Tag Archives: Love

Some times the news is still good

It does not happen often… ok it has never happened to me before… that we can “fix’ a problem so easily. We have a little girl ho is a part of our gospel community. Her mom used to be a part of our community until we had to confront her with a few hard truths. Now A. comes along with her older half-brother. A’s home situation is not good. She lives with her unemployed father, and a bunch of other people, in an illegal squat with no electricity or running water. Her dad gets a child grant of about R300 a month to clothe, feed and educate her.

Due to a mixture of apathy and ignorance A’s parents failed to get her into a government school for this year. At a government school she could have applied for a government education subsidy through the school. But now all the school were full. And although she could do Grade R at a pre-school these do not qualify for government funding and can turn away kids whose parents cannot pay.

First things first I thought let’s find A a place at a scholl and then worry about the cash. Yeah I know, but that’s just how I roll people. I easily found her a place at the small pre-school my boys attended. The principal offered a generous discount but still an amount that was out of reach for A’s parents.

Working late that night I sent out an email to some friends before going for a quick shower and turning in for the night.  Just before turning the light out I noticed a mail. I checked it. Someone had responded almost immediately saying they would cover A’s fees for the year.

The very next day we went down to the school, filled in the papers, sorted out all the logistics and A could start school the very next day. A good news story? I hope so. I really do pray God blesses these efforts to love in his name.

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The First Thing…

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I have this quote on my the back of my study (read study- spare room- storage area) door.  Yesterday I stopped and read it again.

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Henri Nouwen

The beautiful story of significant insignificance

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What if my calling is to be insignificant?  Not in the I  have self-esteem issues guest on Oprah manner.  Nor in the I feel my life slipping away mid-life crisis type manner.  Ok, perhaps a little bit of the latter… but that is not the point here so no need to harp on touchy subjects.

Hi my name is John and I am a significance junkie!  Junkie in the sense of what Tim Keller (and others before him!) call heart idols.  What is that thing or activity or person that I functionally worship.  If God does not do that for me or deliver results in this area then I flip out, lose sleep, lose faith, doubt God or worse play God.  That thing, says Keller, is what you actually worship.

For me that is significance – not in the sense of fame or riches or usual measures of success.  It burns within me that what I do with my life must count for something!  It must somehow be known or seen, at least by me, and it would be nice if others did too. Lives must be different because I was here.  A communities (or communities or city or cities…) must be better because of what I did.   I think it might be ok if my role was even just to influence someone who would be a somebody.

But what if all that God has for me to do on earth is to influence one other person?  Would I be ok with that?  I could write a theological paper on why that would be fine and how much I believe in the goodness and majesty of God’s sovereignty but in my heart, in the desires that daily capture my heart and mind – that is not ok!

But when I spout my good theology about God’s sovereignty as the Almighty King, when I tell others that I have forsaken all else to follow him, do I actually mean that I recognise Him as having the right to do whatever he deems best with my life – for his glory and his honour?  Because I believe God is both sovereign and good I ought to be able to trust him to do what is most worthy with my life.  Because I believe that God alone is worthy of all the glory and the honour and nothing else has the right to compete with him for that glory. It is idolatry, it’s  stupidity, it’s faithless to search out my meaning in anything else.

But yet daily my heart betrays my theology.  I long for significance.  I struggle to conceive that perhaps my calling is insignificance.  I crave recognition whilst simultaneously dreading it.  I despise being a number in the system, I dread being fodder for the celebrity machine.  But silently I seek it, I creep round the corners of words – hoping there to find my elusive significance.  I peer into the darkness of anonymity desperate to emerge significant, worthy, alive.

The truth be told I am insignificant!  I have written little of great importance.  I have done little to change my city, my neighbourhood, my street.  And the little I have tried has had little impact.  I am fragile, weak, mortal.  I will stumble along for the few years of my life, then I will grow frail in mind and body, and then I will die.  Maybe I will impact a few lives for good on the way – my wife and children hopefully – but purely in a statistical sense – I will be a nobody.  I will not write the great literary work of my time.  I will not solve the poverty, economic injustice or racism in my beloved city.  I will hope my life has brought more life, joy and hope than hurt, guilt and despair to those who walk it with me but honestly there is no guarantee.

But my soul longing for significance can never be satisfied by anything I do.  The gospel is for me the beautiful story of significant insignificance.  It does not offer me the junk food, fake high of self-improvement hype.  No the gospel reckons truly and honestly with my insignificance.  In fact it compounds my insignificance – I am not simply an insignificant speck in the cosmos – I am self-deluded, I reckon I am God, I shake my self-deluded fist in the face of the All-Powerful, Majestic God of the Universe and declare my own significance, my own right to be God!  I am not only condemned by my arrogant rebellion I am humiliated.  He knows every fibre of my body, every arrogant, self-centred hair on my head.  The Bible tells me he knitted this grasping, malcontent together in my mother’s womb.

And yet, I am loved.  I am more loved than I ever dreamed possible.  I am given significance not by grasping and striving but by his mercy.  I am profoundly unlovely but he has claimed me and redeemed me and made me lovely.   In him and only because of Him I have worth, I have honour and I have dignity.

I am a number, a nameless face, an insignificant speck in the vast cosmos but He has breathed life into me.  He knows the hairs on my head.  He knows my name.  He died for me.   I no longer have to prove myself because through his death on my behalf he has proved me righteous and lovely already.  I no longer have to search for love because he has already loved me. I no longer have to search for my purpose because my life has been caught up in his far greater, and more wonderful story.

In one sense, nothing has changed, my insignificant remains… but the wonderful truth that the High King, of all Creation would love me and lay down his life for me, shouts all the louder because of my insignificance

Photo Credit: Tekmagika via Photopin