No choice

When is a choice not really a choice?

In Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, it’s perfectly legal to pay an adult to have sex with you. These men and women are often enslaved, coerced into the industry and forced to turn over any money they make. They are also likely to have been brutally abused as children and have entered into the industry while underage.

So when a twenty-five year old mother of two with no home, no job, no skills, and a lifetime’s worth of trauma “chooses” to legally sell her body, is she really making a choice?

Of course not. We all know that she’s not making a choice. She’s been forced into an impossible situation and sees no way out. That’s not a choice.

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In some of the world’s poorest countries, it’s perfectly legal for a mother to choose to internationally adopt her child as a response to her extreme poverty. I don’t see that as a choice.

Most mothers I know would choose to sell their body or hand over their child to a rich benefactor rather than watch their child starve. It would be an easy decision. A painful decision, but an easy decision.

When we first learned that the children we were adopting had a mother, I wept. OWAS told us that she was poor and couldn’t take care of them and so she had chosen for them to be adopted. I hadn’t signed up to take a mother’s children. I thought we were adopting orphans. Orphans have no parents, right?

But then it’s easy to justify. She’s poor. What kind of life can she give them? I can send them to school and give them medicine when they are sick. And I will love them.

And then when it still felt wrong, I made up possible explanations. Maybe she was raped. Maybe she is abusive. Maybe her new boyfriend won’t let her keep her kids.

I told myself that she had no other choice. It was adoption or sure death.

But was there really no other choice in this situation?

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A woman selling her body may have no other choice, but the pimp has a choice. The john has a choice. Law enforcement has a choice. Lawmakers have choices.

There was a choice for me. I could choose to bring these children to America. I could choose to walk away so that the kids could stay in their home, country, culture. I could choose to support this mother to keep her kids. I had the power and the choice.

I’m not saying that it’s an easy choice. It rarely is when we talk about changing lives and making impact.

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The foundation of my faith rests on a choice that a man made in ancient Israel. He chose to sacrifice himself to humiliation, execution, and the wrath of a holy God to save me.

I had no choice in that matter. I was in an impossible situation – born under condemnation, destined to die, undeserving of forgiveness, and utterly incapable of doing anything about it.

But the man had all the power and all the choice, and he chose me.

He became sin who knew no sin so that I might become the righteousness                        of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creeping Power

By now you’ve probably realized that I’m a bit fired up. BB says that it’s not my emotions that are the problem, it’s my behavior in reaction to my emotions. Whatever. I blame my parents.

Thinking a lot about the creeping power of sin. I’m really, really mad at someone (no, not BB). I’m fly off the handle enraged. I’m praying for justice (and maybe a little vengeance) angry. I’m mad for myself. I’m mad for the other people hurt by this person. I’m mad that this person is (seemingly) getting away with it.

But then my God reminds me that I too have the capacity for great evil. He reminds me that if it wasn’t for his death on the cross, and only for that, than I would deserve the full brunt of his wrath.

Dang. Why do you have to go and ruin a perfectly good rage?

Most people don’t set out to ruin the lives of others, and yet many people have their lives ruined by others. Most men believe their wedding vows, and yet a large number cheat (women too, of course). Most parents smile at their babies when they are born, and many of them raise their hand to that same child just a few years later. Most business people just want to work an honest job, and then some of them find themselves stealing before they realize that they’ve lost their way.

What happened? How does a person change?

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

The Enemy picks at our weaknesses. It starts with a small lie, a smile at the woman behind the counter, a little fudge of the books.

Then the Enemy begins the deception. You deserve it. No one will ever know. It’s not hurting anyone.

Before you know it, the Enemy doesn’t even have to work anymore. You’ve gone so far down the path that you believe there’s no turning back.

Ah, but there’s the grace. There’s time to turn back up until the moment we take our last breath. There’s always time to make things right. Yes, it can be hard, embarrassing, humiliating, painful. But the truth will come to light either way.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. (Matthew 10:26)

I believe in a God of justice, one will right all wrongs. I thank God that the justice for me was meted out on the cross. I thank God that he shows me the reality of this Enemy, who’s couching, creeping, waiting to pounce. I am not far from falling. I am a weak vessel, easily deceived.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

 

Lake Kivu

In case you aren’t tired of BB anecdotes, this weekend at Lake Kivu, BB said the weather was “perfect swimming weather.”  It was about 65 degrees and raining.  I think there was thunder in the distance.  Seriously, give that man a lemon, and he will make a gourmet lemon custard.

