My three-year old son found a flyer on the arm of our couch when he came downstairs from his quiet time this afternoon. I’d just finished a day of meetings for a new chapter of a non-profit we are investing ourselves in. Staring back at my son was a beautiful face of a boy not much older than himself. He couldn’t read the words on the flyer: “I need help.” But he read the face. I was in the kitchen and heard him remark, “This boy has dirt on him. And he sounds like he is sad.” Leave it to a three-year-old to hear the sound of a face. I asked him “Do you think we should help him if he is sad?” I was a little surprised when he responded “No, we shouldn’t” in his signature full-sentence way. “But if we don’t help him, who do you think could help him?” I replied. “His mom,” he nodded, looking at me out from under his big eyelids like he was thinking, “Mom. Obviously.”
My sweet boy doesn’t understand yet that sometimes it is more complicated than this. It made me so thankful in that moment that my kids know it’s obvious that if you’re sad, Mom can fix it. But that’s not all I want them to know. I want them to grow up living like the kingdom of heaven, and in the kingdom of heaven (here on earth) sometimes there is sadness that moms can’t fix. There are widows and orphans, and one thoughtful friend of mine suggested that single moms are the widows of our culture. These single moms, so often without a support network or a safety net of any sort, often find themselves in crisis. These orphans-of-a-fashion often have dirt on them and sound like they are sad. Jesus calls us to give ourselves to them, and I want my kids to grow up thinking that this is what Christians do. (“Mom. Obviously.”) Christians love the unloved and show mercy to the down-trodden.
Today was a whirlwind. I got up at 5:30 to prepare for a day that had been months in the making, a day when we’d finally pick up some momentum with the beginning of our town’s very own chapter of Safe Families for Children. Today I gathered a dozen people from almost a dozen churches and listened as the director of the Indianapolis chapter captured their imaginations – even their affections – for this work that she and I both care so much about. I went into this day with some misgivings and fears of my own. But from the first moments, it unfolded with that kind of perfection that God demonstrates in those times when nothing less will get the job done. To begin with, I got out of the shower and turned to Pandora to give me a few moments of worship and peace while I got ready for the day. Five songs in a row stunned me with the tender perfection of God’s watching over me, but the first one captured every bit of what my soul has looked like these last couple months as I’ve begun this work. I got out of bed this morning expecting by the end of it I may’ve come clean with the director overseeing our work that I wanted to take a step (or three) back. Twenty minutes later God might as well have looked me in the eye and said, “This is my work, and I gave it to you, and I will do it.” I’ve prayed the last few weeks that someone would come forward and catch my vision and say “Here, honey, you have your hands full enough. Let me.” The irony is, that’s what I felt God saying. But by the end of the day, half a dozen others had said as much themselves. But I had to hear it from God first to re-orient my heart: I can do this, because it is not my work.
My heart is so proud. My mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me as great things I have done.
And now You gently break me, then lovingly You take me
And hold me as my father and mold me as my maker.
I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?”
And You answer: “My child, I love you.
And as long as you’re seeking My face,
You’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace.”
At times I may grow weak and feel a bit discouraged,
Knowing that someone, somewhere could do a better job.
For who am I to serve You? I know I don’t deserve You.
And that’s the part that burns in my heart and keeps me hanging on.
You are so patient with me, Lord.
As I walk with You, I’m learning what Your grace really means.
The price that I could never pay was paid at Calvary.
So, instead of trying to repay You, I’m learning to simply obey You
By giving up my life to you For all that You’ve given to me.
The day unfolded from there with perfection. I told my husband tonight that it was like for months I labored in this garden, doubting, discouraged, lonely, even anxious. I was beginning to think nothing was going to poke through from the seeds I was planting and watering and watching and picking at obsessively, and perhaps it was time to try again another year. And then, today. Today the seeds sprouted and grew seven feet tall before my wondering eyes. If my work was to plant a garden here in this town, I feel like my work is done.
It’s not done, though, and there is now as much to do as there is when your garden is full of seven-foot-tall plants. But now I have a team that God has built, saying “Tell us what to do!” So we begin together. I reflected on the sheer energy and enormous number of man-hours that went into this day. Not only the scores of preliminary hours of the last few months of my life, but the dozen other people that gathered today and the two babysitters who took care of my kids and the “bestie” who met me in town to drive my second car back home since I’d left it parked there in my haste to move from one meeting to the next this morning. So many people pouring out their time and their love and we haven’t even really launched this work. We haven’t cleaned any of that dirt off that little boy or made him any less sad or even met him. But already, it takes an army of us.
It’s humbling, this work that God gives us. He gives it to us not to fix a person or save a life even, though of course that is what we are eager to see as a result of loving in Jesus’ name. He gives it to us because this is what the kingdom of heaven looks like, and we are the kingdom of heaven. It is his work, because it is his world that he wants to be this way – brokenness met by his body. So we say yes, and we busy ourselves like so many worker-bees, doing the monumental business of babysitting each other’s kids and sitting over noodles. And God is pleased. We plant and we water and suddenly there it is: a plant.