God has been doing a lot with me in these last few months – challenging my perceptions on authentic faith in a variety of ways, from encountering a bizarre smattering of unfamiliar theological terminology that makes my head spin, to a simple wondering whether I’m really doing anything worthwhile to help the poor and needy… whether I’m doing anything to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. And with every day that passes, I become a tad more disgusted with my half-hearted efforts.
Some of you know that I live and work in vocational ministry, raising many kids that are not my own in a children’s home in The Middle of Nowhere, Texas. I moved far from home in an effort to follow God where He needed workers – and I was pretty sure that helping feed, clothe, and raise orphans qualified. I was quite confident that His face could be found hanging out among the “least of these”. But I’m wondering, a lot lately, whether my work here is also enabling a future generation of spoiled me-first Christians, iPods in hand, longing (but not for long) for new laptops and X-boxes and cell phones, owning salvation simply as “fire insurance”, and who will grow up to continue the ignorant idea that so long as I drop a buck in the offering plate on Sunday, I’m doing my part for the sake of the Kingdom, so aren’t I holy?
And don’t think I don’t count myself among those Christians. I love my laptop and cell phone… and my fire insurance, and I am guilty of selfish motives just like the rest of us. And He’s dealing with me. But I’m longing for the “how”. How do I show these kids that iPods are dandy and going to college is a wonderful gift, but its what you do with all these gifts you’re given that counts? The sense of entitlement is astounding in a place like this, and I struggle to find the joy, anymore, in the giving.
I’ve been reading a lot lately, and dozens of times in the last month alone, I’ve come across the feel-good sentiments about the joy of giving, the true gift that comes when you give, but I have to be honest for a second here because my heart is aching with emptiness over the blindness of the receivers. A kid who didn’t have a meal to eat or a bed to sleep in last Thursday is complaining today because his cocoa puffs are the store-brand variety and the game system he got for his birthday from the poor widow down the road isn’t the color he asked for, and where is his monogrammed gym bag, already, ‘cuz he’s been waiting for it for a whole week now. And this is bold to say, but I wonder, sometimes, if some of these kids weren’t better off when they had real-life in front of them, poverty and dysfunction and the whole mess of things… where the love of Jesus meant more than shiny new shoes and a slick skateboard.
And I’m disenchanted about what the point of all this is. How is this helping? I am keeping these kids alive, yes, and peppering their lives with scripture and smiles, but aren’t I also continuing the lie that will send them to their (silk-lined, consumerist) money-hungry graves? “Look and see, God really does love me, after all. I know because I got NFL tickets and an iPad on the same holiday.” And there are days that I can’t remember the message I’m supposed to be sending here, or how to do it by giving and giving to encourage greed and gluttony.
Jesus Loves You. Now pass the industrial-sized box of Pop Tarts.