I get a fair amount of email. I don’t ever want to get to the place where I can’t answer it and so I make the effort to respond to each one.
Every once in awhile, I get one that knocks my socks off. It may be so encouraging that I want to tattoo it on my thigh. But since that would be very painful, I just stick it in a special email folder. Occasionally, I get emails so heartbreaking, I stop what I’m doing and pray for the person on the other end. And on a rare occasion, I get a mean email that points out all my faults. I have a special folder for those too. I call it my delete file.
But it’s rare that I get an email I simply don’t know how to answer.
I received the following from a college student and with her permission, I asked it I could share it with you.
It not only knocked my socks off, made me cry and ended up in my special email folder, it drove me to my knees. Because I want to be the person that *Hope thinks I am. Actually, I want to be more like her:
I’m Hope, I’m 21 years old and will be a senior in college. My mom found your blog and she shared it with me and to say it has helped me dig deeper in my relationship with Christ would be the understatement of the century. My mom and I are so different but we both love your blog. We joke its one of the only things we have in common. I love the deep stuff. My mom is wonderful but I know sometimes she thinks my passion for serving others is a phase. She thinks when I volunteer at the homeless shelter, I’m going to catch a disease. When she sees my cry because I feel the pain of God’s people, she thinks I’m on my period. Frankly, shes so happy I read your blog because I think she knows what a wonderful role model you are for me. She loves to donate money to organizations as long as she doesnt have to be hands on.
I know that I don’t have the life experience you have, I’m single, no kids, no REAL responsibilities yet but when I read about how your heart has been changed since your trip to Africa, I cant help but cry and realize you are putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I come from a family and a hometown of people who all love God, everyone I know goes to church, and its become acceptable to “shield” our eyes from any pain or discomfort we see. After the earthquake in Haiti, I heard “sweetie change the channel this is depressing!” “I’m tired of seeing those kids on TV, change it back to MTV, I want something happy!”. When I wanted my group of girlfriends to come bring a meal to the homeless shelter I heard “its depressing, it makes me sad, God wants me to be happy! its the summer!” and “its not a good night, dancing with the stars comes on I might not be back in time and my DVR is filled up!” There is no judgement here its just I feel like a weirdo because I relish anytime I can be with the people hurting. I want to give them hope. I want them to know they arent forgotten. This is where YOU come in. When I read your blog, its like a breath of fresh air. Youve somehow managed to let me see what HE has been trying to show me all along–that its okay to embrace the sadness of the world. Its okay for me to cry WITH the mothers who cannot put food on their table. Its okay for me to feel so disgusted with all of my material possessions that I go on binge clean ups where I sit and weep with all the crap I have allowed to try to “fill” this void in me over the years. Your words have helped me realize HE is the only thing that will fill me up. When my friends/family see me becoming distraught with all of the “stuff” my family has I often hear “you are so UNGRATEFUL, you should be happy that your mom and dad have bought you all those cute clothes, and that EVERY year you get a new wardrobe” “BE HAPPY! I wish I had all those cool gadgets” “Hope, those people are homeless because they arent following God, they keep messing up, your family is living right so be happy you have tons of stuff!” I’ll admit that last one was a little exaggerated but I sometimes feel like a fish out of water.
I struggle with balancing between being completely oblivious to the poverty and pain in the world around me, and on the other side wanting to sell everything and live in a tent.
When I walk down the street with shoes on my feet, food in my belly, the love of my family, the knowledge that I am forever one of God’s beloved and I see someone who is homeless. My first instinct is to take them home with me and fix them up. My dreams dont seem realistic. I want to take off my shoes and give them to the homeless woman. But even if I do that, there is another homeless woman I’ll see another day and I’ll want to give her shoes too. Do I have to pick and choose who I help when? I have often thought maybe I could quit college and use the tuition money for children in Africa. However, if I don’t get a college education, I won’t be able to fulfill my calling to work as a social worker. My question is, HOW DO YOU BALANCE NOT FEELING GUILTY EVERYTIME YOU ENJOY A MEAL WITH YOUR FAMILY KNOWING OTHERS ARE GOING TO BED HUNGRY? I know its not feasible for me to sell all of my things and live naked. Any advice would be wonderful.
I’m saving up to go to Africa (I’ve been once before). I have never felt closer to God than when I was holding hands with the people in the slums of Tanzania. It was hard to come back to my world. It was hard coming back to a house where my mom doesn’t go to the grocery store without wearing her pearl necklace. It was hard getting off a plane and getting back into my familys gas guzzling SUV and driving to our home where we would have a full refrigerator of food. When I got home I started sponsoring *Naomi with Compassion. Seeing you with the children in Kenya helped renew my faith in the compassion organization SO THANK YOU!
Id love your thoughts on living a blessed life (materially) WITH THE KNOWLEDGE that others don’t have food, clothing or any extras. I struggle with this guilt and even when I lay it at HIS feet I’m still searching for some direction.
I wrote about guilt the other day, it was spurred by this email and some comments I’d received. I told Hope that since returning from Africa, I truly struggle with every purchase I make. I’ve joked with my hubby saying “Thank God, I’m not a home decor blogger since I keep un-decorating my home.” I weigh every item-do we really need this? It’s been a painful process and I’m not sure where the balance is. In Radical, David Platt asks a similar question and encourages Christians to put a cap on their living expenses and give the rest away.
Pretty huge idea, huh?
What would you say to Hope?