Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eery Peace

We are in the middle of monsoon season here, and though it has been a mild one thus far, when Saturdays roll around, the desire to remain curled up in bed reading a good book while the rain pours down has been overcoming the slight desire to go out and explore the city more. However, this past Saturday, I forced myself to go down to the south part of town and see a few sights I've yet to see. 

The first one I stopped at was one of the houses where Mahatma Gandhi lived for several years. Though a modest little house, I was quite excited to see it. I must admit, other than the basics, I know little of the details of Gandhi's life. But after seeing this once house, now museum, I was intrigued. Knowing how revered Gandhi is around these parts, and for that matter the world, I wanted to dig deeper into this man's life. 

The house is on a street, just like any other in this part of the city, nothing special, though we easily spotted it from the sight of other foreigners standing outside the little house. We walked into the foyer of the old house, greeted by a man at the front desk. No cost to see the place, donations only. The wood floor cracked as we walked in and the walls were covered with black and white photos of Gandhi at different stages of his life. We walked straight down the hallway to the back room, which was converted into a small library with over 50,000 books, many of them related to the life and philosophies of Gandhi. 

We walked up the old staircase as the steps creaked, into a room that told the story of Gandhi's life, giving the main highlights of course. You start at one end of the room and make your way around, following the timeline. As I read, I was still taking it all in, trying to piece together the events of his life, realizing what great things he accomplished. There is no arguing that Gandhi literally changed a nation, and in turn, the world. And I'm sure there are lessons we can learn from his life. However...

As I read more and more of his letters, or quotes, or philosophies he would live his life by, I couldn't help but pity the man. His quotes that were framed on the walls all throughout the house, had an appealingness about them. When you read them, it almost "felt" right, and gave you this eery sense of "peace." But as I stared at these quotes, pondering them in my head, I suddenly realized, "What a screwy worldview!" 

And here is where all the Gandhi fans get offended and stop reading... but hear me out...

I always knew that Gandhi served a different god than I do. I knew he followed a different religion, hinduism to be exact. My obvious difference with him was my belief that there is one God, His name is Jesus, and He is the only way to heaven. However, I wanted to search deeper into this man's worldview.   As I walked through this house, I wondered what it was that drove this man to do these things, these good things? I must say, much of what he actually did, I do not disagree with. His pursuit of peace, equality and doing right unto others are things I believe in as well. His words seemed so right, almost "Christianlike," so where was the breakdown?

It didn't fully click in my head until I came across one of his quotes, framed and hanging in the hallway next to his bedroom. It said:

"True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves, and in fearlessly following it... We must be guided in our policy by our sense of right, not by the lure of winning cheap popularity." 

Therein lies the issue, the underlying theme of much of Gandhi's philosophy. Our "sense of right"? Whose sense of right? Your sense of right? My sense of right? What is right and where does it come from? Gandhi had nothing to base his beliefs on, no foundation. Who was Gandhi to say he was right? What did he base his "rightness" on? He had a selfless philosophy, but if the good he tried to exemplify did not come from himself, in his opinion, then where did it come from? 

I read that at the beginning of his life, Gandhi said, "God is truth," but towards the end of his life he changed it to, "Truth is God." That is a scary belief when you have no absolute truth to rely on and your own version of truth becomes your god. As I walked throughout his entire house, it was evident that Gandhi was always in pursuit or search of this "truth." He lived a simple life, he would fast for weeks, he believed in unity of all religions. The eery sense of peace I described earlier was not peace at all. When our sense of morality and rightness comes out of ourselves, though it may last for awhile, in the end it will always fail. 

I pitied the man because, despite all the great things he did, despite his amazing impact on the world, where is his soul now? I cannot by any means claim to know the condition of one's soul, but I cannot help but wonder... For my Jesus once said, "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matt 7:14.

These are all thoughts I am still pondering in my head. They especially intrigue me because of Christian friends I have who admire Gandhi greatly, in fact consider him a hero. There is nothing wrong with that. I appreciate what he did in this world as well. My concern lies in the fact of making sure we don't replace a life lived of good works with the saving blood and grace of Jesus Christ. 

