A dear friend who I love and respect and look up to so much (I secretly want to be like her when I grow up even though she’s a little younger than me) posted on Facebook recently that she is reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. She said that the book is “rocking her world” and she’s been “gutting her house and making packages for homeless people”.
Oh wow! I want to want to gut my house and make packages for homeless people. I really do.
But I’m not ready to read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7.
Because I’m scared.
I’m scared of feeling guilty.
And not being able to do anything about it. Or not being able to do enough about it.
Two years ago I went to Africa on a mission trip. That rocked my world. You don’t go to Africa and not have your world rocked.
There was a little girl there who lived in the bush. The day we got there she was wearing a blue satin dress stained with dirt and grime and snot. And she was beautiful.
The next morning we woke up. The children ran back to where we were sleeping, on cots, under the African sky, with pigs and cows and goats roaming around right beside us. And there was the little girl who had on the blue satin dress the day before. Except that today there was no dress. There was nothing. Except for a pink towel that she held up with one hand as she ran and played with the other kids. That day the towel was her dress.
When I arrived back home it was December 3rd. We had decorated for Christmas before I left. When I walked into our house around 9 o’clock that Sunday night I turned the corner and saw our Christmas tree sitting in the corner. Decorated. Lit up. With presents already under it.
My mind flashed to the mud huts, the children digging for trash, and that little girl with her towel dress. I cried out in deep sobs. I fell to my knees. My husband, who didn’t go on the trip, just looked at me. He didn’t get it. Not because he didn’t want to get it but because you can’t get it until you walk on African soil. And even then you really don’t get it.
Guilt has overwhelmed me ever since.
I’m a black and white kind of girl. I want lines and boundaries. I want someone to give me very clear right and wrongs. So I think – How big (or small) should my house be to honor God? Should I really go on vacation knowing I could give that money to the poor? Is buying decorations for my baby girl’s birthday party extravagant? What about manis and pedis? They’re obviously frivolous. Then there’s Starbucks. And the bath I like to take at night even though I had a shower that morning. Or the food I overindulge on because it’s there and I can get a carload more in about 30 minutes.
Books like 7 scare me because I already feel guilty. The guilt overwhelms me.
I don’t understand how this whole world works in God’s economy. “Why me?”, I ask. Why was I chosen to be born in America? Why was I chosen to be born into my family? Why was I blessed with education and health and income?
It’s pure grace.
So for now I’m not going to read 7. Maybe one day I will. But first I need to get a hold of the guilty feeling I have every time I turn on the water faucet and the water’s clear instead of murky brown. I know guilt is not from God. And I trust God. Even though I don’t understand, I trust Him. So God and I have to get this guilt-thing worked out. Then I’ll be ready.