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During one of the youth sessions at the All Church Retreat, our leader presented us with a number of national statistics. Confronted with obscene numbers shedding light on realities of poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and gang violence in the USA, we were left with an array of emotions and thoughts.

Some couldn’t fathom the immensity of the problem, struggling to imagine what over 800,000 people being homeless in the USA on any given day looks like. Most of us have never experienced being in a crowd of over 100,000 people.

800,000!?

One or two of us articulated a little concerned about our growing numbness towards such disturbing statistics. The numbers roll off a page before us, and the impact is not what we expected and/or assume it should be.

In our conversations we realized the importance of story and being in relationship with other people. I wonder if one cure for numbness is authentic community, I mean the “let me share life with you kind of stuff.”

When numbers take on flesh & blood, when we are in the kind of community Jesus invites us to share in, there is a certain aliveness that makes its way into the soul. We begin to see, hear, imagine and think differently.

When we know hunger and/or really know a child by name who suffers from malnutrition/goes to bed hungry, something happens. One child going to bed in the USA hungry becomes one too many, not to mention thousands. Love for “the other” whom I know well, whose story is now wrapped up in my own, will compel me to live differently/make different choices…to love as we have been loved, the best way we know how.

Is it the only way to cure numbness or be compelled to co-create a better worldfor all, and not just myself… no, but it can be a way.

Today I opened a book I have had closed for over a year now. Flipping through the pages I stumbled across these words:

“Sometimes I allow myself to be broken. Other times I don’t. And in the times I don’t, I turn to my two good old friends to cope with my confused heart: guilt and charity. I know I ought to be doing something and caring, and I’m filled with guilt. Guilt is a great motivator…in the short run. I quickly whip out my checkbook, write a check to the first organization that seems reputable, and wipe my brow. Whew. That’s better. Guilt salved; charity fulfilled….

Maybe I’m guilty for some ills in the world, maybe I’m not. But I don’t think God wants my guilty spirit. I think he wants my repentance, my love. He wants to soothe me with his grace. Grace and love transform, like it did my friend. He started with guilt, but God changed him with love. God transformed him through the Holy Spirit. His heart is broken for this world because of the love of Christ. He loves other because Christ loves him. That is lasting. That is how I want to be.

I’m overwhelmed by numbers because it was never about numbers. One million, 20 million, 200 million. God didn’t create me to care about numbers, and numbers create guilt. Thabitha. Gabriel. Sarath. Lavender. Josue. That’s who God cares about. That’s who God wants me to love.” Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration, Amber Van Schooneveld

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What do you think is a possible cure for numbness and/or apathy?

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