Something More than a Half-Hearted Love

I’ve got a weird feeling in my heart. It’s a lump of grief without tears, an uncomfortable tickle urging me to cough, a thick feeling I”d like to swallow away and yet when I try I find it lingers on in the back of my throat. All over my Facebook feed, I’ve been reading about World Vision’s decision to begin employing homosexuals in an effort to unify the church. Jon and I sponsor 3 children through World Vision.

Sigh.  Now what?

This question has been floating around my head since I first learned the news of World Vision’s change of policy. Do we continue giving to World Vision? Does their policy on homosexuality truly matter in the long run as we aren’t basing our family’s theology off of World Vision? What happens if I stop sending our financial gifts to World Vision? Will those 3 beautiful girls in the photos stop receiving services? I pondered about what I should do in response to this new information.  Surely, by partnering with World Vision and giving financially to their programs, I am loving the “least of these” … Right?

Figuring it was too early in the morning for such deep thoughts and wanting to ease my stress, I decided to check my email.  But doing so only made my heart ache worse, for in one of the emails I read about Wesley and his story.                                                      ( http://mad.ly/4bca94 )

Wesley ... wanting a family; waiting in China.
Wesley … wanting a family; waiting in China.

Wesley isn’t an orphan exactly. He’s an abandoned child. Left at the gate of an orphanage by his family at age six … no note, no explanation given.  Just a boy, alone.  He will turn 14 in August … at which point he will age out of the system, no longer able to be adopted, destined to live his life without a family.

After reading about this boy “whom no one cared for,”my instant thought was to pray for some other person to come love him. And then, like a small shockwave to my soul, I heard a whisper in my heart, saying, “What about you? How will you love my sheep? Are you willing to do more than give a little bit of half-hearted love?”

Quite honestly, my involvement with World Vision has been just that … half-hearted. Oh, a couple of times a week I pause to pray for Samanise, Manahel and Julian by name, if I don’t forget. Each month the money flows out of my bank account, never really missed.

Somehow it feels empty, this giving without engagement. There’s no cost to me really.  Even though I do pay out $100 or so a month, it’s rather easy come, easy go money.  I don’t even know the exact amount. I rarely think of it. I just pay and go about my own business.

How is this loving someone else in the name of Christ?

Please. Don’t misunderstand me or my heart this morning. Giving is wonderful. God expects us to give, even give sacrificially. I am grateful for those people who have poured into my life, often financially or materially, when I needed it. I believe whole-heartedly that God loves a cheerful giver. There is nothing wrong with financially supporting ministries and it is something my family is blessed to be able to do regularly.

Yet deep down I know that for me the act of giving money to World Vision is no more loving than giving away my old, discarded clothes to Goodwill is an act of love.

So why do I bother? Perhaps to feel better about myself? Maybe to convince myself and others that I really do care?

The Bible says that Christians will be known by their love. (John 13:35)  So why is it that most days I don’t feel loving? I feel a lot of things: stress over money, worry about raising my kids right, concern for the direction my nation is heading. But it saddens me to think I don’t really feel loving towards others, especially people who aren’t in my little world, which revolves mostly around me and my activities.

This year, my family has been working to memorize the love chapter of the Bible.  I’ve always enjoyed the flow of this passage of scripture. Normally, the rhythm of the words lilt along, leaving pleasant sorts of thoughts in my mind.

1 Corinthians 13: 1, 3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. … If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Not this morning. Today the words stung, prickling my heart, mostly because I know what love looks like:

Reid & Eli, Dec. 2013
Reid & Eli, Dec. 2013

It looks like my brother Reid and his wife Heather, who put money, time and tears into adopting Eli.  Now, our entire family is richer for this blessing in ways I cannot even begin to describe.

Uncle Curt in Uganda
Uncle Curt in Uganda

It looks like my Uncle Curt and Aunt DeDe, who picked up and moved to Africa to serve as missionaries. They left behind aging parents, beautiful grandchildren, and a comfortable life, simply because they know Christ and wanted to share His love with those who didn’t.

It looks like my friend Marcia, who I’ve never met face-to-face, but if I did I’d immediately hug her neck and tell her what an inspiration she is to me. Instead of just talking big about being pro-life on social media, Marcia and her husband are actually stepping out in faith by helping one young pregnant woman choose life by adopting her baby. (Here’s the link to her story:  http://marcia-underhiswings.blogspot.com/2014/03/happy-anniversary-were-having-baby.html )

Love isn’t half-hearted, and it isn’t empty either. It is action. It is involved. It is compassion and truth mixed together. While love isn’t all about fuzzy, feel-good moments, it fills the giver and the receiver up and makes a mark on the soul.

