Most assuredly, I come as a huge shock to the scurrying shoppers swooping in to quickly gather up their bounty. There, in the middle of the linen aisle, I stand, a forlorn woman, weepingly caressing a trendy gray and yellow weave, 400 count, Egyptian cotton sheet set.
“You are beautiful.” I lament.
“Ma’am, do you need help?” Asks a new mom with a semi-comotose babe in her buggy. She offers me a tissue.
“Yes. Thank you.” I sniff, patting her hand. “But you see, I’m too heavy already. If I try to pack in anymore, my husband says he’s not coming back. I just don’t know what to do. I wish weight weren’t such an issue. It used to be easier you know. I carried an extra 70 pounds and nobody cared. But lately, I can’t go anywhere without him mentioning weight.”
Then, leaning in confidentially, “I think it’s beginning to affect our relationship.”
The bunny whimpers and my new confidant gives him a soothing ‘shoosh’ before turning her sympathy-laden mothering tones on me. “I’m sure he’ll come around. Maybe a book could help? They have some great weight-loss reading in the book department.”
As I open my mouth to respond, Jenna appears like a gale force wind, “Mom! There you are. Dad’s back and he says, given the fact that you’re already over weight, this is your last chance to come home with him. Hurry!”
The eyes of my new linen department friend fill with unshed tears as I sigh and shrug, “Counseling can help.” She offers feebly as Jenna pulls me back into the stream of shoppers.
In Target, it is the linen aisle. In the grocery store, the cereal catches me every time. In Michael’s, well, the entire store is problematic. That same weeping woman can be found in multiple locations nationwide.
Being called to live cross-culturally has meant a struggle in my personal journey. Could I give up that proverbial white, picket-fence existence? ‘Country Living’ homes. A Jennifer Anniston wardrobe. Martha Stewart’s ingenuity. Dr. Pepper. The Eve that I became with the Fall, that Eve in exile, still responds to the siren song of the Tree. I see. I want.
God help me to desire relationship with him and with my neighbor over the acquisition of things. If we learn anything from Eve, it is surely that our individual choices have globally personal repercussions. How often do I ask how tiny were the hands that picked the cocoa beans for my chocolate today?
You. Me. We. Created: to sing a redeeming song for this generation. From the temptations of the Tree to a midnight flight out of Egypt, our God has always been and ever will be about our sojourn to freedom as a community. This is our journey, to live lives measured by the intentional investment of our time and our hearts. There is danger in that endeavor, if we step beyond that picket fence.
Shared vacations with a family that does not know Jesus?
Friendships outside of our church community?
Open ears for conversations?
How are we to live in this new world? By faith. With authenticity. In humility. For community. Covered by God’s grace and led by His Holy Spirit.
For our family, the countdown has begun. In 3 weeks, we will be headed home to Budapest where God has planted us. Certainly, our bags will be heavy, they always are, much to Jay’s chagrin. Each time we are back in the States, I have those moments of wishing I could buy ___ (at different seasons, different things). But, it has been such a blessing to let God teach us that for whatever we thought at one time we were missing, He has richly blessed us in other ways. It is a great exercise to leave those Egyptian linens on the shelf. It is a great exercise to explore why I thought they would make me happy anyway. I have a list of purchases made and carried to our home in Sofia that never should have made the journey. I want God to continue to help me to ask questions about the globally personal repercussions of my individual buying habits.
I think it is Eve’s lesson that I must continually rehearse as I weepingly reach for those Egyptian linens but it is Jesus’ words that guide me. ‘Take nothing for the journey.’ Wisdom for sojourner. There is something beautiful, something powerful, something of freedom in traveling light.
Questions for discussion:
This post took several days to write. Why? So many metaphors. So many thoughts. So many emotions. But, it started because every missionary has a weeping linen story.
It is that moment back in our home culture when we are overcome by the plethora of choices. Sometimes it is a shock to the system after living in a place where there are only 3 different kinds of cereal from which to chose. Sometimes it is shocking because we live in places where people daily choose between food and medicine. And, somehow, sometimes we find ourselves in that humbling, challenging place of being able to afford the extras but unsure of whether we should.
We open a pandora’s box as the affluent Church authentically wrestles with our theology of hospitality and poverty. There is no doubt that Western Christians give – generously. In terms of generosity, there are no hearts bigger than those of our Nazarene family. The invitation is to explore why and how he calls us to give.
The crux of the question is bigger than giving our money. As a Church, we wrestle, I think, with how we are to live in community with others that do not yet know him.
Should we and if we should, how, do we form relationships outside of our church walls? What elements must be present in order for them to grow?
What does global responsibility really look like in terms of my investment of money, of time, of skills?
Are we willing to weigh our individual buying choices against the repercussions they have on society or the repercussions that they have on one tiny person somewhere in the world.