I’m not as fun as I used to be

This morning a woman named Tara, who I follow on Facebook and who I have really grown to admire although we’ve never met, posted that she was told she wasn’t as fun as she used to be. See, in her everyday life, she sees children starving and women traveling hours to get simple maternity care down in Haiti, and then she reads New York Times articles about hot-dog eating contests where the winner eats 65 hotdogs, and it is annoying and even repulsive to her.

And she has every right to feel that way. That disparity should bother her and us – it should get under our skin. And if talking about it makes us less fun, well then we should be less fun.

I live in an area where there aren’t just houses around us, there are amazing estates. And oh how I love them. Giant beautiful houses on multi-acre lots, with land and pools and ponds and horses. And I love to drive around and look at them, imagining moving our kids into a place like that. I love to imagine a day in the future when we get a pool, or imagine taking our kids on a grand beach vacation. I badly want a minivan with the fancy doors that open with the touch of a button, and every time I walk into a store all the lovely clothes and jewelry entice. There are things in our world that are beautiful and alluring and it is easy to covet what we don’t have.

Sometimes I can go weeks imagining and planning a future that has more, bigger, faster, nicer.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

And then I get home and I read this article about one of the ministries my friend Tara is associated with. Please take a moment to read it. Please. This is real and they need help. This ministry lost 9 children in the past 2 1/2 weeks, and they have a desperate need for money for ICU nurses. They don’t even need much, less than $6000. Please click the link and check it out. Together we can help them accomplish this.

And seeing that changes me. It makes me mindful, and some people would say not as fun as I used to be. But you see – the world has grown smaller and the hurting are harder to ignore. Because of the miracle of technology, I can be in the car, driving past the beautiful houses, and I can pull over and use my amazing iPhone to jump on Tara’s blog (or any number of other blogs or Facebook pages of ministries on the ground around the world) and I can see what their exact needs are. And I can click the Paypal donate link, and send money to relieve those needs right then. The starving have a voice now, and we have to close our eyes to not see them. We have to willfully ignore the little girl that weighs 14 pounds at 5 years-old. But when we look, when we really look, when we see them not just as hopeless situations but as opportunities to take care of the least of these as Jesus commanded, then the things we covet start to look a little faded, a little showy.

This stuff does bother me, and the dueling desires in me, the desire for beautiful things and the desire to make a difference around the world for Christ, they battle all-day-long every single day. And it makes me a little less fun. I don’t blog about Pinterest projects or cooking ideas, I blog about this stuff. Because it is on my heart and mind and it is something I am battling through. I have to mindfully, willfully ignore and combat the pull to materialism in the world around me. And I can fail miserably. There are still many days where an Amazon box arrives at my house full of things I don’t really need or I’ll spend all day researching Honda Odysseys (those vans are stinking amazing). And there are days where I take a slow drive past the beautiful houses, imagining owning something like that. But on those days, I say a little prayer. It isn’t selfless – in fact it’s pretty selfish and small sometimes. I say something like this, “Lord, this world is not my home. This world is not my home. Help me remember that. Please forgive me. Help me not to covet and allow me to make a difference in this world. Use me to rescue people and share your love and bring you glory. Please don’t let me be enticed by things I do not need. Please set my mind on things above. I know it sounds crazy, but please give my kids a fancy mansion in heaven with horses and ponds and pools and land. Let them draw the skies and dance across fields (without fear of snakes or bugs or allergies). I believe we want the beautiful things for a reason, we were made to want them and we have a future full of them, and for that I am truly grateful. Please help me to wait and to trust you that the unseen greatly exceeds the seen.”

It is hard to fight my nature, and because of that, I am not as fun as I used to be. But I wouldn’t change it. Because this is real and the world is small and the hurting are all around us, and we can make a difference around the world with just a click.

I did a little search for verses about materialism – and wow are they tough. They make it clear that this isn’t a “harmless” struggle – this is life or death stuff for our souls. Here are a few of the verses I found – and there are many more. Lord change our hearts and help us to desire what you desire. 

  • Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
  • “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” Matthew 25:31-46
  • This is the kind of fast day I’m after:  to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—  firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. Isaiah 58: 6-12 (Message version)

An update: The ICU Nannies were funded for the first 6 months! Praise God! http://www.realhopeforhaiti.org/?p=7991