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2-3

How can I have this love if I am not connected to the one who is love. Where does my "sense of rightness" come from? Not from within myself, but from the only one who is love and truth... 
Jesus Christ.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweet Surprises & Sacrifice

After being home in the US for a visit for a couple weeks, I'm back in South Asia, getting back into the swing of things. It was a good trip I have to say, and much needed. I watched my best friend get married, slept in my amazing bed with a comforter in air condition, ate my grandma's puerto rican home cooking, worshipped with my amazing church family, drove my '89 volvo on the RIGHT side of the road... with NO a/c and windows down, went for many long walks on the beach under moonlight, spent time with Jesus, saw a huge sea turtle dig a whole and lay eggs, ate two juicy hamburgers, swam in the sea, breathed in a gorgeous sunrise on the beach, shared meals and coffee with some of the most incredible friends in the world, and loved on my beautiful family. 

Vero Beach Sunrise

And to think I almost didn't go home. It wasn't in the plan when I embarked on this year long journey to South Asia. But to my surprise, God changed that. And he knew exactly what he was doing. He takes me on these amazing journeys and always has sweet little surprises along the way. It's like when I was little, and we bought my dad a briefcase for his birthday. When he came home from work that night, my little sister Christa runs out the door yelling, "Daddy, we got you something! But it's NOT a briefcase! It's not a briefcase!" She couldn't contain her excitement for the surprise we had. I can see God looking at our lives, just absolutely ecstatic about the "surprises" and blessings that he can't wait to give us, and can hardly contain himself. 

I received a lot of encouragement when I was home. So many people spoke into my life. The older I get, the more I realize how important relationships are. And I mean deep relationships. I take them for granted sometimes. I love going home to people that I truly know, people I have invested in and who have invested in me. God is teaching me a lot about relationships. They are also one of the hardest things in the world. You get hurt... and wounded... and sometimes burned. You have to sacrifice and they are messy. That is probably one of the biggest lessons I'm learning here in Asia, surprisingly. Building new relationships is hard, and sometimes I get lazy and don't want to bother with some people who are hard to love. But sometimes one of those sweet "surprises" is in a new relationship, a new friendship God has in store for you. And we miss out if we don't engage and give of ourselves. Love God. Love others. It's what we're called to do. 

my dear best friend's beautiful wedding

My two and a half weeks at home was just the perfect amount of time. I enjoyed every minute of it, but to my surprise, I was ready to come back to Asia. I love my American family and friends. But God has given me a task to do right now, and I need to complete it. I wanted to get back to work and totally engage in the last three months I have here, with IJM. Yes, I needed a time to rest. But the longer I stayed home, the longer I was neglecting the task at hand. God calls us to give up everything. To sacrifice. For me right now, that is my family, church and friends. My dear missionary friend Marybeth gently and passionately reminded me of that just last night (now there's a good friendship; thanks for totally convicting me Marybeth, haha). The amount of sacrifice God requires of us. It scares me. I have a feeling God is just breaking me in. Am I truly sacrificing? God had grace and allowed me to have my "America" fix. What is he going to ask me to give up next? Where will he take me next? Our version of sacrifice is often not his version of sacrifice. The greatest giants of the faith that have gone before us literally sacrificed everything. They gave up their comfort, families, friends, hometowns, wealth, everything. Mother Teresa left her family at 18 years of age and never saw them again. Many lived lives of singleness in order to accomplish more for the kingdom (now that is scary). But to all of them, at the end of their lives, they never regretted it. It was worth it. I want to be that person. Do you? I have a long way to go.

But you know what? Despite the sacrifice we are called to... remember those little "surprises" God has along the way. Those sweet moments when God gently reminds us why we are doing what we are doing. When he sends people into our lives to encourage and uplift us. When he uses us to speak into other people's lives. When we witness the sweet union of two people in marriage. When we see new life come into the world. My last Sunday at home, as I stood in worship at my church, singing and raising my hands, I looked around for a moment and realized what a piece of work the body of Christ is. I thought about my church family here in South Asia, and desperately wished I could merge the two. I wish they could meet each other... brothers and sisters in Christ. God is good. Someday they will. I can't wait for that day when all of us will be worshipping together, literally at the feet of Jesus. It will be worth it... and because of our sacrifice, there will be people worshipping beside us that otherwise would not be there. 


"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving." 
~Amy Carmichael