Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Caring


I have people who love me and they do the most startling things, like bring me jelly jars of home-grown raspberries tied with a sprig of lavender.

They leave organic lollipops and McD's coupons on our doorstep, the modern-day sacrifices of the small fry set.

They watch my kids and make sure I have salsa on my birthday.

They dole out covert prescription drugs when it just has to be done.

They loan me books and give me paint that's too bright for them. They take me out on dates. They listen to all of the open shelving options and thoughtfully weigh in.

They care for me.

I read these verses more than a month ago, via Barefoot Church, and not a single day has passed since that they have not clouded me over a bit.
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals 
  I hate with all my being.
  They have become a burden to me;
  I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread out your hands in prayer,
  I hide my eyes from you;
  even when you offer many prayers,
  I am not listening. (Isaiah 1:13d-15)


Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sights;
  stop doing wrong.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
  plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

Is it possible that God covers his ears when we pray if we are not doing the work that is most important to Him? Back when I was even more clueless than I am now, did He hide His eyes from me? Was my religious church attendance a burden to Him?

It seems impossible.
I'm not saying that for affect and there's really no "but..." lingering in my throat.

It seems impossible that this stuff matters so much to Him.

I was never taught that what God expected most from me was to defend the oppressed. I didn't even think I knew the oppressed. The oppressed were in Cuba or maybe Detroit.

These verses about caring for the poor and afflicted, I guess I knew they were in there somewhere, but I was trained to see them figuratively, since that's the only option that isn't a life-wrecker. They weren't relevant today, to me. They were for those blasted Israelites.

If you told me it applied to my own sweaty self on June 21st, wearing my favorite skirt and cursing my hair, I would have said No, you're taking it out of context. It's not for me. Or maybe, Yep. God wants us to care for the poor. I do care about them. Those poor Poors. I feel so bad. Thank God I'm not one of them. (But for the grace of God go I! )The end.

I thought caring for them meant caring about them, and of course I did. Who's heartless enough to not care about poor people? I mean, poverty is pretty sad, right?

This caring about required little more than an occasional thought, hazy at the edges, empty in the middle. It was never a "Bring them into your home and give them hot food and drive them all over Timbuktu and don't ask questions" sort of caring.

Over the past couple of weeks, Cory and I have been privileged to see God work in some of the lives around us. To be an active part of His work is nothing short of drop-down humbling. It has been entirely unexpected and the sort of thing that breaks me out in full-body goosebumps - even on my cheeks. I'll be honest, the timing hasn't been the best.

These are strangers. Only, they're not.

Maybe that's the biggest part of God whipping our rears into gear - He's fixing our eyes so they see these "strangers" as our very own. It's not about trying to fix them or swoop in and save them. It's not about "what if they're taking advantage?". It's about caring for them in a tangible way, using our own human arms, our dirty, oil-burning cars, the wrinkled dollars in our purse. It's packing grapes into tupperware and allowing the most hectic week in the history of the world to get even dicier.

It's these small motions, extended not because we feel sorry or guilty, not because we're trying to earn something that was never for sale. It's because she's me. They're us. We're them. So they need something that we have, and we're starting to care. That is only God. Only, ever God. He's taking a sledge-hammer to all our big ideas and we're finding Him there in the dust.

Our prayer started out something like, "Make us care more". Now, we pray that in a year, we'll look back at these words I wrote and laugh at how we were only nibbling on the crust.

Today, we pray that the grapes and the cake, the four-dollar gasoline and the prayers will pile up until all there is to see is God, and his big, fat love for them.

Maybe He'll fix their eyes along the way and when they look back at us, they'll see themselves. They'll see that they weren't created to be charity cases. They're beat-up travelers, just like us. They're small and powerless on their own.

They were created, just like me and you, to give a rip about the things that make their Creator pound His fists and scream like a maniac.

30 comments:

  1. Caring matters so much.
    I can't imagine life without people that didn't care.
    Caring is a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Caring is sharing... Sharing in our common depravity and showing there's something bigger and better and lovelier than our sin; there's a redeemer for us all!

    Ps. Your words, I love them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. you do wreck me something fierce.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Farmgirl, you have the heart of Christ and it is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am learning so much along with you. How many times did I hesitate to give and love because I used the excuse to "sew into good ground". And often I judged their life styles,their ungratefulness and their not trying enough to help themselves. Good gravy, I am so thankful God didn't treat me that way. He used grace on me, in me and all around me. I am so glad He didn't give up on me when I was in full swing of playing church and trying to make Him into my image and likeness as I tried to remain comfortable. To really look at those around me and not be covertly trying to find the right moment to jump in and try to save them from their misguided ways. I am taking baby steps and the light is slowly coming on in my soul. To see them as He sees them, beyond the tattoos, hair, cursing, and lifestyles I used to run from, is new to me. And to realize that I may not be able to do everything for everyone, but to do what I can, when I can ,is all He is asking.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Maybe He'll fix their eyes along the way and when they look back at us, they'll see themselves. They'll see that they weren't created to be charity cases. They're beat-up travelers, just like us. They're small and powerless on their own."

