20 November 2006

Dichotomy

My birthday post was sorely incomplete. I was in a sort of travel-lag.

Some other highlights, thanks to my gnome family and my housechurch family. Thanks to Neil for the lovely brown & blue cake artistry.



The orange dream machine is pretty amazing, by far the largest birthday present I have ever received. I have trouble receiving at times, small things, big things. I have had a hard receiving this bike. I think, as weird as it sounds, at the heart of it is that I want to control the gifts God gives me (directly and through others).

People asked when I returned home from India & Sri Lanka about a year ago how the adjustment and culture shock was going. I answered that being in the midst of such an outward focused, relatively simply living community helped a lot. People I know don't go on insanely expensive vacations or buy the newest car model. Most live in creaky old houses or apartments and drive unreliable cars and think going out to eat is a treat, not a right. It is a generous community that knows how to celebrate, and I have been incredibly blessed to be a part of it.

But there is an element of haunting, for lack of better term, that has been and continues to be a part of my everyday life. In my current job at Kaldis, I bus tables and throw away half-eaten meals and serve four dollar drinks to people who come in two and three times a day. As I scrape these plates full of food into the trash, I can't help but think about the trash pickers in Calcutta--the poorest of the poor--who scavenge for rotten remnants while many of us in the West over-consume and waste, myself included. I think of one woman we found at Howrah station that was literally starved to death who died in my arms during the cab ride to Kalighat, the Mother Teresa hospice. The afterschool crowd at Kaldis is round-faced kids and pre-teens drinking hot chocolates and hanging out with their friends. My mind jumps to the neighborhood of Sonagacchi, where eight and nine year old girls are trafficked in from villages to be owned as prostitutes and spend their adolesence and adulthood in perpetual abuse.

Sometimes this dichotomy--my brain being split into to completely real and unbelievably different realities--makes me feel insane. My heart goes from being broken to being switched off. It is too much--too contradictory, too bizarre, too sickening, too frustrating.

In spite of these things, I would never want to change relationships or the experiences God has given me as gifts. I have come to see in the last five years or so that, as much or more than the "real" blessings, these pictures of suffering haunt my heart, my mind, my prayers, my mundane daily activities are some of the greatest gifts from God. They are the gifts that drive me to meditate on the fact that pain is, as C.S. Lewis writes, God's megaphone to us. It is painful to see and be reminded by the Holy Spirit that things are not, to say the least, as they should be. Being part of the human family means recognizing that she who digs through the trash is no different from me--that she is my own sister, as Macklann preached yesterday.

We desperately need to make room for the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, to re-create our realities to include the rest of the family. We desperatly need to be freed from our self-centeredness and refusal to open our eyes. This is God's gift to us. Our salvation depends on it. God's good gifts are not only the obvious ones: being physically cared for, beautiful families, spiritual food; they are also the ones that break our hearts, cause us to limp, cause us to see that we can no longer consider our lives our own, but become about being transformed to the likeness of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) .

God does desire to bless us and give us good gifts that draw us closer to Him, and I am praying to have the courage to receive all of them: both the ones that surprise and gladden my heart (like an awesome orange bike from my family, or a hip and super cool sewing book from my sweet roomie) and those that break and ruin it for the sake of knowing Him better--His unrelenting love and compassion for the whole world, His jealous desire for my heart. I am excited to see what He has in store. I put out my hands to receive.

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6 Comments:

Blogger April said...

thanks for this...i'm going to highlight it on my blog so others will come read it...love you...

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Neil E. Das said...

Thank you for helping to keep the tension between resting, receiving and being restless for doing God's work in the world, and thanks even more for doing it so graciously.

3:05 PM  
Blogger angela said...

april & neil, thanks for the encouragement!

10:26 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

This is a beautiful post, Angela. Thank you for your thoughts. These thoughts- to me- feel like foundational ideas for how God is calling you to minister... may the seed continue to grow! And wherever you are, keep talking about it, we need to hear (especially in the US).

9:17 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

You continue to amaze me with your godly insight and the ability to write it all down. I think many of us feel that tension but don't know how to express it. Thank you. I pray the the Lord will continue to give you spiritual insight and opportunities to share your thoughts with others.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Heidi V. said...

Angela, this is a beautifully thoughtful post. I know what you mean about receiving when it seems like so many of our brothers and sisters are perishing from what they lack. How do we stay connected and prevent ourselves from getting numb or overwhelmed by the need? I don’t know. I pray that we can cozy up onto God lap and listen the Holy Spirit as he says, “open you hand child and give this to you sister that has less than you,” or “No, you keep this little gift beloved; this one I made for you.”
Bless your sweet soul Ange.

3:52 PM  

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