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Silken Sheets and the Dirt Floor

Silken Sheets and the Dirt Floor

Silken Sheets

I actually said it.

And, even worse, I said it, to my husband, right after reading and sharing posts from my sister. My sister on mission in India, who had just dedicated a water well to bring thousands of people living in abject poverty the most basic human necessity for life.

“Aaarrrrgh! These new sheets we got are so soft and silky that they actually fall down to the end of the bed and I have to keep pulling them up over and over again. This is so freakin’ annoying!”

As soon as I said it, the Holy Spirit pricked.

He should have knocked me off the bed.

The God of justice, the God of compassion for the downtrodden, hearing me complain about my silken sheets. Right after calling attention to the plight of those who are getting water for the first time.

The miserable irony of it actually makes me ill.

I’m ashamed to admit that it took the Holy Spirit to convict me that my silken sheet disaster wasn’t. And that, instead, it was the inside of me that was a disaster. I’m ashamed, because the statement is a perfect testament to just how I live. How most of us live.

As if our problems are really problems.

The Dirt Floor

My sister’s trip to India has opened my heart and caused me to see. And the truth is that we Americans – we Christian Americans – spend our lives not seeing. It’s the only way we can continue to live the way we do, when so much of the world lives with next to nothing. We don’t feel, because we don’t see. And as soon as we do see, we feel. And when we feel, things change.

Through my sister’s posts, e-mails, videos, and Facetime chats, I got to see. And what I saw was heart-changing.

 

  • The two dirty beggar children, who knocked on the windows of the door to get something from drivers, but who couldn’t be given anything because it would only end up in the hands of their “owners” and further contribute to child slavery.
  • The beautiful 16-year-old girl who came to learn how to sew, who sleeps on a dirt floor in a room smaller than my bathroom.
  • The 9-year-old boy living in the orphanage whose father would hit him with a stick, kick him, and lock him in a room and who, when asked by my sister if he was beaten everyday, he replied, “Yes, and blood would come out.”
  • The filthy toddlers whose bathroom in the slum was the top of a trash heap, and whose home was a fly-infested hovel made of plastic pieces and fabric.
  • The pastor who can afford only low-quality rice for himself and his family (his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter) because all of his resources go toward taking care of orphan boys in his care. Yet, when asked what his needs were, said, “I don’t have any needs”.
  • The dirt-crusted, low, filthy outside water spigot that served as the “shower” for a community of people, and the open pit with human sewage reeking filth and disease.
  • The 28-year-old woman whose mother’s new husband kicked her out when she was a teen, after her father died, and whose husband was an alcoholic who beat her regularly.
  • The 15-and 16-year-old boys who clamored to choose one of the children’s toy cars my sister had brought, because they had never owned a toy in their lives.
  • The slum children, with filth-crusted faces and tattered clothing, who crowded around to get their picture taken by a white woman. My sister found out that all of them were being sexually abused.
  • The 32-year-old woman who ate only one meal a day from birth until the age of 9, and whose primary memories of childhood were of concern for survival and her father beating her mother.
  • The woman, pregnant with her first child, who was sent to work as a slave when she was 10 years old, only to be regularly starved, and physically and sexually abused by her owners. When, many years later she returned to her village home, she discovered that her 14-year-old sister had been taken by child traffickers, never to be seen again.
  • The dozens of water jugs lined up in a row before the new village water pump, and the pure delight on the faces of the village women who joyously fought for the opportunity to pump the water out themselves.

Seeing

Seeing changes everything. It has made me sad. Angry. Overwhelmed. It has made me want to fix. To help. To give. To serve. To repair. To minister. It has made me feel shallow and self-absorbed and…

So. Phenomenally. Rich.

It has caused me to look, anew, at the spiritual struggle of living in a culture of luxury and comfort amidst a world of such poverty and suffering.

I believe it is a struggle the Lord wants us to continually have. Regardless of the conclusions to which God ultimately leads us, wrestling with the issue puts us closer to the heart of God.

Psalm 140:12 says “The Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus equates feeding the hungry and clothing the needy as tending to Jesus Himself. Scripture is replete with admonitions against ignoring the poor and prescriptions to uphold the cause of the needy (Isaiah 10:1-3; Jeremiah 5:26-29; Amos 2:6-7; Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27; Deuteronomy 24:19; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10). There is no doubt – the Lord requires us to see. And to do something about it.

But it so very quickly goes out of our sight.

In just a moment, in just the turn of my head away back to my culture and my life, and I lose it. I no longer see, I no longer feel, and I am no longer changed. I go back to my luxurious, mind-bogglingly rich life and go back to comparing myself to those few who have more than I do, and I rationalize that I’m doing the best I can.

I become the girl who complains that her sheets are too silky to stay where she wants them, while filthy children beg for food they give back to their owners.

God forgive me. God forgive us all.

Changing

It will keep happening to me. And to all of us. If we do not intentionally surround ourselves with those less fortunate than ourselves in an effort to see. If we do not make concerted, daily effort to compare down rather than compare up. If we do not make it a regular exercise to not just give to those less fortunate, but to get to know them and become intimately connected to them so that their situation breaks our hearts and keeps us up at night. If we do not, periodically, leave our prosperity and live for a while in the poverty where most of the world resides.

I don’t see enough, and I don’t do enough. I will start by reevaluating the time and resources I devote to the neediest of the world. I will pray for those in desperate poverty. And I must put myself in the position to visit people who live with nothing, because I know that if I don’t, I’ll stop seeing. I’ll stop caring. And when I do, I’ll stop having the heart of Jesus.

But that is not nearly enough.

I must pray that the Lord will break my heart for what breaks His. That I will not slip into my silken sheets without remembering, and struggling with, the fact that Seeta, and so many people just like her, will be sleeping on a dirt floor while I bask in luxury. That I will not complain about anything without first thinking about the hunger and abuse and slavery of so many of those made in God’s image – those for whom my worst day would be one of their best. That I will seek to give rather than to hoard, to bestow rather than indulge, and to empty rather than fill. I will pray that every moment in this middle class life will be an opportunity for gratitude at my undeserved blessings and a catalyst for me to deny myself and better others.

I want to hear, in every moment of comfort I experience, Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” I have a feeling that the magnitude of that verse should make me cringe as I slide into bed at night.

Because I am the one to whom much as been given.

Yes; I want to be open to the ways the Lord wants me to live less silken sheets and more dirt floor.

After all, He slept on the dirt floor. The dirt floor of life on this earth. And He gave us so much more than comfortable linens.

James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

If we give up the silken sheets here for the dirt floor, we get the crown of life for all eternity.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).”

Please, Lord, help me give up this shallow, temporary prosperity for luxury beyond my imagination.

 

VIDEO:

To watch a video of my sister’s experience in going to India for the water well dedication, click here: http://vimeo.com/65692627

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