Here he is…swimming to Congo.

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Despite the rain, we had a lovely weekend.  In fact, the rain was welcome after the hot, dry summer.  We stayed at a lovely resort right on the water and enjoyed good food, a king size bed (for sleeping! Get your head out of the gutter!), hot water with strong pressure, and TV!  We watched about 5 hours of Al Jezeera and another 3 hours of soccer.  It was glorious!

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Freddy enjoyed his first dip in the fresh water of a lake and even though he’s never actually seen a television remote control before this weekend, he knew that it was all the toy he ever wanted.  BB swam, ran and drove through the mountains like a champ.  I read books, sang every song I could think of for over an hour of the car ride to keep Freddy from screaming, and ate a lot of crepes.  We even took a boat ride!  Everyone was happy.

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Boat ride!  Don’t you love his leggings?

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We had a bit of an audience when we stopped so I could nurse Fred.IMG_3157

Yesterday morning I attended my first court hearing.  Unlike Cook County, everyone was wearing shoes, and the lawyers didn’t call each other names (from what I could tell).

In Rwanda, prisoners wear pink one-piece capri-style jumpsuits and slip-on shoes with no socks.  As Westerns, we think the pink is particularly humiliating because it’s a “girl” color, but that doesn’t actually translate culturally.  For instance, every single time I meet a Rwandan with Fred, they ask if he’s a boy or girl.  The clothes he’s wearing do not indicate his sex.  I love things like that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural context lately and the ways we try to translate things like life philosophies and Christian living.  A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a presentation at an urban church where presenters indicated that a mother working outside the home was in direct disobedience to God’s word.  Putting aside the 100,000 reasons why that idea is utterly ludicrous, I thought about all the mothers I come in contact with here who have no choice but to work outside the home – most doing back-breaking labor for pennies.

I think of Mama Rebecca (here, we refer to mothers as “Mama [First-born child’s name]”, so I am often called Mama Fred).  When she’s not working part-time at our house cleaning outside, watching our house, and gardening, she can be found working as a street sweeper.

I think of the single moms of kids in Chicago, who work as teachers, nurses, receptionists, lawyers.

I think of the women at my office at IJM who work as social workers, helping children who’ve been abused.

I think of the powerful women who worked their whole lives to make the world a better place – running orphanages, caring for the sick, protecting wildlife, discovering cures for disease, holding political office.

Part of what I love about living in Rwanda is that my eyes are slowly opening to the world around me. This process began when we started the adoption, and I continue to learn more each day.  The world is so much bigger than Chicago, America, my life.

The challenge is that I have to stretch my understanding of who this God is that I love.  He has to be big enough for this whole world.  His provision has to be wide enough to encompass the deepest needs, his redemption great enough to rescue the most oppressed.  I must resist the temptation to limit him. If something I believe about him isn’t true for every one of his children, then I must take the time to discern whether it’s really true.  He is the God of the President of the USA, the farmer in Germany, the schoolteacher in Rwanda, the executive in Japan, the street child in Brazil, and the sex slave in India.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

 

Explanations

I’m struggling with suffering these days.  Not my own, but others.  I have family members who are suffering, and I don’t like it.

I am a seriously left-brained person.  There’s not an ounce of creativity in me.  I am all logic, all the time.  I don’t feel things.  I think them.  And then I overthink them some more.  I want to know why.  Why does this loving God who I place my trust in allow such suffering to go on?  Suffering that seems so arbitrary, so unrelated to anything and clearly not the result of anyone’s bad choices.

I know all the theological answers, but they don’t really answer the question.  Most of the time, I am ok with that.  I know my place in relation to a holy God.  I’m not meant to understand everything.  I can only see one small piece of the puzzle.  It’s like my dog wanting to understand why she can’t eat at the dining room table with us.  I just can’t explain it to her, and if I tried, she wouldn’t get it.  She’s a dog.  [I’m not saying humans are dogs, just trying to draw some sort of analogy to wrap my brain around the issue.]

But it’s frustrating!  I want it to end.  I don’t want the people I love to hurt.  I don’t want them to doubt that God loves them in the midst of their trials.  And I know that my God can stop it.

That is faith.  Trusting in something you can’t explain.  Going back to the Word, to what I know is true.  God loves us.  Jesus wept for his people.  We are in the midst of a redemption story, but all has not yet been restored and redeemed. 

Used

BB and I are dying to know – is there some sort of study that has proven that babies prefer the sound of the pan flute as opposed to actual orchestration? Why don’t these baby toys just play Beethoven’s Ninth by the full orchestra?