    Yes, yes and yes!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's sounds like this week has had you hanging on for dear life. May He fill you up, so you have more to give. Hang in there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is an answer to my own prayers as I ask our Loving and Caring Heavenly Father to douse you and 'our family' in LOVE from Him and others sent by Him. I wish I could be the one to make the jam, or bring you Salsa or something 'peachy'... However, He is providing and soothing my soul to know you are CARED for beyond (me) and beyond (our) family.
    God I pray that my Big Sis' cup will never stop running over with Love and concern and care from those outside her own walls.

    ReplyDelete
  9. this post made my heart thump fast

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow. You need to get off my toes, sista. :) This very passage has been in my heart in the last few months as I've watched change swirl all around me and wondered where God was taking us. I think I have a glimpse of a corner of the life he has planned and nothing more.

    I loved that you mentioned the struggle, "What if they're taking advantage?" I remember a story my Mom told. They were in a much bigger city (we live in a very small rural town) and a woman approached their car. She had children in her car and she was begging for money to feed them. Mom and Dad normally would have taken them to eat, but didn't have time due to commitments so they gave her cash. Later, Mom thought to herself, "What if the money isn't for food for the kids? What if she lied and she'll use it for drugs or alcohol?" And Papa God said to her, "If she lied, then she's in worse shape than you imagined. Pray for her."

    The other thing that comes to mind is this. If I'm so full of the love of God (which as I read in the Bible is never-ending, never-failing, never-releasing of His children) and I'm giving out of that love and not out of works mentality or to make myself feel better or even to try to make them "see the light", but just for the simple reason of imparting the love of God, then I can't be taken advantage of...because I'm not giving Him and He never runs out. They can't "drain me dry" (as a friend put it), if it's His love pouring out. My own love can run out, but His can't. That's why Jesus said stay connected to the vine...so the love connection isn't lost and I run dry.

    Sorry for the novel...This so resonates with my heart and I may not have even realized it until I started typing! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. You are so right.
    Tears in the eyes, "I'm talking to you right now, too,"(says God) right.
    Thank you for allowing Him to speak through you as you are on this journey.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow. This is an amazing post. You are right on. I remember a few years ago, I was feeling pretty contented and then God put a great big challenge out there for me to tackle. I got through it and now am having that contented feeling again so I'm thinking Okay God, now what???

    ReplyDelete
  13. After reading that passage not too long ago, it was back to that sick in the stomach feeling. Was I doing that.....was He not listening to me? The very thought broke my heart! How could I be so clueless! Thankful for the grace that has begun opening my eyes and heart and life and pocketbook. Thankful to have friends to travel the journey with - Thank You for Caring! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm going to have to read this through a few times. Lots of good stuff in there!

    ReplyDelete
  15. your words that come straight out of your heart slay me....you make God proud girlfriend XOX

    ReplyDelete
  16. This brought tears to my eyes. Your words are beautiful, but even more so is the heart they're spilling from. This life you're living and describing is exactly what I feel called to... What we as Christians should all feel called to, but I'm still afraid. Maybe my prayer needs to be, "Make me brave." You're a light and a blessing! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love this and I love your heart and insight.

    You're so smart.

    I look back at myself a few years ago and see me "nibbling at the crust".

    I look back to my 36th year! I see myself begging God for "just one baby for us, just one, please." because at that time I really want "our own" baby, made of me and Brad.

    Now I see so much more. I was nibbling back then in my own way. In my heart I now know that we may even adopt an older child. Every few months, we become a bit clearer. I guess what I'm saying is that in my own way, I can relate.

    I love everything you've done and continue to do. And you're one million percent correct: As you're doing it, it's never the right time. Other things are going on, stressful things.

    Think of all of the great things you're teaching your little "charges" just by watching you and Cory.

    If I lived closer to you, I think I may have delivered some brussell sprouts in a mason jar. Perhaps tied with...you know it...gingham!

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  18. "...I was trained to see them figuratively, since that's the only option that isn't a life-wrecker."

