Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blessed are the poor...

There are precious moments here when I know this is something to remember. I always think of blogging those moments but I very seldom actually write those blogs. So, I’m going to attempt to write one now. This may just turn out as random ramblings…but here goes.
Actually, first, I just want to share that yesterday the boys at Eagles Rising washed my car. Just out of the blue they offered. My car wasn’t even really dirty (which is good, that means they weren’t just at a point that they couldn’t handle having a dirty car around), it was truly just a thoughtful thing to do. Wow. Really blessed me. Back to my story…
I’ve really been seeking God about what are His ways. The Bible says that His ways are higher than our ways. That as far as heaven is from the earth, that is how much higher His ways are. But scripture also says that if we boast in anything, may it be that we know the ways of our God. So, His ways are so different and yet we should get to know them…get to know Him. I really want to know God’s ways. I’m increasingly aware that my ways are not His ways. And so this week I encountered something of God’s ways…
On Tuesday I taught a Kingdom of God class at ER….I have a whole other ramble about the revelance of Western curriculum in an African context, but I’ll save that for later….let me return to Kingdom of God class on Tuesday. We were talking about being citizens of the Kingdom of God meaning that we no longer live according to this world but according to God’s Kingdom. We looked at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 as being like a constitution of the Kingdom of God which declares how things operate in the Kingdom. So, we start to go verse by verse. I’ve done this before. I’ve studied out the meaning of each word in these verses. I’ve read books about them, sought revelation from God about it. I have spent years seeking after the fullness of the Beatitudes. And on Tuesday I’m sitting with these students from so-called disadvantaged communities in South Africa, who grew up in physical poverty, who have never had opportunity before to attempt “success”, who have not spent much time searching these particular scriptures just yet. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”. Blessed – a word meaning supremely blessed and a condition deserving of congratulations. God says, you deserve congratulations when you are poor in spirit. And I asked the students what the word poor means. The students answer – to be disadvantaged, to not have, lack, to be nothing, worthless. They have been called poor many times, they know they are describing what the world thinks of them. These students do not need me to preach a sermon about poor in spirit, paint a picture for them, and convince them of what this means. They have lived this word “poor” and they know the world sees it as bad. For a moment I wondered how to cross the hurdle of talking about why a loving God would want anyone to feel this, to know what it is to be poor. How do I say that God does not desire that physical poverty in their lives but He does want us to know that we are poor spiritually? The greatest “shame” of their life has been that they are poor and now I am saying to them – God says if you want all of His Kingdom in your life then you will come to a place spiritually where you know you are disadvantaged, you spiritually do not have, your spirit is lacking, your spirit is found to be nothing and worthless without God. When you have truly found the truth of how poor your spirit is and you know that you are completely dependent on God for your spiritual survival then you will have the Kingdom of heaven fully evident in your life. And as I say these words I know that I actually know nothing. They know from a deep experience what is being said in this scripture, I have such a surface understanding of it.
Then, comes vs. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” I ask them what does it mean to hunger and thirst. It hurts, it physically hurts. I’ve heard the students’ stories about the pain of hunger before. How your body aches and hurts as the nutrients in your bones and muscles are depleted. It’s a physical and an emotional pain. Ultimately, one knows it can seriously damage your body and kill you. And that is how badly we must seek after and fight for righteousness. If you are really hungry and thirsty you will do anything to satisfy it for the sake of sheer survival. It is a matter of spiritual survival that we ache for righteousness and pursue it at all cost.
So, then comes Wednesday and the new Old Testament Survey class I am getting to teach. We are starting to explore Genesis and I started the class with watching the video “Indescribable” about how amazing the universe is as a creation of our God. One of these amazing students who was so involved in the previous Kingdom of God discussion just leaves during the video. I’m wondering where he has gone and why is he not in class. I head out of the room in search of him and find him in the prayer room sitting at the foot of a wooden cross that is in there. He’s on his face weeping because he is so overcome with the presence of God. This guy who the world looks at his life up until now and says he has been disadvantaged, he has been poor, he has struggled, and has not been seen as having much worth. But the Kingdom of heaven is his…he is poor in spirit and God rejoices in that. His life is changing. He will study and he will have a successful and influential career and he will put down roots in a home with a family. I think…I don’t know. I’m not sure that that is exactly what matters as I see him here in God’s presence. I think he is possibly the richest person I know right now. And a waive of realization comes that possibly I am the disadvantaged one. I come from the land of luke warm churches as described in Revelation when God says that the rich church is actually the poor one and they don’t even know it. But as I stand here seeing this student of mine weep, I know that I am poor spiritually in a way that I don’t even fully know. I just want to sit with these students and learn from them. In one moment God has made all the wisdom and theology and philosophies or years of study in my life into foolishness (according to 1 Corinthians). In what way does any wisdom acquired by us mere humans compare to this? We have no idea what wealth and success and a prosperous future really means to God. We have so many preconceived ideas and notions that cloud our vision. I’m not suggesting all our ideas are wrong or that we must entirely change the whole of everything in our lives. I’m not saying physical poverty is to be sought after. I’m just saying that God’s ways are not our ways. And right now I know that the first shall be last in the age to come. I know that on a spiritual level poverty and hunger are blessed conditions. I feel like my physical reality of having all my basic needs provided my whole life gives me a spiritual disadvantage. While these students have always been told they are disadvantaged, I look and see my own disadvantage. I see areas where I will never fully understand the depths of God until we are all fully in His presence one day. I am so thankful I did not grow up in poverty. I am so very thankful that I have not felt the absolute pain of unavoidable physical hunger. But I see how God is full of grace and mercy and He has designed things so that what was meant to be negative in these students’ lives, He now uses for their good and for them to know more of Him. What an amazing God! And in His goodness, He has made them my teacher today. Coming from the West we tend to think we have so much to teach and give others. God’s truth is that others have so much to teach and give us. Help us, Lord, to be humble and give us revelation of Your ways so that we can get beyond our own arrogance. Lord forgive our arrogance. We know so little.


Blogger Makenzie said...

Jeanne---this was such a great blog. I'm going to be seeing you in a few days with the COTR team. I can't wait to meet you and everyone at Eagle's Rising! I am so excited for the time our team will spend there!

August 7, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Christina Truitt said...

Wow Jeanne! God has truly spoken truth into you. Thank you for this. This is just what I needed today and what I need to help so many of those I try to counsel. He is truly amazing!

September 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM  

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