I’ve been warned.  Being pregnant, giving birth, nursing, all these things will ruin my body.  I’ll be all used up by the time Fred is 6 months old.  It makes me wonder, what would I be saving myself for? 

I want to be used.  My body was designed (in part) to bring forth life.  My breasts were designed to provide food.  My body is here for a function.  Even if it wasn’t child-bearing, my hands are meant to wash, build, create.  My feet are to meant to walk, run.  My back should be bent.  I’m not a priceless work of art, meant only for observation.

Our culture strives to preserve – save your money, use the candlesticks only for special occasions, keep your skin out of the sun, wear rubber gloves, keep your shoes out of the mud.  We don’t want to get dirty.  We don’t want to be used.  We want our bodies, homes, cars, brains, kept fresh until….until what?  What are we saving ourselves for?

We are about to embark on another 7-style purge of our home.  This one’s going to be bigger, deeper, more painful.  I’m scared.  I love my stuff.  It’s not all materialistic – some of the love comes from the memories the things hold.  The warm coat that’s insulated me at the bus stop, the running shoes in which I’ve logged miles, the skillet that has cooked many a meal, the platter given by a friend, the sweater picked out by my mom.

But then I kick myself.  Here I’m giving away so many items that I was saving for something special.  Why didn’t I use the wedding china more often?  Why have I only worn that necklace once?  I didn’t know that one day I would be called to give it all up.

Our vats are overflowing, and we build another barn to hold it.  Spend it.  Use it.  This life is fleeting.  You can’t take it with you…not in the next life, and sometimes in this one.

We save our money for an emergency.  But (as Francis Chan once asked), is it only an emergency if it affects our family? 

We save our time like misers.  We have to work hard, and we will serve others later.  We will have that date night with our spouse next month.  We will spend more time with the children once we get this last errand run.  What if later never comes? 

Spend it.  Wear it.  Use it.  Jesus’ body was broken, used.  His blood was shed for us. 

He is Risen.

We are in Cincinnati this weekend enjoying this beautiful weather and time with family. Fred did great on the road trip, and I enjoyed my mandatory Chick Fil A milkshake.

I haven’t had a lot of time or drive to really ponder Holy Week. We missed church last week, but I enjoyed BB’s performance of the St. John Passion.

The passion story always brings me to my knees. It’s the real deal. The most powerful series of events on human history and will only be topped by Christ’s almighty return. His body, broken for us. The fulfillment of 100s of years of prophesy. How do I even comprehend a small part of what this means for me and the world?

And the resurrection. The true hope. Our only hope. The hope for the abandoned child, the homeless alcoholic, the young girl in chains, the murderer in prison, the sin-wrought young(ish) mother in Chicago. If Christ is risen from the dead, there is hope of redemption. If He didn’t, we have nothing.

Father, may I never forget from where I’ve come. Dead. By your sacrifice, raised to new life.

Happy Easter!

Humbled

I had to have a c-section.  We had planned a home birth.  The Lord has his own ways.  Waiting to be taken into the operating room, I was the most scared I think I had ever been.  I wanted to run.  I had a teeny tiny glimpse of the garden prayer – Lord take this cup away from me.  Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. 

Going into the procedure, I knew that my prayer would be for humility and submission.  Rather than the empowered birth I had planned, I was being called to lie down and submit.  Spread out on the table, arms outstretched and strapped down, numb, tubes, completely out of control.  This was the exact opposite of what we had hoped for and planned.

I was terrified of the birth – not matter how it was to happen.  Everything in the pregnancy had gone well.  Fred was perfect from all we could tell.  The lies kept coming – it was too good to be true.  It would all be taken from me.

Stuck between a truth and a lie.  Truth being that God had not promised me a healthy baby, a complication-free birth, survival for another day.  God is good, but he’s not safe.  He makes promises, but safety, health and security are not included.  How do you go into something so important without any assurance of success?  How do you not fear the worst? How do you trust an unsafe and dangerous God?

I always cringe when people say things like, Jesus is my buddy, my friend, my partner.  While of course there friendly aspects of Jesus, Jesus is not our equal.  If I were to see him face to face, I wouldn’t run up to give him a pat on the back.  I would be on my face begging for my life.  He is Lord of Lord, King of Kings, nothing but complete submission and fear would be appropriate.

He wants me to hold everything with an open hand.  I have no choice but to obey.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  He is wise, and he is good.  How can I not follow him?