Thursday, May 10, 2012

On mercy (and being lazy)

I think I might officially be the laziest blogger in the world (or just badly in need of inspiration).  But in the meantime, there's this (what I wrote for my church's mercy newsletter):

When I was 17, I held a dying child.

 I was in Haiti, my first trip out of the country, at a Catholic orphanage that was understaffed and overcrowded. 

 There wasn’t really much we could “do” in the conventional sense of the word.  We couldn’t feed these children or clothe them or adopt them.  We were there for only a few hours, a fraction of our week in the country, just to see and play and touch.  To have our eyes opened and our hearts expanded. 

These beautiful children wanted nothing more than physical contact.  So I held a 3-year old boy dying of AIDS, so small he looked half his age.  He didn’t make a sound; he just held up his hands to me.  I don’t remember his name, but I remember the feel of his frail body in my arms.

 And then we left, and that precious child, image-bearer of God, probably didn’t live another six months.

 I returned from that trip forever changed.  And angry.  Angry that I couldn’t fix it.  That I couldn’t even save one child. 

All grown up, I still get angry. 

 And I still can’t fix it.  The problems are too varied and complex and systemic for me to be able to do much. I have more resources and more skills than I did at 17 but I still can’t fix it. 

But I can love.

Love and touch and listen and hug and give and walk beside.

And I wonder how often I’ve avoided this hard work because I feel useless, and I think it doesn’t really change anything.  Or because money is easier to give than time.  Or because I’m too busy or too tired.  Or because when my own life gets hard the last thing I want to do is to give any of my seemingly limited resources to someone else.

When I read the Gospels, I am so often struck by the outcasts that Christ loved, the “unclean” people that He touched.  Those society rejected.  Longing for human connection.

With His touch, Christ said, “You are loved. You are clean.  You belong.”

 In the end, isn’t that what we all want? 

To have friends who will journey with us in our suffering, pick us up when we fall and point us to the One who can fix everything.  The One who, one day, will right all of the wrongs of this world.

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