Go Ahead. Do Your World-Changing Thing (And Encourage Others To Do Theirs)

By the time I hit publish on this post and drove the 7 minutes from my house to our Mercy House warehouse, I had several private messages telling me the way I was changing the world was wrong.

I walked through the door, put down my bag and I cried.

Not exactly the way I planned to greet our visitors or check in with our staff.

As I tried to explain my tears to the roomful of people staring at me, I was overcome with frustration and anger.

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Why is it when we attempt to do something good, we are often met with opinions of how we should or could be doing it better?

Honestly, I felt like a failure. Because the community where we are raising money to drill a desperately needed water well is the same community where girls don’t have water to drink, much less water to reuse earth-friendly pads and I wondered how I had failed to convey that fact.

But really, it’s more than that. I have received hundreds of emails from people in the last five years letting me know all the various and detailed ways that I could improve the way I’m changing the world.

Um, thank you?

(And also, not that helpful).

Now, hear me: I don’t doubt for a second that these comments and messages were meant to be well-meaning and helpful. I’m also not an expert on everything and I love suggestions. And I have learned so much from other people . . .

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So, then why does it upset me?

Probably because I’m human. I’m tired. I’m doing my best. I’m working hours and hours to remind girls and women they aren’t forgotten through the work of Mercy House. I don’t always get it right, but I keep learning and trying. I get discouraged. I doubt.

But mostly because it’s too easy to sit on the sidelines and make suggestions without actually doing anything.

Because it’s one thing to throw a world-changer standing in quicksand a lifeline. But it’s entirely another to stand there and offer opinions of how they should have avoided it while they feel like they are sinking.

When we read or see something that someone else is doing and say to them, “Why aren’t you doing it this way” or worse, “I could do it better,” we’ve just become their greatest discouragement.

Let’s not be those people.

Let’s be the kind of people who cheer on those who are doing something. Yeah, it might be wrong or the long way around an easy problem, but learning the hard way is still learning.

Let’s be the kind of encouragers that slow-clap when we see our others thinking of someone besides themselves.

Let’s be the kind of friends that when we see our sister loving the least of these, we put our arms around her and say, “How can I help?”

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Because when we see a need to help restore dignity to school girls in Kenya, provide water for a community, a job for an impoverished women or the image of a drowned refugee toddler in red tennis shoes–and we are moved to act–this isn’t us.

This is God whispering Do something.  Don’t let the moment pass. Take your own suggestion and instead of discouraging a person trying, join them. Put your good idea to work! Because you’re probably right: you can make it better, but not by making suggestions from the comfort of home with nothing to lose. No, let’s put our faith and feet in action.

Raise money, sew a project, rally the masses and mostly, encourage those around you who are trying to do the same thing.

P.S. There’s always more to the story: We are working with local Kenyans and are assisting their current project (not taking it over or starting our own) to provide resources for girls during their menstrual cycle so they don’t have to miss school. We have suggested some long term sustainable options (like reusable pads) and will help any way we can to implement these ideas. Some girls walk for miles just to obtain clean drinking water for their families. There isn’t always water for laundry or soap. Last week, when my husband was in Kenya, he witnessed people waiting in long line for water in a slum in Kenya. He slipped into sewage and had to walk half a mile before he could find a place to wash it off. Because of this, girls might wear the same clothes for a week, including threadbare undergarments (if they have them) that won’t hold options without a sticky backing. So, reusable cups and fabric pads that require soaking and sanitizing aren’t always an option. There is a stigma and misinformation regarding menstrual cycles in many developing countries and applying our western answers to third world problems, doesn’t always work. The residents and graduates of Rehema House will be undertaking this as a future sewing project to help provide a sustainable option as a community outreach to their peers. Saving the earth comes after helping people. Sometimes we can do both, but not always. Are disposable pads the absolute best long term solution? Probably not, but this is how we can help girls stay in school immediately with dignity.

Seeing In The Dark

My life, the ministry we are giving our lives to, every good thing has come from a small, obscure, even unimportant place. It’s been one little yes in the dark after another… each one guiding me to where I am today. Maybe that’s why I identify with Nancy’s words today. I hope you will, too.

Guest Post by Nancy Ortberg, author of Seeing In the Dark

Have you ever done any kind of remodeling job? A car, a room, a house? To be sure, there are points of excitement in these projects. When you first get the idea, imagining what the improvement will be. Perhaps drawing out the plans or putting on the first coat of paint.

But the plumb line? Nope. No reason for excitement there. It is a small moment in the overall scheme of rebuilding. It’s important, of course. The plumb line does vertically what a level does horizontally. It makes sure things are straight. No question this is important. But it’s not worth throwing a party over.

But God told his people to rejoice at the sight of Zerubbabel when he showed up with a plumb line in his hand. The verse right before this one helps us understand: “Who despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10).

We want big things. God is a big God. But here, in the small and quiet of a plumb line, he is working again. At a point at which we might miss his presence, he reminds his people to rejoice. This small moment is a big sign that God is at work.

Do not scorn this moment as unimportant. Do not show contempt for it being “less than.” Do not disdain it or look down on it, for it is a sure sign that the work has started.

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Small, God says, is not unimportant. It is the very building block of important. It’s how important is created. It’s when a man whose ex-wife poisons every conversation she can to anyone she can chooses a civil response to her. It’s small; it doesn’t win the battle against her. But it is moving his soul in the right direction. It’s when a student, anxious about a test, studies and prays, forgoing the unethical means others around him are using to prepare for the test. Making that small decision sets his choice-making on a course for integrity. It’s just a moment, but it’s a good one.

It’s the stuff a great life is made of. A woman on her way to work leaves just a few minutes early so as not to rush. This enables her, when she has to stop for an elderly pedestrian, to move not to exasperation, but to peace. That small moment ushers in the Kingdom of God as much as any sermon we will ever hear.

It is not negligible; it is hope. It is not worthless, meaningless, or unimportant. Rather, it is the starting gate going up. It is the celebration of the race begun, and we are a part of it. It is a small thing, in which all things are possible. The Kingdom of God leaking out into the world.

Thank you Tyndale Publishers for partnering with me to share this devotional today. 

Nancy Ortberg is the Director of Leadership Development at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, in Northern California, and the author of Seeing in the Dark: Finding God’s Light in the Most Unexpected Places and Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands, Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership.  A highly sought-after speaker, Nancy has been a featured presenter at the Catalyst and Orange conferences, and has been a regular contributor to Rev! Magazine.  She and her husband, John, live in the Bay Area and have three grown children: Laura, Mallory, and Johnny. Connect with Nancy on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Seeing in the DarkIn her much anticipated follow-up to Looking for God, Nancy Ortberg takes readers on a journey that began thousands of years ago. From an ancient cave in Turkey to the California coast, Nancy highlights the often unexpected, sometimes imperceptible, yet always extraordinary means God uses to light our way through even the most painful and challenging moments in life.