We All Want to Change the World

It’s no secret that this world we live in is full of suffering, complexities, and insurmountable wickedness. Often I think of my own small sphere of influence as a stay-at-home mom and I feel small. It’s easy to compare stages in my life and believe the lie that some things I do matter more than others, but that smallness is something I’ve felt everywhere. It seems no matter where I am, I find I am never enough to tackle the world’s problems.

In an orphanage in Cairo where I held an abandoned baby, far too small and weak, only to hand her back to the nun who cared for her; I saw my hands as too empty and useless.

In a dusty field full of hungry children with rags for clothes, where I walked a slackline for smiles and drew in the dirt and struggled through descriptions of our God–hoping the translator would change my words and make them ring truer–only to walk away unfinished; I saw how little I had to offer and wept over so many words unspoken.

In the quiet room of a pregnancy center where I spoke in hushed tones to women, pleading and praying that they would reconsider, only to learn that they chose death for their babies; I saw my words as too feeble and unconvincing.

In a shelter for abused women and children where I littered the conference room with glitter and glue sticks and crayons while entertaining four sisters, only to have them disappear one day; I saw my work as far too small and paltry.

In the crowded home where the air was filled with the aroma of chai, where I struggled through language barriers in an attempt to teach Somalian refugees to speak English, the name of Jesus hovering over us, taboo and unspoken, only to leave and feel the weight of 20 women who I wasn’t allowed to share the truth with; I saw my efforts clouded with uncertainty and fear.

In the dim light of a small cottage in Oxford where I read over countless missionary stories to polish them up to beg for funds for those who labored over semantics and grammar to bring God’s word to those who had never heard it, only to feel like I was wasting my time, that life had turned unexpectedly; I saw the degree I had earned as just a piece of paper, a mere title.

And in our house, sitting outside the door of my kids’ bedrooms where I spend the day playing, and teaching, and disciplining, only to feel the weight of my own failures and mistakes from the day; I see my desperate need for someone outside of me to change my fickle and selfish heart.

Regardless of the continent or the “greatness” of my situation I can feel the purposelessness and failure press on me, I can see this world that is so full of problems that seem untouchable, unreachable…impossible. With every effort I put in it seems either the wrong thing or not enough, like I’m sweeping dirt floors: futile. I look around at the raging sea that is the world and I find my head is quickly under water. But I’ve realized, I only drown when I look away from the One who commands the storm.

It is not Christian[s] who shape the world with their ideas, but it is Christ who shapes [them] in conformity to Himself[…] Faith in Jesus Christ is the sole fountain-head of all good.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It’s never been my job to change the world, or even to change someone’s life. It’s my purpose to live in faith, to let Christ do the shaping in my own heart, and trust that he takes the little I have to offer and does something good with it. Sometimes the world feels impossibly dark, and in my efforts I find that I can’t shed any light, sometimes even plunging things further into darkness, but when I step back and let my eyes be lifted back to Him, the source of all Light, I find he does the shining, and I’m privileged enough to be along for the ride.

This walking in faith has taken many turns in my short life, it looked vastly different when I stood on the red dirt of Lilongwe, or walked the rainy streets of Portland, where I had hours to pray, to search God’s word, and committed my hands to all sorts of tasks with a wide variety of people. Though I now offer food to those who have plenty to eat, and my tongue speaks mothering phrases in English instead of struggling through Arabic or Chichewa, and though I write the alphabet repeatedly instead of writing on behalf of Bible translators, the work is the same because it’s still the same work of faith. Whether I’m in Cairo, Lilongwe, Oxford, Portland, or here, the task before me always begins with faith. Faith always begins with remembering; remembering who I was: a broken, wicked person who loved myself more than the God who made me. Remembering who God is: perfect; perfectly good, perfectly loving, and all powerful. Remembering what he did for me: dying, flesh torn, spit upon, crushed under the weight of every wrong motive, every shameful act, every bitter thought and angry word I have ever and will ever commit. Remembering an empty tomb. And remembering who I am now: new, clean, a child of the God of the universe. When I remember those things and lean into him, when I trust he’s put me where I am despite my inadequacies, then he turns whatever work of my hands I offer into something good.

Often walking in faith as a mother to three children resides in half-spoken prayers while I hold a sleeping baby, tiny praises offered up as I push a bicycle up a hill for too-small legs, or catching glimpses of light in child-led prayers and 10-minute Bible stories. But I find myself asking God for the same things no matter where I am, “create in me a clean heart, and teach me to walk humbly with you.”

When I stop struggling to fix the world around me and look up instead, I find I see God’s light threading through everything; first in my own dark heart, as he tends to it, pulling up sins rooted deep, and then in the world around me, even in the darkest most impossible places. Places my hands, words, and efforts could never touch, but he touches them, this God who created all, sustains all, and rules all. He changes me, and he changes the world, and until that day I get to see all the beauty he’s worked, I’ll put my faith in exactly where he’s placed me. I’ll be gladly at his disposal for whatever he asks of me, there is no act too big nor too small when done in faith.

 

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