I am tempted to apologize for what feels like a rant brewing in my fingertips. But the lesson learned behind this rant came at a great cost to my heart. So, I don’t apologize. I will do instead what the psalmists do: journal their faith journey to help others find words for the journey they are on.
You probably know, we are “an adoptive family” as it is sometimes called. God led us to adopt from an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, in the months after their horrendous earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. Located only 25 miles from the epicenter, P-a-P was wrecked. (They don’t do building codes like we do here, either).
This adoption journey was a serious faith-tester for me. The adoption that was supposed to be quick, due to urgency in getting the kids out of there, turned out to be nearly 5 years in length for us (and some kids still haven’t made it home). We visited nearly every year for those 5 years. We stayed at the orphanage (now referred to as “The O”), visited the school, attended church. We lived the weekly life of the kids there. No running water, rare electricity unless the generator was able to be filled, which means no fans… and tropical island heat.
It was a physical endurance test for me every time. But it was even harder on the heart. It was so hard to leave my kids at home, the youngest always in tears. It was hard to leave Wesley (then Wisly) behind in Haiti, when I had to come home. I blogged some of those things back in the day. What I want to tell you about today, is something that haunted me one Christmas nearer to the end of our adoption journey.
You see… as I prepared for Christmas here at home, I knew the life that my other little boy was living. I knew the people who were feeding him, and caring for him. I knew that without some big donation, there would not be a special Christmas meal for them. And yet…. they were celebrating Christmas.
No gifts. No gorgeous decor. ( Wesley says that one year, someone gave them some lights to hang up). They DO have some pretty amazing music at church! Not only do they not have all the bells and whistles of Christmas, but they barely scrape enough money together to eat. They live in the poorest location in the western hemisphere. Let that sink in.
They live in the poorest location in the western hemisphere. They barely survive at times; sometimes they don’t survive. And yet… they celebrate Christmas.
This was haunting me. They celebrate Jesus’ birth with as much (if not greater, to be he honest!) joy than we do. And it’s just because they are so grateful Jesus came. Yet how much do we associate ease in life with “God’s goodness.?”
We live in the #blessed world. Where is their blessing? I started to ponder… what does it TRULY mean to be “blessed” by God. If being blessed by God means we never go hungry, we have enough money to pay our bills, our cars work, we don’t lose our jobs, we are safe, we are healthy… then most of the world is not benefiting from God’s blessing. Where is God’s “goodness” to all of the believers who do not live the life we live here?
I realize that none of us would say “to walk in God’s blessing means my life is perfect.” We expect there to be hard things. But we don’t usually consider the hard things a blessing. We consider the easy things, the fun things, the happy things… as blessings.
I heard an allegory once, that I will attempt to retell in my own words, that sums up so well, what all my months of pondering and struggle on this issue led me to….
There was a man in the Asian countryside, who one day found some horses had wandered into his yard. His friends all said “wow, you are so blessed to have these horses sent to you!” The man replied “we’ll see.”
Then one day, one of the horses kicked his son in the leg, and his son’s leg was broken. And his friends said “what curse has befallen you, that these horses have come?!” The man replied “we’ll see.”
A few days later, a violent group came into the village, looking to recruit young men to their cause. They passed over the man’s son, because his leg was broken. And his friends said “what a blessing these horses came to you!” The man replied “we’ll see.”
We do not really know what is a blessing and what is a “curse.” What if we were less focused on what these tangible things “mean?” What if we didn’t look to those things as proof that God is good? Because if that is proof… there are a lot of believers on this planet who don’t have any proof that God is good.
To make it modern… we find a car at an amazing price we can’t believe. We post to social media: Just found our car! #blessed
The car turns out to have major transmission issues.
What do you post now: The car was a lemon. #blessed ?
I do know that God meets my needs. I do believe that every good and perfect gift comes from above. But like the old man in the story, we don’t know what is the “good gift.” I live in gratitude for all I have. But I don’t want to say THAT is why I am blessed. I don’t want to freak out when the car is a lemon. I don’t want to lose my peace of mind when a job loss happens. Or when health issues happen. Those things all going smoothly are not “proof” that my God is good.
The proof of His goodness is usually most visible in how He walks with me through those hard things. Those are the times when I know, most confidently, that He is truly by my side.
And that is where I want to spend my hashtags. That is where I know I am #blessed. That is the kind of blessing our brothers and sisters in Christ experience around the globe. Why they celebrate Christmas despite poverty, sickness, and loss.
Semantics? I don’t think so. Because the words we use have power. What we repeat, we believe.
God is good, even through the heartbreak of a miscarriage.
God is good, even when my little son was stuck in poverty and danger for years due to a corrupt system. God is good, even if He didn’t subvert the system and get my son miraculously home sooner.
God is good, even when my husband loses his job. Even when we have to give up our house. (Turns out, He sent us somewhere better!)
God is good in chronic illness. He grows me, and changes me deeply, while He has me sitting still enough to let Him work.
People ask “how can God be good, when these horrible things are happening?” He is good IN them. THROUGH them. DESPITE them. BECAUSE of them…
God is good, all the time. All the time God is good.