    Love this post. Love the challenge. Love reading how you're leaning right into God's beautiful life-wrecking plans.
    I'm inspired... and praying.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I definitely wouldn't blame God for plugging His ears during a prayer or 2 or a thousand of mine. Sheesh.

    I'm completely obsessed with the Hutterites. Mostly because they drink and swear but can't sit co-ed during lunch, but also for the whole community thing they've got going on. I mean, I'm not joining the colony or anything, but what if the whole Christian population really was a giant community, taking care of each other? And what if we really became a refuge for the lost as well?

    Maybe we will, after all. It's looking more like it every day. Maybe being a humanitarian isn't for filthy rich celebrities or selfless saints like Mother Theresa. Maybe it's for me, too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sometimes I open my mouth with quippy rudeness I thought up out of frustration or anger or the crap that is clinging to my insides, but then something you have written or referred to comes to mind and I shut it again. I am so glad to get to read your blog. Do you wanna go have coffee? I'll be in Reno by tomorrow night. Will you be in the area?

    ReplyDelete
  21. caring for them really is very different than caring about them.....

    caring for them is loving them for exactly who they are and not thinking that we have any sort of power to help bring them out of their situation. It's loving them without expecting them to do different. It's loving them without lecturing them.

    I've learned anything that I now know the hard way...by doing it wrong a few times.

    I'm praying this morning that God crosses my path with someone to care for today.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I was in church from the time I was a baby(60 now) and I, like you, believed the same things your post talks about. Until. Until I began a fast Jan 2nd of this yr, while binging on books, such as "7","Radical" "Crazy Love" and on and on. I thought my heart would explode and I would run out of tears. Grief at times overwhelmed me. My eyes were opened, my heart torn apart. I stayed on my knees for a long time. Until. Until I could begin to see and understand. But, only a little. I still ask myself when reading the scriptures, "Have I lived under a rock all this time? God, how have I missed this?!?" It's like someone just added Matt 25:35, James 1:27 to the Bible.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well this is like a smack in the face to wake up.

    So good.

    ReplyDelete
  24. My heart is pounding. I know God taps on the shoulder from time to time, and I have to pay attention. I think he just tapped me again.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Lovely post. :) For several years now, we have been waking up to God's deep heart for the oppressed, the poor, and the needy. I am amazed at all that is happening and it's wonderful. To serve in response to our humble position as heirs in Christ through grace is powerful and fulfilling in ways we didn't know when our faith was focused on ourselves.

    Today, I was thinking about some friends I know who don't seem to understand it, and I am left wondering if they simply misunderstand grace and the response it births when our souls are set free from worldliness. Many people are soul-poor in that way, and it is a sad place to live. I am praying for them today.

    ReplyDelete
  26. this post is so right where i am. praying for a compassionate heart. praying as long as there's food on my table and a bed (or sometimes a floor and some quilts) in my home that my doors and heart will always be opened.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am going to be pondering those verses from Isaiah for a bit this morning. Ugh. They make me almost as queasy as the "I know you not" verses. Caring is something I'm good at, as a general rule. I care for strangers with kind words, genuine smiles, and ears to listen. I, too, have driven strangers all over Timbuktu without asking questions, but with a fair dose of fear and trepidation. Caring comes naturally to me, but knowing Christ more deeply seems to have moved my caring to nearly a compulsion. My kids just know when I'm going to pull the car over and pick someone up, or give food, or whatever it is.

    But lately, in the last few weeks I've grown a little weary. We live in a parsonage house and people know my husband is a pastor. In the last few weeks more people have called seeking financial assistance, and even come to our door for the same thing, and it has left me exhausted. Sometimes I don't want to answer the door. Sometimes I hide from those who are seeking out caring. Is it because they have come to me and I am more comfortable going to them? Maybe I like going to their soup kitchens and homeless shelters because I can leave them there. I am uncomfortable thinking I'm being taken advantage of. In truth, I'm angry at the thought that that's happening. Yet, does God ever get weary of me taking advantage of his grace? Does he plug his ears to my prayers when I hide rather than answer the door? I don't know, but the thought brings sorrow to me. I'm going to pray deep about it.

    p.s. sorry about my own mini blog post here.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You know I'm loving these words each and every one...especially the part about the oppressed being in Cuba or Detroit.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Love it. I was amazed a few weeks ago that there were only two people in community willing to just do something when we found ourselves in hard circumstances. One of them isn't even churched......posts of Fb posts but nothing that was real and tangible. I am so so thankful for the two, sometimes we need actions and not just words and empty promises. How often have I been on the other side and made someone ask for help? When they are already treading water, shouldn't I have simply done something?

    ReplyDelete