“How can I sit here and eat an appetizer, meal, and then dessert when they aren’t going to eat all week?”
“How can I think about changing into a new outfit every day when they will walk around naked most, if not all, of their life?”
“How can I possibly enjoy this new car when fungus grows between their toes from walking barefoot everywhere?”
“How can I blow all this money in one weekend on pure entertainment, when they can’t even make this much in a month to feed their children?”
These are just a few of the thoughts I battle each time I return home from a mission trip overseas. Many tears, skipped meals, sleepless nights, and bitter cries to God usually accompany these thoughts.
By the sound of this process, I probably sound like the ultimate, passionate, broken hearted missionary driven to make a lasting difference. And for a short period each year, maybe that’s true. But don’t be fooled. My “deeply unsettled, driven for change, sincerely broken hearted” stage dwindles very quickly to a mere memory. Give me about two months and I’ll most likely be right back into throwing extra food away without a second thought, shopping for things that already fill up my closet and room, and filling my day to day schedule with activities that revolve around me.
How is it that we can be so deeply moved to make a lasting change one moment, and in the very next, closed off from the need for drastic change? How is it that we can cry ourselves to sleep over the thought of starving children one night, and in the very next, go and drop $200 on useless material objects just because?
I’ll tell you how. We are so easily influenced by a generation and culture that advocates the “me” and not the “we” lifestyle. Our culture has shifted from “united we stand” to “I prefer to stand alone”, and unfortunately, this mindset has greatly impacted Christians. We are overwhelmed by messages from media and books that promote being self sufficient to the point that we don’t need anyone outside of our self to thrive and become something great or to even find happiness.
Sad, isn’t it? We can travel around the world, or around the country, and be moved to tears by the thought of touching lives and being touched by lives. But then we come back to our “me, not we” driven environment and those tears dry right up and we go on with our self-sufficient way of living, convincing ourselves we’re whole and happy. Until our next unsettling moment, of course.
What if we experienced those “deeply unsettled, driven for change, sincerely broken hearted” moments and kept them lit in our hearts until change occurred, until more people were moved, and until our “me, not we” environment transformed into, “we, not me”? What would happen if we adopted the South African phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means, “A person is a person through other persons”?
I’ll tell you what would happen. We would be the Kingdom that Christ hung on the cross for 9 hours to establish. The kingdom based on the “that they may be one as we are one” concept Jesus constantly prayed for (John 17:21). The kingdom that sells all of its possessions and distributes evenly so that no one in the church lacks what they need (Acts 2:45). The Kingdom that works together “with one mind and one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).
One Kingdom. One mind. One judgment. One purpose. One faith. One community. One vision.
That is what would happen if we carried the “we, not me” attitude home with us each time we encountered unsettling, moving experiences.
God himself, through James, asks us to be a people who look inward, discover a need for change, and then act upon that discovery (James 1:22-25). Instead, we often peak inward, feel an emotional feeling in our heart, somehow believe that feeling makes us a better Christian, and then step away unchanged.
Many of you reading this may be experiencing that “feeling” inside right now. The feeling that unsettles your peace because you know something inside of you and about you needs to change. If so, I beg you, don’t diminish that feeling without doing something with it, without making a lasting change in your life and habits.
Be the one who discovers, and then makes a change. Be the one who moves away from the “me” and toward the “we”.