10 Comments

  1. Great post. I’ve noticed many of the same struggles when I’ve traveled to parts of Africa. But I’m still fun 😉 There are many problems, many. And you are right to point out that we are so blessed in the US, it should break our hearts. What makes me most mad is the fact that it’s not mostly a money or food problem. There’s plenty of food, it just doesn’t get to the right place. There’s also plenty of aid money going to 3rd world countries, but it’s either given to the wrong people (usually governments or sometimes even to people who don’t honestly know what to do). It’s maddening. But our world is changing. I think the answer is the Gospel and the information age. The Gospel is the message of freedom from bondage of sin and the ability of every person to hope for a better world. I think the answer is (1) immediate help for the suffering now, this is (basically) what most religious organizations do now. It has to be local and every ministry has to manage the chain of custody the whole way. But the answer is also (2) total worldview change. It is helping women and minorities realize they are of worth because the Bible says so. It is showing people that humans are meant to work together to accomplish great things, one body, many parts. That it is good to have wealth, so that you can honor God with it and by caring for fellow believers, you are caring for Jesus. I believe it’s about training locals, and even more importantly, their kids, that the oppression of communism and religious dictators are not only a bad idea because they don’t work, they are evil because they undermine a biblical worldview. Freedom is a big deal to God, the Gospel is freedom, not just freedom from tyranny and oppression (though I’m convinced it leads to that) but freedom from the inside out. Local churches, local people, working together, in the power of the Spirit, to change their world “your kingdom coming, on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Reply

    1. Absolutely – great comment. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. It is about using what we’ve been given, about seeing the poor and acting in the best interest of those being served. Empowering and lifting up – freeing the captive physically but even more important introducing them to freedom in Christ and an opportunity for them to get an eternal perspective. Because we can help meet their needs but this world is fallen and our only hope is in Him and in His Kingdom. The total worldview change is essential. Great wisdom in your comment. Thank you.

      Reply

  2. loved this Jen. thank you. I struggle with wanting more too, I am afraid of being back in the USA because I lose my contentedness amongst all that stuff and advertising …

    ke mwen lou, men Jezi kenbe’m – my heart is heavy but Jezi carries me.

    Reply

  3. i just realized i didn’t change Jezi to Jesus in my translation – I guess that was an easy tranlation 🙂

    Reply

  4. Hi Jen
    Thanks for the follow up post to Tara’s. My wife and I are friends of the Livesays here in Haiti and I can assure you that she and Troy are exactly as they seem in their blogs – caring, loving, struggling with the difficult issues that the developing world serves up daily. But I can assure you that both Tara and Troy are fun when it counts – in interaction with family and friends they do know how to have fun. They haven’t lost perspective in some morass of hopelessness – you would enjoy their company as we do. But we all need to be prompted of the big picture beyond western materialism and what God calls us to do personally about a hurting world. Thanks for shining the light on that truth.
    John Meadth
    Pastor – Port au Prince Fellowship, Haiti

    Reply

    1. Thank you Pastor for reading and your comment. From afar, I absolutely love the Livesays. I hope to meet them someday. And I know that you are right, even when she posted it, I laughed to myself, because even from here I can tell Troy and Tara love life.

      I think it is a perspective thing. I also consider myself fun, and I rarely post something this heavy. But I have found I tend to get less response on a post like this (and less click-throughs to the sites I’m advocating for) than I would get for a lighter post. Whether it is compassion fatigue or just bad writing, I’m not sure. 🙂 But there is a marked difference, and I know what Tara was saying. It feels like people don’t want you to say things like this.

      This post is an exception, however, and I’m so grateful for that. This blog has gotten huge traffic and tons of clicks over to the RHFH site. I have been giddy watching the outbound traffic and I’m begging the Lord to use this to bless the staff and kids at RHFH.

      You guys are doing amazing work there and I want to thank you and tell you we love and support all of the ministries on the ground in Haiti.

      Reply

  5. I’ve only been to Haiti once, but I’ve been to Ukraine several times and to a couple of other countries. This article so convicted me. We live a very frugal lifestyle already. But sometimes I get caught up in comparing our “things” to everyone else’s “things” Thank you for the reminder that if people love me, my “things” won’t matter to them. And my home waiting for me is much nicer than the one I’m living in now. And the one I’m living in now is much nicer than most of the rest of the world.

    Reply

    1. Oh Jeane the comparison thing is SO easy to do, isn’t it? The time I have wasted in comparison is time I’ll never get back. I love that about people loving us, not our stuff. Well said. Praying that together we can “keep our eyes on Jesus.”

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Reply

  6. Hello! I absolutely love this blog post and I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written. Right away I noticed similarities between your message and what we’re doing here at 58: (www.live58.org). Live58 is a ministry dedicated to calling the church to live out the true fast of Isaiah 58 to end extreme poverty by 2035. It seems like the mission of our organization is something that is close to your heart, as you’ve written about here. I’d love for you to check out this video we call “Not Always” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uZV90fsoCY) to learn more about what we’re all about. We’d love to partner with you, as you encourage your audience. I’d be happy to talk to you more if you’re interested in getting involved with Live58. Feel free to email me at HannaB@live58.org if you have any questions.

    Thanks so much,
    Hanna

    Reply

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