I Don’t Know

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ worlds from John 15:4-5 ESV

Her eyes were stern as she looked at me across the dinner table. “I wash clothes by hand,” she said in a slow and determined to be understood tone. I could see so much more meaning behind her words than just laundry.

Our house guest visiting from Uganda, a beautiful young pastor’s wife, was expressing through practical housework the unfairness she saw between her life and mine. She knew she lived a more cumbersome and difficult life than what I live. She wanted me to know she worked hard. She saw Americans with their shopping malls and washing machines, water for long showers and well fed pets in the back yard. She saw the abundance of grocery stores and restaurants everywhere. My world looked easy, cushy, soft, and lazy to her. The reality of unequal lives had hit her.

I got what she was expressing and all I could do to respond was say, “I know you do.”

I know you wash your clothes by hand. I know you sweep your floors constantly to clear the red dirt. I know you want a closet filled with nice clothes and a variety of shoes. I know you want food that is easy to prepare, even already prepared, water that pours already hot from a faucet, and pretty dishes. I know you want to be able to make appointments with doctors and not have to wait days, to be reassured that medicines will be available should you need them, and that your children will attend good schools and have even the possibility to attend college.

I know you work hard – very hard. I know you do your best. I know the world doesn’t look fair, because life isn’t equal. The thing is – even though I know it is unfair and unequal, I don’t know what it is like… and I don’t know what to do about it.

It is so easy to struggle with inequality. It is so hard to see the reality of how unequal the world really is. My eyes don’t even want to open to it sometimes because it is painful. Somewhere lost in the comparison is the unfortunate realization that instead of justice being sought to try to help those who struggle each day, prejudices are born with excuses made for why I don’t have to. Like as a follower of Christ I somehow wasn’t called to it. I buy into that lie for comfort’s sake. And then to make it worse there is this lingering argument that even if it were possible for me to make everything fair for all people, prejudice and attitudes alone could block the love I’m trying to share.

How do I say, “I love you” even though I can’t fix your struggle? Why would you believe me when you know I don’t get the world you come from?

Is that even what God is asking me to do for you? “Fix” your struggle? Paul writes in Romans 12:10 to “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to share in the suffering. Scripture goes on and on with different calls to help others. It seems like I’m being asked to “fix” struggles.

Then there is this:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ worlds from John 15:4-5 ESV

Christ is my vine. Apart from him I can do nothing.  I am to tap into Him to bear my fruit. He “fixes”.

There were so many differences and perceptions between the young pastor’s wife and me as we looked at each other across that table. So many things we couldn’t fix or make equal.

Then with our husbands we took each other’s hands and asked for blessing over the food we were about to eat. We both prayed to the one we had in common – Jesus.

We were the same as we gave thanks for the blessings. We were the same as we talked about our children, sharing their talents and skills. We were the same as we laughed at funny stories, and as we fellowshipped together.

We both loved our families. We both were doing the best we could to love our husbands and raise our children. We valued encouragement. We valued God’s provision. We both desired to be valued and appreciated. We both hurt when we saw injustice. We both needed common ground from the vine, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

We were women from two different worlds, but we were sisters in Christ.

I don’t know how to make things equal or show my love for you, but Christ in me will show me the way.

“Let not you hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” – John 14:1

“Therefore encourage one another and build on another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good work.” Hebrews 10:24

 

 

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