I have a lot of crap in my life. I’m about to get real for a moment, and forgo the well-written, descriptive and heart-tugging blog I could have very easily written. Instead, I’m writing in bed, sweating out a fever, coughing up my lungs, and feeling frustrated by the inconvenience of having a cold in a tropical climate. Let’s just say that one has to become resourceful when it comes to blowing your nose while living in a culture that doesn’t use toilet paper. Though sick, I’ve received such a needed realization about the state of my own heart.
It began last Wednesday. I was filling in several days for one of the nationals at the preschool our organization supports. Emily and I were running late and were walking to go get our taxi. We rounded the corner of the dirt path and were suddenly bombarded by an entire herd of cattle that had not been there the night before. We admired them as we rushed to meet the car, and I MIGHT have even given a little “Moo” as a greeting. Then–squoosh. My foot slipped on a cow patty at least two feet wide. Keeping myself from falling down into it only made the poop deepen in-between my toes and all on the inside of my sandal. When I say I was covered, I mean I was covered. I looked at Emily, knowing we didn’t have time for me to clean up or go back and change. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I poured half of my water bottle on top, scraped it around a bit on the ground, and jumped into the back of the taxi. The worst part was just the sitting. It took everything in me not to complain or think about the fact that my nearly bare foot was covered in feces. I won’t go into detail, but those of you who know me–just try and picture my face while walking into the school with poop on my foot in a culture where no one enters homes or certain buildings with shoes. I hobbled to the bathroom, found a random rag lying around, and then had to dig poop out of my toenails and off of my feet using the water they use to clean their hands after using them to wipe. Grossed out yet? I said I was going to get real.
Hours later, after teaching, stepping in puddles of urine on the floor, literally restraining a little boy from escaping out the second story window, traveling to another slum to attend a life skills class for young girls, and then taking three different buses to get back home–I was tired. I’ll be honest. Poop had dried to my pants, I smelled, I was dusty, dirty, and quite frankly–I wanted to sleep. I’m flesh, and more often than not, my flesh gets the best of me. This was one of those moments. What I didn’t realize, however, is that God was about to shed light on some really dirty places in my heart. After dinner, we were told we’d be attending a prayer meeting where we were expected to share the word. And we knew–a prayer meeting wasn’t going to mean praying for an hour. We’re on Indian stretchable time. So, I found myself there–sitting–singing–praying. But doing so impatiently, disgruntled, and half-heartedly. And then, in a soft corrective whisper, I heard the Lord say, “What good is your service if you cannot bring me an offering of yourself? Like the disciples in the garden with Jesus–so eager to follow and do ministry and defend him– yet unable to stay awake to pray. Like the story of Cain and Abel–your offering is not worthy of me.” And there I sat– completely humbled and convicted about my prayer life–about my alone time and meditation upon the Lord. It was as if he was saying to me, “Your offerings of service and the works of your hands are like an offering of bull crap instead of a sweet aroma if you are not seeking my face, my heart, and my spirit.” I am naturally a Martha and he is teaching me how to be a Mary. My prayer is that he would continue to strip any pride or self-righteousness away from me so that I might see the crappy parts of my inner most being. So, here I sit. Sick, yet able to spend more time with him for the past several days. I’ve been physically unable to go out and do ministry, and even when I’ve tried he’s shown me that it’s okay to not always be the one serving. Sometimes that is not what he wants us to do. My identity is who I am in him and not in what others see me doing. I have to continually remind myself that no amount of good deeds makes my heart good and makes myself worthy of having received the grace that’s been lavished upon me–that I might be his child.
Though difficult, this week also came with a lot of just simple joy and fellowship. Some brothers in our organization came from Bangalore for a sort of weekend rest, and they brought with them so much laughter and fun. On their last night here, we feasted on Indian take out around candles because the power was out. Then, I found myself washing dishes with everyone in the dark while singing Justin Bieber with Avi, our Indian maintenance man while he cooked fried rice–in the dark. So, let’s put it this way. Crap stinks. It’s all of the things your body doesn’t need. It can, however, be used to grow beautiful things–in the same way that manure is laid to fertilize soil for plant growth. He continually reminds me that the lyrics to the Gungor song hold so true. He makes beautiful things out of dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.