Because I know what love looks like, I am challenged to do more than give a little half-hearted love. I ask for your prayers as I seek for God to reveal to me how I can love others with His love.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 

When Mountains Don’t Move

He (Jesus) told them, “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matt. 17:20)

But what if we pray, and the mountains don’t move.

          One of my children cannot swallow pills. We’ve tried every trick in the book, bought several cool gadgets and throat sprays, and have even spoken with a variety of doctors and pharmacists while seeking for a solution to this exasperating problem. Nothing works.  The pills will not go down. Perhaps it is only psychological, but it is creating big challenges for my young teen.

I cannot lose weight. No matter what I do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge. From diet programs like Weight Watchers to medically-supervised diets like Medifast to diligently watching carbs and sugar while incorporating 20+ minutes of exercise a day … I’ve tried it all and nothing works to take the weight off my body. Hormonal imbalances caused by a medical condition and genetics are both partly to blame.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that age must play a factor as well. (In this particular way, forty is definitely not the new thirty!)

This past week, my child and I have both felt overwhelmed by our problems. We are hopeless things will ever change, and so we react to our situations from that deep, dark place of defeat.  It’s as if we are standing at the foot of a looming mountain, trying to figure out a way to get to the other side. And from our vantage point, it feels like trying to scale up a vertical cliff without a harness, rope or anchor to help make the climb.

Image

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

      Mountains are an expected part of this journey called life, and truthfully mountains aren’t necessarily a bad thing. When looked at from a distance, mountains create a lovely and picturesque landscape. Traveling a path that goes nearer a mountain still adds a certain scenic quality to the journey. And though climbing up a well-laid mountain path might be hard, everyone knows the journey is worth it. Standing at the very top, the weary traveler can look out with confidence, knowing the mountain challenge was conquered. Hard won victories give extra meaning to the traveling, and at some future date the traveler will have a tale to tell with those he meets along the journey.

But there are times when a mountain is right in the middle of the road you must take. There seems to be no path around it. There seems to be no path that leads over it.  All a traveler can do is work to forge a road that will get them to the other side.  It’s at times like this that believers begin to pray for the mountain to move.

My faith tells me that even with just the tiniest bit of faith, the mountains that block my path will move.  With all my heart I believe this is true. I’ve known mountains in my life that have miraculously moved out of the way with a single prayer. I can testify time and again how a little faith  in God, combined with prayer, have made the impossible happen.

But what about when the mountain doesn’t move? What does that mean? Is it because I lack faith?  Perhaps I’ve sinned?  My typical response is to fret and fume while trying to figure out why my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling.  As defeat sets in, anxiety and depression begin to control my thoughts and actions. A sense of hopelessness takes over and soon I no longer believe my mountain can be conquered.  Thankfully, God is teaching me a better way.

~I need to trust the heart of God more than the hand of God.~

     My faith is too often based on the evidence of God working in my life.  But what sort of faith is that? After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  A believing faith has to be more than a seeing faith.

~I need to remember that I am not ever alone.~

     When I pray and nothing happens, I begin to fear that God has abandoned me right there at the foot of the mountain.  Instead, I need to remember what Moses said to Joshua as he prepared to take the Israelites into the Promised Land,  “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)  Not only does God not leave me at the foot of the mountain alone, He promises to go before me!

~I need to believe God’s plans for my life are good.~

     God is showing me that in spite of the problematic mountains I encounter in my life, He still has great plans for me. My husband’s favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, a testament to that fact.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   A mountain I can’t cross yet does not mean God is through with me.

~I need to remember the power and the purpose in praying without ceasing.~

     My mountains definitely keep me praying, and this is a good thing.  One of my biggest tendencies is to neglect talking with God on a regular basis whenever my life is humming along without problems. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the Apostle Paul reminds believers to “pray constantly.” I believe if nothing else my problems serve a great purpose just by keeping me on my knees, talking to God and laying my burdens down at His feet.

     And this brings me right back to the beginning:  Sometimes mountains don’t move out of my way, no matter how much I pray. But when the mountain doesn’t move, this simply means there is an opportunity for me to move closer to God.