Today, we’re jumping into Chapter 9 of Richard Stearns’ challenging book, The Hole in Our Gospel. If you’ve never dropped by on a Wednesday before, my dear friend and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen and I invite you to join us reading and/or discussing this book. If you haven’t got a copy of the book, the awesome folks at Christian Book Distributors would love to give you the opportunity to purchase a copy for the special price of $5.00. But whether you buy and read the book or not, we welcome you to join the conversation. If you’ve written your own post about it, please link your post at the widget below. I really encourage you to read each of the incredible posts below, plus, I invite you to visit Jason’s site, Connecting to Impact, where he always blesses and awes me with his insights on the chapters.
And now, Chapter 9— One Hundred Crashing Jetliners
This chapter did a complicated thing in my heart. First and foremost, it convicted and challenged me to take seriously the needs in the world and my part in meeting those needs. But it also set me free a little bit.
In this chapter, Stearns explains that often, the needs that we see in the world around us are easy to set aside and get distracted from because they seem so far away. When the starving children aren’t in our own neighborhood, it’s easy to forget about them and focus on our own daily lives and needs.
I’ve already admitted that I’m really hard on myself. But this was an area that I’ve really beat up on myself. I’m what I refer to as a “chronic short term missionary.” I’m preparing to go on my ninth mission trip. But guess what? I get distracted, too. And I forget about the hurt and the dying. And then, when I come upon books like this or discussions like this, it’s like an electrical jolt of guilt. I say, “Sarah, how could you?! You know better!” When I saw that the president of World Vision struggles with this, too, I thought, “Oh, Lord, thank You! I’m not alone here! I can admit my failure and weakness!”
However, admitting the weakness doesn’t give me permission to continue to live with it. As my friend, Eliza says, “It’s okay to be where you are… As long as you don’t stay there!” We have to continue to move upward toward the standard that God has set for loving people, serving them, and meeting their needs. And the scripture that God sent me to was this one:
2 Samuel 24:21-24 NIV
Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.
Richard Stearns makes a great observation: “Our problem is that the plight of the suffering children in a far-off land simply hasn’t gotten personal for us.” (p. 108) And you know what, we like it that way because then it doesn’t cost us anything. When it’s far away, we can turn it off or tune it out. But when we pray prayers like, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God” (p. 109) it begins to cost us.
I can’t calculate the cost for you. But I can give you an example of the cost for me. The cost for me is being willing to open my heart, knowing that it will be broken over and over again. Let me close with a story from one of my Sudan posts from this summer:
“The New Life Orphanage was for orphaned and/or abandoned babies from birth to age three. And I’ll be honest with you—after spending ten days with sick, starving, and suffering children, I just didn’t think I had it in me to see any more of them—much less the tiniest, weakest, and most vulnerable ones.
All the way to New Life, I shuttered up my heart. And once we arrived, I stood back and watched the others interact while I stood there with my trusty, fake, ‘polite’ smile.
It was nearly six in the evening and so the staff was bathing the toddlers. As the staff finished each bath, they would diaper each little bottom and then send the child out to us to get them into their pajamas for the night. I stood back and watched Alanna and Sharon dress the kids. And once they were dressed, the babies would run to the toy shelf and begin dragging out their toys…
All except one little guy that the teacher called Kevin.
Alanna zipped Kevin’s pajamas and pulled his little sweater over his head and when she let him go, he turned around and ran straight to me, throwing his little arms around my legs and beaming up at me. That was the moment I fell madly, head over heels in love.
After a couple of tender moments, the little fireball ran off to play, but moments later, he was back again, hugging my legs and beaming up at the muzungu (white lady).
On that Sunday at Calvary Worship Centre, Alanna and I taught about The Good Samaritan. I thought I knew what I was teaching about. It turns out that really, I had a lot to still learn and Kevin was my teacher.”
It costs to make it personal. But paying that cost is what changes lives—including ours. My prayer is that God would help me to give everything and hold nothing back—even when it hurts. My prayer is that my heart would be broken by the things that break the heart of God.