"Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone." - Ann Voskamp
I was asked to speak this week to a group of women on the topic of "Gratitude in Serving". I pretty much cried through the whole thing. I cried because God's call to serve is so much more than us attending a "serving event", and we're missing it. It's so much more than we allow it to be. It's a call to death. The core of the Gospel is a laying down of our lives for God and others. When we surrender to that, something beautiful starts to happen inside us. We die to ourselves...to our selfishness...to our own ideas and embrace the fuller life that God has for us as we live poured out for others. And that kind of living will bring you to tears...the full, happy, grateful kind.
You know how sometimes someone will say something or you'll read something that puts words to the things in your heart? I woke up to the following blog post that my friend Jobin wrote from Calcutta where he lives out his days loving and serving a community of orphans there. I know that he won't mind me sharing it here with you. Read slowly, friends. There's a message in here that we need to understand in the fiber of our being.
It always starts with death.
I'm reminded of it in the silence of the streets that sigh with the displaced and the forgotten. In those dark lonely alleys sandwiched between slums. In the ashes of the night that once burned bright. In the wishes of the dying man for a second chance in a second world. In the dreams of the widow with a child in her arms. In the plea of the orphan with a story in her eyes. And even in the pages of the leather-bound Book beside my bed with the red letters.
There's no escape from it. There's no way but through it. There's no life but because of it. Everyday that I am alive, I behold brokenness and death in the dialectic of life. But this death doesn't refer to one that brings you to a box six feet under, rather something with a much deeper sense of the world. And although it's nonsensical to put that word in parameters, I write these words with reticence how it personally feels at a depth of 1200 feet below sea level. At a depth where death has less to do with the physical, but rather a dying which is so real through every breath of the metaphysical. The very eke of my existence is found between the meaning of the word from the pages containing the red letters. How I can only be alive to the orphan, when I die to myself. How I can only share in the suffering of the displaced, when I die to myself. How I can only care for the destitute and the dying, when I die to myself.
In the brokenness I daily behold, there's no denying the asperity and reality of physical death in the stories of the downtrodden, the destitute and the dying. Yet my own story is one that is knitted with death. That as I learn to lay my life down, I find myself standing my ground. As I learn to lose my life, I end up finding it. As I learn to die to myself, I find myself living for love. And to that end, I pray to live and move and have my being in Love.
I know that I'm nothing more than dust held together by water and blood. There's nothing more to these human frames fueled by the rise and fall of the cage within. Like a hero of mine puts it - this skin and bones is a rental, no one makes it out alive. Every breath I take brings me one step closer to the grave. Every tear that is shed brings me closer to a cross. Every day that I wake up, I die a little more. So I die and die again to be reborn for the Kingdom of the Heavens, where I lose my life to find myself. Like a seed that falls to the ground and dies, like a tear that is shed of our eyes, like a candle burning bright, nothing worth living comes any other way. Because it is the loss of a life-less yet life-giving seed that springs something new. It is the heaviness of a teardrop on bended-knee that brings a lightness to the yoke of the cross. It is the pain in feeling when all is melting away like wax on a candle that brings light to these dark lonely alleys. And this death and rebirth brings to a place 1200 feet below sea level, which evidently is the lowest point on the planet. It's where I find myself with nowhere lower to go, and nothing left to let go.
Sometimes I really do feel like someone who has lost it all, but I become reminded again of how much more needs to die in me. When I think of these writings, to be reminded that I'm not the author but a messenger. When I think if I could ever share this life with, to be reminded of the orphan waiting to be held. When the moments move fast from unwavering faith to creeping doubts, narrow roads to unexpected turns, mountain tops to crashing valleys. Like a common friend without any company, like a singer without his song, like a father without a son. I'm still looking for a place to belong, still searching to be found again. There is an ecclesiastical longing through the emptiness to remind me that with nothing left of myself, there is more of grace. That the end of myself, is where it all starts. The beginning is always where my end begins. It always starts with death.
And broken as I am, weak as I am - grace is what I am.
So my tears become words to sing, and I live dying to life, to live for Love. I'm trusting that even in the emptiness of my well, I can draw from a river that doesn't run dry. There is river here somewhere 1200 feet below, and here in this river I'm reminded of a death which is ephemeral but a rebirth which is eternal. That life is but a vapor, and Love is like a river. And I'm just humbled that the Maker of the Heavens would use someone as broken as me, to behold beauty in the brokenness and life in the ashes.
In a world of 3D, 3G and be all you can be, I'm learning what it means to be free. From a world that could never placate to what I'm buying by what it has to sell, but to live in the absolution of another world. I'm done chasing chartered territories and certitudes. I hear another world calling. A world where those who mourn will be comforted, and the last will be first. A world where every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and justice will be our right-side. So I chose to live today for the coming world, as an advocate of the poor and a lover of the least. Yes, it starts with death, but death is only the beginning. Another world is possible. It's in you, it's in me.