through the valley

There’s a scene in “Friday Night Lights” (the TV series) where Coach Taylor and Buddy Garrity are talking to a local community advocate to get the lights turned on at a park in a rough part of town. This conversation is taking place right after a kid was shot at the park while Coach was there trying to track down one of this players. The advocate, who is an ex-gang member, tells him that he has one question for him, “Do you really want to make a difference or are you just sad that you saw a kid get shot?”

As Preston and I were watching this scene recently, it hit me in a completely different way than it had before. In the US, you can often easily avoid the reminders of how broken our world is. You can only read news headlines or avoid the rougher parts of your city. We cannot do that here. Every morning, I walk out my front door and am immediately greeted by barefoot Bengali girls. Their family acts as the “caretakers” of our building. One of them has a freshly shaved head as a sign of her Hindu faith, she goes to a local school. She is one of the lucky ones whose parents can afford to send her to school. Then I start walking down the street, I see all of the other kids of the caretakers for other buildings who are also barefoot, but are not in school. I see dogs who look like they belong in a Sarah McLachlan commercial. I turn the corner and see old women digging through the trash to provide for their families. I continue a little further and see countless child laborers and other laborers. Seeing the other laborers may not seem so bad, but did you know that statistically most of them are probably enslaved? I see all of this on my 7 minute bicycle ride from our house to the boy’s home.

One of the things I struggle with a lot here is feeling like I’m not doing enough. I think that’s why that FNL scene hit me so hard. “Am I really wanting to make a difference or am I just sad because of the things I see everyday?” And honestly speaking, I think it’s a mix of both. I do want to make a difference. So badly. But I am also deeply sad and burdened for what’s going on around me. I wrestle through all of this daily. What else can I do? There are so many great ministries here. I am not doing enough in this city.

And then the Lord speaks. He makes me aware of my own humanity. How I can only do exactly what He’s called me to do. And this is such a lesson in humility for me. I want to do it all. I want to fix everything. But I can’t. Not through my own power.

There’s a quote from Katie Davis‘ book “Kisses from Katie” that I’ve been reminding myself of often lately:

“And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that he apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.”

This is where I am right now. I cannot fix all of the brokenness around me, only Jesus can do that. But I can hold little hands, bandage cut knees, listen to hard stories. I can read stories and teach English and play games. I can do all of this fully confident that there are no small roles in the Kingdom of God. I can continue to enter in, to lean into the pain, even though sometimes this everyday life feels like a valley that we’ll never climb out of. I can do this knowing that He is making all things new. That He is a God that makes streams in deserts. That he isn’t afraid of this valley, this present wilderness. That he can handle my humanity, that in my own weakness, he is strength. And I can believe all of this deep down in my soul, even though I am typing this through tears and doubt. And I can be assured that this valley won’t last forever.

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(Side note: if you haven’t experienced “Friday Night Lights,” you should do that. This was PK and I’s second time going through the whole series and it really is the best.)