Often enough, I sit in my lovely little home on a quiet street in semi-suburbia in the South, with two cars in my driveway, a computer on my lap, and more food than I know what to do with in my fridge (same with clothes in my closets–plural. It’s an old house, they’re small closets!), and I’m haunted.
“When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” Say the humble, unknowing righteous people of Matthew 25 to God at the final day.
The unrighteous, the chapter in the Gospel of Matthew goes on to tell us, say almost the same thing–wondering when it could have been that they’d been faced with their Lord and Master but not provided succor.
At the end of a day, pouring a glass of wine and flipping through a magazine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What’s God going to say about this thing you’re doing?” “How are you finding and helping Jesus now?” “How can you be so selfish?” One answer, which a wise priest gave me a year ago, is that these are accusing voices, not convicting voices–which gives one a clue whence they come (hint: God doesn’t do “accusing;” it’s not his thing).
The answer that struck me last night, though, is that it’s just a temptation to say to myself, “Oh, I should be in China, risking my life every day for Jesus!” or “If only I was cooking for every sick and hungry person in Columbia, right NOW!” Not only is this overwhelming and makes me end up saying,
“Good Lord, that’s too hard!”
But it’s also fruitless, futile. I want to just throw my hands up in the air, give up the whole thing. Crawl into bed, pull up the covers, wish for the Good Lord to return immediately. All this work!
The only thing anyone is really asked to do is what’s right in front of her or him. When I’m sitting in front of my husband, eating dinner, at least I can give him my full attention, not emotionally vomit the contents of my day on him, be present to him as if he was Jesus.
The best thing I can do is to focus on the moment right in front of me–not indulging in escapism by flogging myself for not being in Africa–to pay attention to where Jesus is meeting me in front of me.
Most of us are asked to submit to transformation in small and slow ways, not block-buster ones. Though it might be easier, from some measures, to simply sit overwhelmed by dramatic and self-flagellating commitments, the everyday work of treating those normal people in our lives (our families, our co-workers, our neighbors) like Jesus, in the end, isn’t nearly as romantic, nor as overwhelming. It’s “small,” but it also demands consistent discipline to focus on what’s real and right in front of us.
It’s just hard enough 😉