Giving Hope; Not Just Foodby Chris Baker on 10/19/11
As Christian Believers, sometimes it can be easy to suffer from compassion fatigue. We lead busy lives; we take care of our families, work full-time jobs, go to school, and [frequently] serve one or more days in our churches. Between the needs of our children, our spouses, our jobs, and extended family and friends, sometimes, it is easy to become over-committed and under-involved in the ministry endeavors that we undertake. Ministry becomes “just one more thing” we have to do … a job that must get done … and then those we say we seek to serve, end up suffering as a consequence.
Take food drives as an example. Does it ever feel to you like every time you turn around somebody is collecting food? Children come knocking at your door, your own kids come home from all [three] of their schools – each one needing to bring food to school next week. Then you go to the store and a group is collecting outside the store, and when you get to church, somebody has decided to take up a collection there, as well! So what do you do? (Come on, tell the truth.) You open your cupboard, reach into the very back, and pull out two cans of last year’s pumpkin, a can of cranberry sauce (the kind you don’t like), some creamed corn, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and a dusty old can of refried beans that somebody gave to you when you were recovering from your surgery two years ago.
You give each child a can of something to take to school, you put two cans in your car (one for church next Sunday, and one for the office), and you put one can near the front door for the kid who is coming back by your house on his way home. Whew! One less thing to deal with! You glow with satisfaction as you check off four things from your to do list, and reflect on how good it feels to be a part of helping “someone in need.” Tell the truth, now. Am I the only one who has done this? You want to be helpful; but truth be told, ease, convenience, and expediency are really what is motivating you in that moment.
Several years ago I had an experience that I will never forget. After fleeing from a domestically violent relationship, I found myself in the unenviable position of being a single parent, penniless, with three sons less than five years of age. It was the end of the month and I had run out of money, food stamps, and edible food in my house, so I called my church and asked the pastor if I could possibly come in and access their food bank? The pastor said yes, and I gratefully headed to the church to see what I could find for dinner that night.
When I got to the church, the pastor opened the food closet for me, and graciously invited me to take as much as I needed. (Now mind you, our church had one major food drive once per year in November as part of their Thanksgiving service; it was October when I asked to use the food closet. Let’s just say, there wasn’t much on the shelves.) I looked around, hopeful that there was something my finicky little eaters would enjoy. I only had two days to get through, and then my food stamps would come in, so I was hopeful we would be okay.
That is … until I took stock of what was on the shelves. There was a box of unsweetened corn flakes (but I didn’t have any milk nor any sugar, so I was pretty sure my boys wouldn’t eat that) … there were about 15 cans of refried beans (definitely not something my kids would eat) … 6 cans of creamed corn (definitely not on my kids’ menu) … a can of sweetened condensed milk … a couple cans of pumpkin … 10 boxes of last year’s stuffing mix … some whole berry cranberry sauce … and a can of Vienna sausage (whatever that is).
As I stood in the pantry that day, wondering how on earth I was going to feed my kids, shame burned in my heart. How many times had I thoughtlessly tossed these exact items into a food bank collection bin? How many times, when someone asked me to “donate to the food bank,” had I gone to the cupboard and thought to myself, “Okay, what don’t I need here?” With no thought to the person on the receiving end of my donation, I gave carelessly, and then had the nerve to actually feel so good about myself for “giving to the poor!”
Standing there, in the food bank that day, I was forever changed. From that moment on, I solemnly vowed that anytime I gave to a food drive, I would always give my best. Instead of asking myself what I didn’t need, I would ask myself, what would I hope to find in the food bank if I needed to go there for my food? What types of food would I hope to find if I had children to feed? What foods would cause me to thank God with a grateful heart? Whatever the answers were to those questions; that was what I would give to the food bank in the future. Never again would I give anything that was old, past date, rusted, dented, half-used, or something I wouldn’t be willing to offer to my own family.
What about you? Have you ever been here? As Christians … ambassadors of Christ … children of the living God … we cannot afford let our light grow dim. We cannot afford to allow our saltiness to lose its flavor. We are the hands, the feet, and the voice of Jesus the Messiah to a dying generation. Our compassion MUST come with passion. It must be alive, vibrant, loving, and powerful. If not, we are of no value to the Kingdom because we have nothing valuable to offer those who do not yet know of the Kingdom.
Thank God, HE is the author and perfector of our faith. It is not we who live, but HE who lives in us … causing us to will and to do His good pleasure. If you find that your compassion has been replaced with dogged resignation to the duties set before you, look UP to the hills from whence your help comes. Cast your eyes upon the Lord, and ask Him to revive you once again! Ask Him to fill you with His power, and strengthen you for His glory! Let Him pour His life into you, so that you can share it with others. Then you will know true fulfillment in ministry; your compassion will be fiery; and your fatigue will be turned into refreshing.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap
if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)