She needed a place to stay. We have room. Well, when we’re not hosting others. What we didn’t have a lot of was margin. And as I heard more details about her story, something niggled at me. Our family’s weaknesses seemed like a poor fit for her very needs. When I got honest with myself, it didn’t seem something I could manage well, loving her and loving my family well at the same time.
But what I hate to say–almost always–is no.
I’ve written about my overcommitment before, and the true cost to my family. But it’s challenging when it’s not a bunch of nonessentials munching at the white space on my calendar. It’s people. People with needs; pain; longings; hope.
And it was then that words from a friend drove themselves home, settling in my chest: The need does not always constitute the call.
I chewed on this for awhile.
Sometimes the need does constitute the call! It jolts awake my slumbering, callous indifference. It pries its fingers from my tightly-controlled schedule. It presents itself at my gate, and I have a choice to turn it away or to welcome it in and share what I have.
It beckons me out of the boat, already, to live a God-sized life of courage rather than one limited by what I can see.
But not always.
One of the most disheartening slices of working in a developing country–or in any lifestyle of helping others–may remind one of Whack-a-Mole: as soon as you conquer one presenting problem with that big, furry mallet, another rears its taunting, plastic little head. The cycles of poverty–and at times, some of the cycles that bring suffering upon us–are systemic, intricately interwoven.
Opportunities, in truth, are everywhere.
I tend to be a “help, then ask questions” kind of person. But I’ve had a lot to soak up from my husband and his wise, thoughtful, probing questions. They’ve saved our family from a lot of hurt: not only to ourselves, but to the people I’m hoping to “help.” No more keenly did I become aware of this than when we were knee-deep in the adoption process, which we eventually, painfully decided against. While there is something truly beautiful and faith-filled in spontaneously helping–Here am I! Send me!–there is also great beauty in wise, well-considered steps of faith.
As he and I leaned against the kitchen counters, discussing this possibility, I had to admit to him that there is a sizeable gap between the person I want to be and the person I have capacity to be. My dreams, I told him, will probably always surpass what I am actually able to do.
Acting solely based on need, rather than considering whether or not I actually have the capacity, can actually reveal my unbelief. It’s as if God desperately needs me, and only me. It’s as if the Body of Christ–and God’s ability to provide–are not to be trusted. Rather than working from peace, occasionally I work out of fear, wringing my hands over problems–rather than out of faith and deep joy. I think more highly of myself than I ought.
At times it can be a large view of myself, and small view of God.
Now, I have edited this post nine times in the past two weeks. I have a healthy fear of undermining or throwing into doubt God’s perfect orchestration of circumstances. Far more, I fear giving apathy and laziness another excuse in our quite-human brains and stealthy hearts, always hunting a crafty reason for ourselves not to come and die. No matter how much we give, selfishness exists always as a profound pull. Jesus came so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Paul himself questions, And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? i.e., need is often a part of our call. Fulfilling your role matters. And Isaiah 58 exhorts us to “pour yourself out for the hungry”–i.e., spend yourselves on these people! Live poured out!
Still, Jesus’ words ring true: For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
I suppose the bottom line wrestles more with whether my decision for any opportunity is formed out of fear–or faith in the greatness of our God.