Thursday, February 2, 2012

a greater poverty

I stand next to my sister at the sink.  She may not look like my sister, with her long black hair and brown skin.  But in all essentials, in Christ, she is my sister.   It’s a companionable task; she washes the dishes and I rinse them off, and we talk as we work together.  She tells me of what it was like to spend the night of the flood last July perched on the roof of their home while the waters reached to the door frames and her brother swam to rescue his elderly mother-in-law, and I tell her about the cold Canadian snowdrifts that rose to the door frames in my childhood.  We talk of her desire to learn dress making, and we laugh over my failure to sew zippers. 

Then we talk of housework, and she tells me that she loves to wash dishes, and I silently remember how nice it was to wash dishes in the hot soapy suds of my American sink.  I tell her that I like to see dishes come clean, too.  She then admits with an embarrassed shake of her black hair that ‘I don’t really like to wash clothes though.’  I quickly try to encourage her, saying that I like washing clothes, and that to make the drying and folding more enjoyable, I try to pray for the family members whose clothes I’m handling as I work.  

It’s then I’m bowled over by my lack of cultural sensitivity.  You’d think I’d be just a little more aware after 2½ years in this country.  She sweetly turns to me in reply and says that ‘it’s just such tiring work, scrubbing the clothes, and trying to get the stains out.’  I have a sudden mental picture of her, my sister, squatting at a tub of sudsy cold water, scrubbing between raw knuckles the family’s clothing.  In stark contrast, I envision myself effortlessly tossing dirty laundry into our automatic washing machine, spoiled beyond belief.

How is it that my sister in Christ toils hard over the washing while I push a few buttons? 

How is it that she should perch on a roof in a flood, wondering if they would survive the night, while I am cozy in my house, safe from all the elements? 

How can it be that learning dressmaking might mean the difference between not enough and subsistence for her, while failure to master sewing in a zipper is just a laughing matter for me? 

I have no answer.  
It was the life that God gave to each of us.   
He ordained, and here we are, next-door to one another in vastly different spheres.

And somehow this sister of mine, who labors long and arduous, who faces peril with no financial buffers, is infused with a joy that I don’t see all that often in my own life.  Somehow her radiant smile of contentment and trust in God outshines the smiles of many of her affluent western counterparts.   

How in the world could that be? 

Is it just possible that in a life jam-packed with challenges, her daily desperate dependence on the faithfulness of God has cultivated beauty of character that is worth far more than the luxuries of a washing machine and flood insurance and running hot water? 

God has lavished me with incredible luxuries.
Has He lavished you with luxury too?
But I wonder… have those luxuries done anything to cultivate fruit for His glory in my character? 
Have they increased my thankfulness, my contentment, my faith? 

Or…am I the one struggling with the greater poverty? 
For you say, I am rich,
I have prospered,
and I need nothing,
not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 
Revelation 3:17


Carl G. said...

Thanks for this thoughtful, wonderfully articulate, sobering and challenging piece. I sometimes wonder if my financial prosperity is more hindrance than help in following Jesus!

The Boys and Me said...

Thank you for ministering to my heart. Thank you for teaching me that the things I worry about here are things that the rest of the world can only dream about. And yet, you're right, they have so much more contentment and Godly joy than I do. Thank you for sharing this.

us5 said...

yes, Carl...prosperity isn't always the best why is my heart still so prone to desire it?

and thanks, Jaymi, for your minister to my heart through it! ♥

The Girls said...

I am stabbed to the heart by the realization of my own lack of appreciation for the richness of God's blessings to me. I pray that your words will move me to greater joy and thankfulness as I work in my sphere that the Lord has placed me in. Thank you for reminding me of my blessings! You're one of them!

us5 said...

oh, you bless me too, 'Girls!' God gets all the glory for any good here, friend...i stand in the greatest need of these reminders of His blessing...

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful - and so true. I thank God daily for His kindnesses, amazing generosity and grace - in view of humble beginnings and all that He has brought me through. Hank in Hot Springs

us5 said...

hi Hank! :) it's wonderful to see you here! thanks so much for taking time to leave a comment. love to you and Jane! ♥