Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gospel According to Sarah McLachlan

I was sitting at a big, flashy conference when I first saw Sarah Mclachlan's video for World on Fire. My initial reaction was to be a tiny bit scandalized that a Christian conference would be showing a "secular" (that's what we call them, right??) artist. Nevermind the fact that I loved (love!!) Sarah Mclachlan and could sing all of her songs by heart, even the ones with the bad words.

The video rolled on and by the half-way point, I was wrecked. By the time it got to the part about the African slum with 800,000 people living in one square mile, it was difficult to breathe and I was in full-on ugly cry.


I couldn't shake it for days. I went home and dialed up some internet service so I could show it to my mom and we decided that maybe one day we would do a short term missions trip to Africa.

That was my only frame of reference for "helping" the poor back then: Spend thousands of dollars to fly somewhere for a week or two, then return to Indiana and resume my life.

The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some

Within a year of her video, we adopted Calvin. One more and Ruby came. Then we sold our house and bought one twice as big, for almost twice the money. No problem. We could afford it.

FOUR YEARS LATER we stumbled onto the online Radical series, taught by David Platt. Only then was I reminded of that video from all those years back. Only then did things start to make sense and our life begin to change.

I watch the heavens and I find a calling
Something I can do to change what's coming  

I find it both ironic and not ironic at all that the first true Gospel message I heard came straight from the beautiful lips of a secular singer. I have no idea if she knows Jesus, but her heart shows me that she just might. Either way, she's the one who somehow speared my heart with the truth. I didn't hear it from a pastor or a professor from my Christian college. I didn't hear it from the hundreds of Christian people I almost exclusively surrounded myself with.

I heard it from a girl with a honey voice who sometimes drops the F-bomb.

The world's on fire and
It's more than I can handle
I dive into the water
(I try to bring my share)
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
(Bring it to the table)
Bring what I am able


There have been times, on this journey of mine, that I feel strange about sharing these parts of our life. I have been accused of judging, or bragging. What I know now is that the Gospel demands that we get busy about the big business of taking care of our family in Afghanistan and Zambia and everywhere in between. They are ours.

We need to struggle and encourage and brainstorm together. We need to find the needy and unloved around us and when we do, I hope we'll talk about it a little, because there are people like me who would really like to hear about it. Bragging about taking care of the poor would be like bragging about brushing your teeth. These are things we are just supposed to be doing. Every day. No pep rallies or blue ribbons required.

I hope you'll watch the video and I hope it grips you to your core. I hope we all carry around the burden for weeks and then watch the weeks turn into forever.

After watching, I hope it is not four more years before you hear this truth again, but on the off-chance that it could be, I'll just say this: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27  And this: "If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion - how can God's love be in that person?" 1 John 3:17

The fantastic news is, in the seven years since I first really saw this Truth with my heart, the world has gotten somehow smaller. We know better now. We know that there are so many ways to get involved. We are more aware of the global crises of starvation, contaminated water, and human trafficking.

This is terrifying, gut-wrenching, soul-restoring, redemptive work. It's not supposed to be easy. But if we miss it, if we slink back against the wall instead of running out to the middle of it all, we miss one of God's central purposes for us. We miss the insane adventure and the pit in our stomach and the heartache and the joy and the opportunity to begin to realize that we've gotten it all wrong, but there's still time to do right. And we probably miss all of those things while we sit in church most Sundays.

The glaring reality is that I'm still not sharing all that I am able. I'm not doing more than I can handle. These are things that are on my mind and in my heart every single day. I'm wrestling and listening and sometimes, I'm plugging my ears and singing a cartoon song as loud as I can to try to drown it out. Sometimes, I'm pretending that I don't know. Sometimes I'm willfully ignoring the voice.

But the heart is a tricky beast. It doesn't unlearn truth, even when you kind of wish it would. It bangs it around and makes a racket-- you can't escape.

That's my prayer for me, every day - that I would not unlearn, that I wouldn't wish to unlearn. I want to care bigger and louder about His crystal-clear call and less about my silly self. I want to get more creative and infinitely gutsier.

That's my prayer for all of us, like it or not.