There is a mother in Uganda praying.
I know she is there, and I know that she is praying.
I know because I am a mother, and that’s what I would do if I could not pay to feed and educate my children. And so, as surely as I am human, I can tell you that she is praying to God with everything in her soul to please, please take care of her kids. I know, because that’s what I do every night for my kids…and I can pay to feed them and educate them.
I have long known that there are other countries besides America. And I have known that those countries have poor people in them. Like, really poor people. I have known that there are children who starve to death every day.
I guess that makes me sad.
I say, “I guess,” because it’s not like I’ve been doing a ton about it. Oh, I sponsor a Compassion child. Who doesn’t? And I’m good for a few bucks a month to each of my missionary friends. Also, I am a sucker when guest speakers come from Healing Hands, or when Samaritan’s Purse sends a mail out. You can definitely write me down for $20 a mailing.
My friends, this is what we call a Token Effort.
And why has it been token? I think it’s because the problem is so overwhelming. Even if I sold every single thing I had and gave it to the global poor, it would be but a drop in the bucket, a drip in the vast cauldron of need.
So since there seems to be nothing truly meaningful to do, I settle for token efforts. Because apparently I view “meaningful” as “solving the whole problem.” Apparently, the metaphor of the old guy throwing the starfish back into the ocean and making a difference to “that one” doesn’t really resonate with me. Or maybe it does, and that’s why I have literally one Compassion child.
Anyway, these past few years, my eyes have been opened to this whole, “Kingdom of God” thing, this idea that God has a kingdom, on earth, that is made up of His citizens who do His will. And I’ve always known that this Kingdom is global, but for awhile, I had to just focus on the local.
I will never forget this time a couple of years ago, when I heard about a family, strangers to me but family in Christ, who were coming to Charleston with their severely ill daughter because she was having a surgery done at one of our hospitals. It was when the concept of the Kingdom was just starting to bloom in my soul, and their coming electrified me to an amazing reality. I knew instinctively that they were coming into my territory. That was back when I had first conceived this picture of the kingdom of God as a vast network, a spiritual map laid over the physical reality of world geography, a map of spiritual towns and provinces, of spiritual jurisdictions. When fellow citizens came into my jurisdiction, it was my duty to take care of them. I just knew. And so I did. It was such a joyful, meaningful time in my life to get to serve God in that way. I kind of felt like I was being called up to the “big leagues” in a sense, like I’d been handed an important assignment. I did my best to fulfill my assignment, and in turn, my assignment fulfilled me.
Fast forward to last fall, when I read Radical, by David Platt. Even though I’m not sure I agree with everything he said in that book, Platt did an amazing job of expanding my picture of God’s kingdom to the international level in a very vivid way. It set my hair on fire. And so, naturally, I…
…put the book away and vowed never to read it again.
I’m serious. I still have not given it a second look, to this day.
It just moved me too much. I was distrustful of the emotion that it stirred, because it honestly didn’t seem legit to all-of-a-sudden care so much about the whole world. It seemed like a passing phase. I told myself to wait, and if the emotions didn’t pass, then I would act.
The emotions didn’t pass, and Greg and I started to talk about how to act. We were kind of stuck in a quagmire, though, as our finances really did not permit much leeway for “charitable donations.” We started to pray for God to show us what the heck to do.
In response, He graciously relieved us of our mortgage and our gigantic electric bills and our separate sewer bill and our yearly HOA fees. He generously gave us a much more manageable house with much more manageable utilities. And on my birthday, He gave me renters to more than pay the mortgage on my old house, as well as a swift kick in the pants, via Kisses from Katie.
Reading that book refreshed my vision of the world, a vision started by Radical last year, continued by a close reading of the New Testament this summer, and bolstered by studies of Ephesians and Philippians this fall. My vision of the spiritual map overlaying the physical, of the cities and provinces and jurisdictions, is back…and it’s global. I know my local responsibility, but now I’m seeing the woman in Uganda.
I might not see a specific face, but I see the line that connects us, as two nodules in this vast global network (in my mind, the line is electric blue, in case you are wondering
whether to commit me). I see how she and I are connected. I know that God is hearing her fervent prayers and moving in the soul of one of His “rich friends” in America. “I have many people in this city,” God told Paul. “I have many people in this world,” God tells the woman in Uganda. “I have one for you.”
And the bell rings in my soul.
Over in America, everything in my life screams, “It’s time.” It’s time to fulfill some long-neglected civic duties. My civic duties are not to save the world or even to save one person, but simply to carry out God’s plans when He puts them on my heart.
They are on my heart. So I chat with Him about it:
It goes like this:
“God, I want in. You know, to that whole international thing You’ve got going? “
“You mean, My Kingdom?”
“That’s the one. I want in.“
“Good. It’s about time.”
“What do I do?”
“Well, for starters, you could take that money your parents gave you to buy that new iPhone for your birthday, the one you asked them for, and use it to pay for my child in Uganda’s education and meals for a year.”
And I realize that I don’t even want the iPhone. I don’t. even. want. it. All it is to me in that moment is an obstacle that stands between me and doing something real with my life. And I am not having that.
“What else, God?”
“You know those Compassion children you’ve been dreaming of? The ones that your kids will pick out, who are the same age and gender as Luke and Anna? The ones whom I love just as much as Luke and Anna?“
“Don’t you think it’s time to go ahead and help those kids?”
“Um, yes. Yes I do. What else?”
“After that, learn how to pray for the whole world every day. And then wait for your next assignment.”
Now, lest you (understandably) misread this and think that God and I were kicking it at Starbucks having this conversation, let me assure you that there were no external voices and no visiting angels (though that would have been nice). Nope, this all happened securely in the confines of my soul…you know, that place where God’s Spirit lives? I just translated the thoughts into a conversation…because I kind of think that is what it was. My husband preached on the parable of the soils Sunday, and so I guess that God has been using His Word and my prayers to till the soil of my soul so that when the water of Kisses from Katie rained down on it (this metaphor is getting away from me), a plant sprang up.
And so when the moment to act came, I was ready. (And so, incidentally, was Greg. For some reason, he likes and trusts me, despite my bizarre visions of maps of the kingdom of God). Now, we weren’t ready because we were good people. We weren’t ready because we had worked hard for our money and had selflessly decided to sacrifice for God. No, we were ready because, just as I hand my kids some money on Sundays so that they can drop it right into the plate, God stuffed some money in our hands and pointed us to how to use it.
And I was ready because my picture of God’s kingdom had returned. In fact, that’s really the heart of what I’m trying to share right now. When I think of God’s kingdom, it almost feels like a dare. It is a dare to take my eyes off my conception of the “big picture,” to take my eyes off my Excel spreadsheets, to take my eyes off my well-reasoned assessments of how much change one person can enact in this world…and to put my eyes on God. To be a citizen in God’s kingdom is to be constantly reminded that everything hinges on God’s plans, not my plans. It is to be lead to open doors and to be given the strength to walk through them. To be a citizen is to have the faith that I am part of a much bigger plan, and that through the good works prepared in advance for me to do, God’s kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Lord has a powerful kingdom on this earth, a kingdom that will one day reach its fulfillment. And I. want. in.
A mother in Uganda is praying.
And I click “submit payment.”