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.)

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11 thoughts on “through the valley

  1. I love this. I found it through Velvet Ashes (which I’m crazy in love with right now). You made me cry in the last paragraph, and when I got to the end, I realized, you were crying too, typing through “tears and doubt.” Watching the brokenness around us is so hard. At about a year in, I feared it might break me into pieces. But that part about entering in to the pain with people, I think that is what we are here on earth to do, actually. It’s a far cry from my first thoughts of being a missionary, how it was all glorious, with thousands of conversions. (Yep, I used to think that.) And this part here, “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.” He is making all things new — I’m banking on that with you. ~Elizabeth

    • Thank you so much Elizabeth! I’m loving Velvet Ashes so much too right now. Such an encouragement for these dark places. Headed over to check out your blog right now! πŸ™‚

  2. This is beautiful, Alex. Raw and real and beautiful. I love the line, “He isn’t afraid of this valley, this present wilderness. He can handle my humanity.” That is freeing truth right there. Praying steams for your desert, for ascending one step at a time. So glad you shared. (And yes, FNL really is the best! πŸ™‚

  3. Alex, I love how seeing another story (via TV, reading, or a movie) can help us sort through our own story! And especially when it involves sports (as FNL does) … I’m a sucker for a sports theme πŸ™‚

  4. Dear Alex,

    THank you so much for BEING in India and for everything that you are allowing the Lord to do in and through your lives! I really enjoy reading your blog posts -thank you for sharing!

    This one reminded me of something the LOrd was teaching me in India…. I had a lot of times in tears and being so sad because I didn’t really feel like I was making a difference while I was there – I really wanted to make an impact and kept crying out to the Lord and wrestling over this issue – wanting to feel useful. THe Lord, as He usually does…. spoke to my heart in that still and quiet voice (once I finally became silent) and said “it’s not about you.” wow! Ouch! At first that hurt but I realized that He was showing me that even though there is such need in these parts of the world, so much hurt and pain…..I can do nothing in and through myself and how even something good like going on a missions trip to India can become about me in a way…and the importance of staying focused upon Him and being willing to do whatever He wants and to be used however He wants – even if it is never seen or doesn’t feel “useful” to me. I realized how very selfish I am at the core and still struggle every day with the flesh nature and desires….

    I am so encouraged by your simple yet deep faith in the Lord and the things that He is teaching you – Thank you for sharing.

    I recently went on a trip to Dubai to visit Denzyl and his family and than on to Nepal for a missions trip with his church. I’m so thankful for having had the INdia expereience because on this trip I knew and trusted that the Lord had guided me to go on this trip – that was enough…i just prayed asking Him what He wanted me to do and rested and was settled in Him at those times that didn’t feel “useful”… some of my favorite memories were the simplest times- where I did nothing 1. sitting outside…several kids…too shy to come up at first…gathered around…after a few minutes of teasing and tickling them…they warmed up to me and began clamoring all over…touching my hair (having not seen blonde hair), sitting in my lap, hugging me from behind…i sat there for over an hour loving and being loved. 2. a sweet girl..shy at first..became my constant shadow one afternoon…every time i thought she had gone away…a moment later i would feel a little hand in mine or a little arm around my back 3. a thin, leathery faced older mom and her 3 silent children standing in the road we walked to get back to a bus that would take us from the rural villages to kathmandu. handing her hummus and bread, making them tea…

    How awesome is our God – I LOVE the kisses from Katie book and the quote that you shared! You are such an inspiration and I know that God is using you guys mightily. Even if you were there for just one girl…just one boy….just one lonely woman…that would be enough…each life is precious in the sight of the Lord and He died for each one.

    Blessings to you guys, Sarah

    Date: Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:36:41 +0000 To: cloudsarethedustofhisfeet@hotmail.com

    • Wow, Sarah! Thank you for sharing so much. I’m so glad you were able to visit Dubai and Nepal recently. Thank you so much for encouragement. It’s appreciated more than you know! πŸ™‚

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