Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I was looking online for salt and pepper grinders. Then we began our evening prayers. I remembered. I remembered how I had read about those in the Horn of Africa, living in a drought. Starving. I wrestled again. "What can I do?" We who struggle month to month. Who are living in poverty - technically - in our own country. But yet we are so rich...

What to do? I thought of different pockets of money we have left for the month... a little food money, a little personal money, a little money in case a birthday or some unexpected need comes up. All of this not adding up to much; all of this hard to let go.

It's not that we don't have plenty of food; we do. Or that I am not willing to eat less or not exactly what I want so that others may eat; I am. But I want to provide balanced meals for my family. The last little bit of money is for fruit for the rest of the month, our upcoming open house, and maybe cheese for Sweet Girl. How do I find the balance between giving to others and providing for my family?

And then the personal money. Money I have been hanging on to in order to make my wardrobe more modest, compatible, and more of my new sense of style. Do I give this up when it's an answer to a month long prayer... an answer to agonizing about clothes that no longer fit, are stained or simply OLD? I remember one fall when things were very tight, we had no money to buy a coat for me (not just a new one - I had none). My mother-in-law gave me $10 when we went to a thrift store together. I didn't find anything there, and that Sunday I put it in the collection for the homeless, feeling that they needed it more than me. Yet I still had no coat and I was cold! And I wasn't okay with that; I resented that I gave that money away. Where is the balance in giving? I know of saints who would continually give away money and items. Those things were given to them to provide for themselves, yet they gave it to the poor. But I am no saint, and I know God does not compare us or hold us to the standards others meet. What is His standard for me?

Which brings me to more questions. Why are we so blessed to have meat and cheese, when others don't even have water and grain? To have a home that is comfortable, roomy, clean, and safe... when so many don't? In this society of "more is better", it is easy for me to look around and see all that I don't have, but if I look at the rest of the world, I see how much I do have. Enter: guilt. Guilt because of my blessings. Guilt because I can't help. Guilt because I am too weak to give up more. How much does God ask to give? I believe it is different for everyone. So how do you know what that is for you as an individual?

In Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, it really helped me when she wrote about this topic. She had wise words considering it: "I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks... Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering." This has helped me many times. There is righteous guilt for our sins, but there is also guilt that Satan uses, especially on women. When I feel guilty for things I can't control, I give up trust in God. I put the responsibility on myself which is an act of control. Control belongs to God. It does not help or change anything when I feel guilty for the blessings God chooses to give me. Yet when I give thanks for these blessings, no matter how outrageous they are compared to the suffering others are going through, I give glory to God, live in Christ and therefore benefit the world. If I can do this, I can brings some peace into the world, which, in some great mystery, affects everyone in the world. It does not help to question God in His choices about who gets what. Only He knows and He knows best.

I am reminded of a parable Christ told about a poor man named Lazarus and the rich man. How, after they had both died, they received the opposite of what they had experienced on Earth. Lazarus - peace and comfort in heaven. The rich man - torment in hell. When I think of those suffering in Africa, I can't help but believe that they will be rewarded one day for their suffering. And I, who am without need, must desperately pray for the salvation of my soul.

I still don't know what I should do as far as my giving for this cause... what Got wants from me. I plan to strive to rejoice in all that I have, and give the glory to God. I plan to continue to pray for guidance and strength to obey, and to pray for those suffering. How do you respond when you hear of others' suffering?

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