely.
Thank you for sharing this story Jennifer. Thank you.
And I am headed over to ViBella jewelry right now. And I am praying.
Love you friend.
God-incidence…heard a sermon,and now this..praying for Judith…inspiring…thanks for sharing, Jennifer…praying …
To have nothing, but to also have everything. You are blessed to call Judith friend. Thank you for introducing us to such an amazing Christian sister.
Wow, just wow. Thank you for sharing this.
Please keep us posted on how she’s doing with the hurricane. I will pray for her starting now.
Jennifer – He is our real food. I love that line – stay hungry for that truth. Your words always encouragement pointing to Jesus. Thank you!