We Are All Poor
"There is a tremendous relief in accepting the trio of needs Jesus described: poverty, hunger, and grief. We are all poor whether we recognize it or not. Whether we know it or not, we have an inner hunger that only Christ can satisfy. Our own sin is the cause of our misery. " - A recent Sunday school lesson
Jesus' Beautitudes seem to be in somewhat of a contrast with some parts of the North American Mennonite culture. If you think about it, we've mixed hard-working, emotion stifling Dutch and German blood with the sweat, tears, and promises of the American dream. Work hard and you can become what you always wanted to be. When times get hard, work harder. Turn the volume down on those feelings a bit. Try to be a good person. Keep your grass mowed, windows clean, and don't be late to church. God helps those who help themselves.
So is it any wonder that we sometimes say we hate going to funerals - they "give us the creeps" or we "just don't know how to act around the grieving family." We look the other way when we say a homeless person on the street corner. Of course all homeless people are "just looking for money to buy drugs" and we scurry past the man in the Santa Claus hat ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. It's just easier to stay in our own social comfort zones, cooking beautiful meals, and talking endlessly of light, pleasant topics.
Sometimes we think we would like to reach out to others more, but we just feel awkward or don't know how. We want to be closer to our congregations and communities, but it just isn't happening.
And that is maybe because we're not accepting our own humanity. We're all a house fire away from being homeless. A car accident away from being thrown into the deepest of grief. We are all poor, hungry, and helpless, whether we realize it or not.
This past year I have felt very poor many times. Especially around the time Ava was born, I was completely relying on my parents and church family Zèzè was relying on his family and the Blanchard Congregation. Many times since then during all this moving process we have accepted others' generosity because I came back to the US with a backpack, thinking I would be going home in a few months. Instead, a few months later Zèzè came to join me with 2 suitcases, a backpack, and a plastic market bag with broken straps that he bought in the airport because his carry on was too big. That is not a lot of worldly goods, my friends. And three months later we have been able to buy a car and we are quite cozy in this little house at 205 Wren Rd only because of the amazing support of family and friends.
Many times too, I have felt poor in spirit. Like adjusting to being a mom when a little person needs you all the time and yet again you have not had your devotions but you find yourself scrolling on your phone while nursing the baby because your mind and body are just plain tired. Or like the night of the school Christmas program when I was frustrated at my husband and running late and feeling sorry for myself because of burned cookies and a day when I thought I had it all together but in the end I turned up just plain poor again. And then I walked in a dark, hushed church and almost wanted to cry as I watched the first graders sing their hearts out with their little candles glowing as bright as their faces.
This feeling of poverty has shown me the wealth of God's kingdom. The true beauty of the love we have for each other and the power God's church has to help us through our physical and spiritual poverty.
Many times too I have felt grief at situations that seem so unfair. When one of Zèzès coworkers, our neighbor and a youth boy from Cazeau congregation died, we thought of his family and our church in Port au Prince all week long and it seemed so wrong for us to be going about normal life. I wished to be there for the funeral and for the wake the night before. To sing songs in the dark yard and dress up in my white dress for the funeral and really feel the grief. But we were here and they were there. We got a recording of the funeral as we got home from church Sunday and Zèzè started playing it as we sat down for lunch. And I heard the first words of the deacon addressing the congregation and someone started wailing in the background and I am not proud of this but I said, "No I can't handle this now. Let's eat first and then listen."
And so Zèzè listened later, all alone because I was not willing to face the grief.
I have learned a lot about hunger too this last year. So many people in the world face food insecurity. It's actually us, who are not really worried about having enough food, who are the abnormality. And the real question among all of it is how do you really hunger and thirst for righteousness, the "right things", and believe that God will satisfy your spiritual and physical hunger?
I guess as the year comes to a close, instead of resolving to fix myself, to become more self reliant, more skinny, more frugal, and finally just have my act together in general, I really think I should just accept that 2023 will just be another year of poverty. There will be moments of hunger and of grief. And accepting them will bring fulfillment, the wealth of relationships that we enjoy in God's kingdom, and His presence, which is the only place to find true comfort.