The sky is dark and sullen and the rumble of thunder is constant and the threat of rain is looming. I rather like Sunday afternoons like this, it makes for good napping. Although, I can’t sleep. The weather seems somewhat indicative of how I am feeling. Overcast. It will pass. There is sunshine in the forecast; both literally and figuratively, I am sure.
Between the hours of 8pm last night and 8am this morning I read a book. It was that good. I am a discriminating reader, or maybe I’m just picky. I love to read and am hard to please when it comes to books but I have been known to buy a book just because I liked its cover. I love the smell of libraries and the way I feel while meandering through a bookstore. When people ask me what I miss most about the states I always forget to mention this but its one of the things for which my heart most feels an absence. I go through spells when I read a lot and then times when books are almost forgotten, when life gets busy and I don’t make the time. I have read many books and even when I don’t particularly enjoy them I usually purpose to finish them, just for the sake of finishing them but there are few books have truly captured me. These are the books that devour my time, that I sit down and read in a night or two. These are the books I recommend to friends and even find cause to mention to strangers. That list is small. Until yesterday that list included only four: The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz, And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Today it includes five; Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan.
It rings with similarities to the book, A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, that seems made the Christian Circuit last year. Both of these books address in one way or another the pressing needs of the impoverished and the marginalized. I say what I’m about to say in the least self-righteous way possible, and though I may not have known all the statistics on poverty, I have been reaching out to the poor and needy in tangible ways for many years now. I don’t say that to mean I am better than anyone else, I simply say it to mean that I was just already aware and doing what little I could to “do something about it”. I live in Haiti. I have read A Hole in Our Gospel and it was an OK read but it didn’t change my life.
I already have little compared to what people in the US would consider ‘standard’. I don’t have high speed internet. I don’t have cable or satellite tv (there is a TV in the common area but mostly only good for watching movies and I have a small 13” in the corner of my room that’s never even been plugged in), or an Ipod. I don’t have a car, hot water, or air conditioning. And yet I have so much more than most people in this country can even begin to dream or imagine if ever having. I have internet, a laptop, a cell phone, indoor plumbing, a ‘modern’ toilet, electricity 24 hours a day, and a 4-wheeler. And I can go down the hill and watch Discovery Channel (almost) any time I want. In most ways, I’m living the dream; and there in lies a great divide. Yes, there are people in Haiti (more every day it seems) that have one or all of these things but still the gap is wide.
I think Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle very well may have changed my life. I don’t know how yet, and it may only be in the smallest of tangible ways or maybe it is in larger less tangible ways, but it has my heart longing for something; something more. I am not claiming that I will one day sell all that I have and go move to the remote mountains in Haiti. Mom, there’s not need to fear. I’m not that rash. However, it is causing my heart to pause and wonder what it is that I am doing with what I have and how I can do more or at least keep doing what I am already doing, just more effectively. Sometimes I still feel so disconnected from Haiti- from real life. I may have been without running water for a week but the nearest place to draw water is just outside my room, from a bucket where we catch the rain. I know nothing of back breaking work as the very source of my existence. I may have mice, and termites, and mold but I know nothing of the daily more formidable foes of giardia, typhoid fever, and worms.
I grow weary of the white elitist attitude that follows me most places and the expectation that enters a room the moment I do. I get tired of being “stared at”, gawked at, asked and would at times just like to blend in and fade away. But what if I did move to remote corner of the island and build a tiny cinder block house. What if I hauled my water from the river and planted a small garden and sold the vegetables at market. What if? The tradition that my skin color implies unlimited resources would most likely follow me there. In Haiti, it would most likely follow me to my grave. What do I do with that? Do I stop living a separate life? Do I rid myself of the few ‘luxuries” I have that most Americans would scoff at that thought of calling them luxuries? I don’t know that that's the answer either. But I do know God is stirring my heart. The result of that is always something big.
Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle. Its a story about a man and wife, both white, doing life in Haiti. I could see myself in some of the places they described. I could feel myself in the some of the emotions they expressed. I understood many of the questions and frustrations they had. Perhaps that why it has affected me so. Maybe because while not in every sense but in so many ways, they are describing the life that I am living. They too are trying to figure it out.
Its a good read. You should go to a library or a book store and browse the shelves for a copy. And when you find it, grab hold of it. And when you read it, let it grab hold of you. It’s that good.
I’ll tempt with you an excerpt; its a prayer. (Following Jesus Through the Eye of a Needle, pps 146-147)
God, our Father and Mother; Christ, my Savior and brother; Spirit, hidden presence.
I love you because you know and love me. But I know so little of you, glimpses through Christ and mixed messages through the world.
I don’t know if I hold you at a distance, or its you who hold yourself at a distance from me. I need your intimacy, and yet everything I experience keeps you a mystery.
I am grateful to you beyond measure, my Creator, my every breath, my grace and mercy. I don’t know how to worship you any more than this—with my proud and deceitful and broken heart.
I give you myself—a pittance, but all I have. All I ask is everything. All I ask is you in return.
Christ, I find hope and forgiveness in you—or if I won’t, I’m doomed. Forgive me for my selfishness and hypocrisy, for my lust after so much that isn't it love, for so many hours and years and opportunities that I piddle away, these gifts I’m supposed to cherish and share. Lead us. Forgive us. Maybe we’re supposed to trust you, but you shouldn’t have trusted us. How can it be worth it, God?
In you, Christ. I find my light, though its awfully dark.
I pray for my sisters and brothers who are hurting unbearably tonight—that you would suffer with them, that you would stop their suffering, thought I know you won’t stop it all or even very much right now. It’s more faith that I can muster, yet there’s something in me that trusts you—or wants to so desperately that it resembles trust—despite it all, in the midst of it all, because of it all. I call out for you in rage and desperation and hope and doubt and tender love.
Call back to me, I ask. Call us out of our graves, like Lazarus. Weep a tear for us all again, and let us weep with you. Let’s all weep together for this beauty and this mess. Then come Lord Jesus, come and save us somehow, anyhow. And meanwhile show us how to save each other…