This week it’s Psalm 65 that I can’t shake: Happy are those I choose and bring near to live in my courts. They shall be satisfied with the goodness of my house, my holy temple.
I picture myself hauling sleeping bag and kids down the road to camp out at church and see them begging me to sleep in the baptistery. Don’t think that’s quite what the Psalmist had in mind, but the words keep bumping against me, boat rocking next to dock.
I’m reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”, and she experiments for seven months with different areas of her life—eating only 7 food items one month, wearing only 7 articles of clothing the next, giving away 7 possessions a day. Sacrifice and fasting are not the first books I pull off the spiritual shelf, but since Hatmaker is a hilarious 36-year-old mom from Texas, I figure she’s probably not somebody naturally on the Franciscan path either. Maybe we have something in common.
Her words startle me: “I wondered if the American church was like well-mannered nice-talkers, sitting in a living room sipping coffee, talking about choir practice, while the world burns down outside our windows. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering.” (p. 90)
The book, her experiment, the way she describes her church, it keeps connecting with these verses for me, the idea of God’s house, His way. I feel like she’s been chosen to live in His courts. Here’s a Texan chick, outing the lies of her culture, pointing out that Jesus’ Gospel should change our lives, and out of that, change the lives of the suffering too. Here’s a way for a mommy with kids to do it. The waves start rolling and the boat is bumping against the dock.
I have a friend, Kristine Proctor*, who has three kids from her womb, a fourth adopted two years ago from the Ukraine at the exciting age of 13. She was good. She was plenty stretched. But this past week she and her hubby voyaged back to the Ukraine to adopt twin 12-year old girls. Chosen and brought into his courts, obedient to the sometimes-crazy voice of God (I think of Samuel who lived in the temple, the voice he heard in the night, the instructions to go and tell Eli—his elder—terrible news), who does this? Who doubles their family in the span of three years with a bunch of teenagers? (The picture below includes the twins during their 11-week summer visit a few months ago).
But I must add that Kristine glows. She is hearty, and happy, and passionate about God’s way. So while her life, the home He has chosen for her, might look uncomfortable, the verse is true: Happy are those…they shall be satisfied.
I’m sitting in church this past weekend and we’re invited to pray for the Proctors, who are still over there, because one of the twin girls refuses to be adopted, and their week is drawing to a close.
God says to me in that moment, fast for this girl, fast for your friend and her family. And the unexpected response wells up within me, “Yes, absolutely. I’m honored to be asked.”
So I fast and pray. It’s nothing, in the grand scheme of this family’s sacrifice and how much they have put on the line for love, for these orphans. A few short hours of hunger…but as I put my prayers into theirs and find myself thinking about them with some regularity, I am filled up with love and longing for their future. The fasting feels like nothing laid against this hope. I feel a bit like a sneaky saint, let in on the secret to a deeply happy life.*
In the end when we sacrifice, the main thing lost are old desires…what we gain erases the sense of giving something up. We must not be afraid of what God asks of us. With His invitation to leave behind our old houses, He promises this: Happy are those I choose…They shall be satisfied with the goodness of my house, my holy temple.
So my boat has been bouncing a bit lately. I can see that joy arises when we move in, when we listen to the Voice of God and aren’t afraid to do what He asks of us, and when we are willing to give up some of our comforts to offer comfort to others. I’m drawn to these women and the way they talk, and I think I’d like to move in and see what I hear, how God might speak to me in the night as I bed down in the baptistery with my mummy bag.
Would you care to join me? There’s plenty of space in the temple.
Photo by Robert Fusté
*Please pray with me for these twin girls and their American family. Kristine and her husband, James, returned from the Ukraine early this week without consent from one of the girls to be adopted. Learn more on their Facebook page or at their blog: Anything But Broccoli.