Many, many moons ago, (as my late uncle used to say when telling me stories as a child), I was at a cross roads: do I continue college athletics and resume my studies farther from home, or do I stay home and pursue something else?
I realize at this point there is an entire section of my reading audience saying, "Is this about her?", when you read about the college athletics, because a good portion of you didn't know me several jersey sizes ago. No, I was not a curling, fishing, or dare I say golfing phenom; I actually played college basketball and cross-country. True, I now only run when chased by wildlife or if I hear the dry heave of a child late at night in a carpeted bedroom, but once, many many moons ago----I did run.
I intend to resume running in the "summer", whatever that is here in Oregon, and not just because I have always wanted to rock Columbia workout gear like a boss. I know that running year-round here is certainly plausible. And I can still beat my hubby most of the time on the jump shot game at Chuck E Cheese.
But so far in adulthood, that is all I have ever needed those skills for. Yes, I could be using them for exercise, but I don't have to do those particular activities, although I do enjoy basketball. I have had thoughts of coaching girls sports, but so far I am busy with my own minor league home school.
So that summer, I had a choice to make. I was a forensic psychology major in my first year of college, away from home, and sort of hated it. I loved the people I met, I hated college athletics, and although I can solve cases on "Forensic Files" like an armchair quarterback, I just didn't have the heart for serial killers.
I tried. It still interests me a bit, how depraved we are without God and capable of awful destruction, almost like gawking at a car accident on the side of the road. But something was softening me, and I had a longing for a simpler, purer life. I didn't really care about having a career. I had met my husband and we were engaged, and God was pulling me ever closer to Himself. That summer, shortly after I got home from college, in the bedroom I poured out my heart before the Lord like I never, ever, had before, and He saved my soul. Where there was fear. . . there was peace. Where there was anger. . . there was peace. Where there was condemation before a holy and just and almighty GOD, there was now. . . sweet, sweet peace. And there was joy. "Joy unspeakable and full of glory", as the Bible says, as He took the weight of the world off my shoulders and placed it on His own. And I have never been the same.
My heart was so softened by Him, softened toward those in need. My name means "helper or defender of mankind", and I found myself enrolled in social work classes. I was a natural fit and my instructors said this to me often. But I can't take an ounce of credit for it. I feel, truly, like God gave me some discernment, simply to be of some usefulness to Him. And until He saved me, softened me like a potter pouring water over a hardened lump of clay and shaping and reworking it----I would have been of little use in a helping profession.
Participation in athletics, for all of its health and life skills benefits, has one unfortunate drawback: ME. It is about ME ME ME ME ME. And it helped swell ME to an unbelievable point of almost no return. I was sort of a big fish in a little pond, but I had never been outside the pond. And when the Lord saved me, it wasn't about "me" anymore. It is about Him. It is still far too much about me, I am very ashamed to say. But I could only see ME and my needs until He changed all of that.
My first "real" job wasn't a glamorous gig. I worked for $8.02 an hour for the Department of Human Services as a "Job Club Coach." I taught a class for those required by welfare regulations to get a job, on how to find and keep a job. I had probably two hundred people come into my class over that time, where I did the best I could, at 21, to teach them about a life I was just starting to learn about. In my class we did resumes and job interviewing skills, but we also talked about life. I tried to show them what I saw in them----that they had WORTH. I knew that they were beautiful people created by a God who loved them, and gave them gifts and talents and cared for them. But most of them could never see that. They told me stories of the most burdensome lives you probably, unless you have done social services, could even imagine. Abused as children, as spouses, and making mistake after mistake in an effort to deal with it all. I was young and I had heart and enthusiasm, and that still wasn't enough.
And yes, I was conned, and lied to, and a victim at times of the self-preservation of the desperate. One wonderful man I worked with said, "They don't lie. They are just mistreating the truth."
I realized that without God shining light into their own darkness, just as He had done for me, that they could not see. And I was in a government position that was not conducive to carrying out my duties that way. I couldn't do it that way anymore, watching hurting people and not telling them that "the hope that lies within" me is their only hope, too.
I had other jobs, more education, and eventually had my first child on my second to last day of work, and never looked back.
In that summer of decision, I felt I had let a lot of people that loved me and are loved by me, down. I felt like I had quite a few people wanting me to go on, to be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly bigger pond, and to become more of a worldly success. I had left a good private college and was enrolling in a community college, and my ego took a much-needed hit.
But in that fateful summer decision, I chose a path less traveled by. I chose a path to work with the downtrodden and the undervalued, and not until tonight in my kitchen did I see why.
You see, sports gave me confidence----in me. But working with the poor gave me confidence in Him. I was powerless in my job to make a difference. The only way I made a difference is when I relied on God to give me wisdom, and strength, and prayed for my clients (which I never ever did enough). I was sometimes in precarious situations where my safety was threatened beyond what I was accustomed to, and I had to trust that God had me in the palm of His hand.
And here I am, 17 years later, laboring beside my husband in a work where we are surrounded by the under-served poor. I feel like what God is teaching us is that our job is to live the Sermon on the Mount. To give freely, to love deeply, to get in the muck and the mire and let our neat little lives be inconvenienced by the needs of those that need so very much.
Isn't that what Jesus said to do? Isn't that what He did? He left a glorious heaven by His own choosing and came here, and He gave all,---all---- and looked to His father to provide His needs, in His ways, in His time.
Are we not to do the same?
We are to lay aside ourselves, give it all up and do it freely from a heart overflowing with love, not obligation. Not cold, self-serving religion that demands performance, but from a heart softened because of the realization that what little we do have is undeserved. That it is by His grace alone that we weren't abused, neglected, that we had a good education, the support of loved ones, and were born free in a free land, and most importantly (if you have been saved), that He saved you in spite of who you are and what you have done. That if we had to walk in the moccasins of the one before us, we might not have walked as straight as they have.
This is what we should look like, brothers and sisters. James said that "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." The fatherless and the widow have nothing to give us. It is to be a quiet, unnoticed, unrequited outpouring of God's goodness, (which requires our sacrifice), on those in need.
Someone is reading this and saying, "But. . . WHY are they poor? Can't they just. . ." and practically chiseling out in stone the rules for being Deservedly Poor.
In the sermon my husband preached two weeks ago, he said, "When I was lost and undone and came to Jesus for salvation, did He refuse me for the ways I had sinned previously, or refuse me because I was currently in sin when I came to Him? No----I came to Him BECAUSE I was in need, or I would not have come to Him."
In my kitchen I realized that 17 years ago, in a decision that many didn't understand and I myself could not see the full reasoning behind, that even though I couldn't see it-----
God did. And He had a purpose in it.
The greater purpose was not for self-glory, fame or fortune (although we sure did need my $8.02 an hour).
The greater purpose was to equip me for such a time as this.
Lord, please open our eyes to the hurting all around us. Help us to take our eyes off of ourselves and onto You and You alone. Help us to trust You to meet our needs, so that we can freely give to those around us. Give us this ability, and increase our faith.
Your prayers for all of us laboring at Hauser Missionary Baptist Church are appreciated. Love to you all on this Lord's day----