Are you visiting from J.R.’s Love is What You Do? Welcome.
I write about the kingdom of God. About motherhood. About books.
I pray that the kingdom comes down to my own bit of Pennsylvania countryside.
I try to pay attention when it does.
J. R. Goudeau is a PhD candidate in English literature. When I was a PhD candidate in English literature, I used my spare time to lounge senseless on the sofa while my husband bathed and bedtimed our young kids. J.R. also has young kids, but she has used her spare time to found and direct Hill Country Hill Tribers, a nonprofit helping to support the skilled artisans of refugee communities in Austin, Texas.
Yes, she’s amazing. I’m blessed to call her a friend. I’m blessed to be sharing this story at her place today.
Our refrigerator is a typical mess of grocery lists, crayon drawings, and expired coupons. In the middle of the mess is something more precious: the photographed faces of three young children. They are not family, not even friends, exactly. They live on three different continents, and we do not speak their languages. They are our sponsored children.
My daughter is writing a letter to the oldest girl. They share a birthday. This child has written to us that she loves to play ball. Also, the rains have been plentiful.
My daughter stops writing, looks up at me, and I see something like guilt in her eyes. “I’m glad we’re not poor,” she says.
I believe in the work of this sponsorship program. I believe in holding wealth with open hands. I believe in giving it away. But I worry about the unintended message these three photographs may be sending to my children, children who know their own faces appear on no one’s refrigerator but Grandma’s.
I wonder if these images in our kitchen are bridging a wall or building it up.
A wall distinguishing us from the poor.
A wall separating us from the poor.
A wall we only cross with dollars, cents, and the occasional letter.
Because we, thank you Jesus, are not poor.
You can find the rest of my story here.
It’s another dinner conversation with the little people, and you never know where it will take you. This night the middle child suddenly recalls the Christmas boxes we filled months ago.
Who opened those boxes, he wants to know. Who’s playing with those toys? I don’t know, I tell him, but I’m sure it’s a child far away who might not have opened anything else on Christmas Day.
He absorbs my answer and says, “I’m glad we’re not poor.”
Oh, honey. I’m glad too. I can’t imagine facing dinnertime with an empty cupboard. Every time I dole out another of the boy’s pink asthma pills ($100 for the bottle with good health insurance!), I wonder how some parents do it. I imagine them holding out for the really bad wheezing, hording those pills like gold.
Oh, honey, I’m glad we’re not poor.
But there’s something I don’t like about his comment. Something that doesn’t feel right. Am I sensing a bit of “us vs. them”? As in, we are the ones who fill the Christmas boxes (thank you, Jesus), and they are the ones who open them? Yet I know that when it comes to Jesus’s kingdom, we’re all in it together. No “us vs. them.”
What did Jesus say to the rich young ruler? Give it all away, then come follow me. But, he couldn’t do it. Can I? Will my kids?
I’m not asking my kids to give it all away. I’ll keep on giving them gifts as long as there’s still money in the bank. But, there are a lot of ways to be poor, and maybe it’s time to teach a few of those?
To be poor is to know that you don’t have what it takes.
To be poor is to know that you’ve got nothing worth standing on.
The poor in spirit give it all away because they know it was never really theirs. The poor in spirit willingly let go of everything in order to stand on the Rock. They know that money, good looks, good health, good behavior, none of it is as strong and steady as that Rock.
Oh, my little boy, I’m afraid you’re wrong. We are poor. Maybe not in our bank account (though who knows what tomorrow holds), but we are poor. We aren’t good enough. Or strong enough. We’ll never have it all together. But, there’s One who was and is and always will be.
He is our treasure. Our pearl of great price.