Friday, April 18, 2008

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

The title of this post is taken from chapter 11 of Nancy Ortberg's book, Looking For God. I try not to flog books on here too often because I don't want Glory Rumours to become just another marketing tool. That being said, Nancy's book is most definitely worth picking up. I've been touched by several chapters, but chapter 11 in particular has really stopped me in my tracks.

I talk a big game in terms of having impact on the world and the importance of social justice as a fundamental element of my faith, but when the rubber hits the road, how often do my words remain just that...only words? Despite all of my good intentions and brainstorm of ideas, more often than not, my intentions don't move beyond words in a blog or in my journal. Read the rather lengthy excerpt from Nancy's book below and you'll understand where I'm coming from. First let me set up the excerpt:

Nancy used to work part-time at a home health care agency in Chicago. On one particular occasion, she visited the home of a Mexican woman whose husband had just left her and whose seven-year-old had been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (the topic of the move Lorenzo's Oil) two years earlier. After meeting with this woman and her dying son, Nancy left the house with great intentions. I'll let her take over from here...

"Almost on autopilot I started the car and drove just around the block, out of view of the house. Then I pulled over to the curb, shut off the engine, and just sat. And slowly the tears came. No sobs, although that would certainly have been understandable, just tears and a deep ache in my chest.

After a few minutes, my 'thinker' kicked in, and I wiped my face with the back of my hand. I fumbled through my files and paperwork looking for a blank piece of paper. Then I started writing. I had ideas. I could help. Others could too, and I know a lot of people who would be more than willing. Beyond tears I knew there were things that could be done, things that could make a difference. I was beginning to connect God in my thinking to what was going on in this situation. I could be a part of sharing the burden that the mother had been shouldering..."

"It felt great to connect compassion and action. The presence of God in this world, in the face of so much pain, has to mean something. It could be a powerful force in the darkness of this mother's world. the deep ache in my chest began to lessen just a bit as I filled the paper. If there was one thing I was good at, it was mobilizing people to get behind a cause. This was definitely a cause, and I became filled with hope as I imagined God's people in action in the life of this woman.

Now, before I go on, I want to ask you something, because this is important. Of all the things that I wrote down on that piece of paper, what do you think was the very first things that I did...

I'll tell you. I did absolutely nothing. I don't mean that I did absolutely nothing, and then I got started. I mean I did absolutely nothing.


Kind of disappointing and even shocking that this is the end of the story, isn't it...

I am not proud of the way I responded. But I tell you this because maybe, just maybe, you might recognize yourself in this story. Maybe there has been a time in your life when you saw a need, were deeply affected by it, and meant to do something.

Intentions are wonderful things. They are the starting points, the defining moments of our lives. But in and of themselves, intentions are wholly inadequate.

As a Christ follower, it's easy to mistake intention for action and stirrings for solutions. I sometimes give myself credit for being a pretty remarkable human being just because I feel angry about injustice, pain over suffering, or empathy in the face of hurt. But even the strength of my intentions is not an accurate indicator of whether or not I will take the time to act, to put my faith to work, to be the difference that Christ has empowered me to be.

Defining moments are only as good as the lifestyles they translate into...

So what was it? Was it selfishness? Busyness? Was I paralyzed by the scope of the need? The answer is probably yes - to all of the above. But now, years after the event, my best thinking on it is this: it matters how you live."

With apologies to Nancy and Tyndale House for the large excerpt, I have to say thank you for the brutal honesty. Thanks for sharing that same sense I get so often when my very best intentions all go for naught. I've cried real tears over the situation some people find themselves in, but rarely am I motivated enough to act. I want those tears to translate into action. To let others know that God is here, now, in the midst of pain and heartache, and He's crying too.

Nancy closes the chapter with this: "I have gotten to the point in my life where I am rarely surprised by my sin, just saddened by it. Surprise indicates that I did not think myself capable of such wrongdoing. I now know that is rarely the case.

Sadness helps me understand my need for Jesus. Sadness at my thoughts, behaviors, actions - or lack thereof.

Sadness helps me understand that without Him, I am lost."

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