I ran from it, turned from it, covered my eyes to hide from it, avoided it, put up walls - barriers, space - and protected myself from it, because I feared it. I feared what it would do to me, what it would make me feel, whether I could endure those feelings. I anesthetized my life.
And it seems that I am not alone - the Church fears it, our culture fears it, my family and friends seem to fear it, too. So we do what seems logical; we run from it. We deprive ourself of feeling it.
Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. [taken from a sermon excerpt by David Wilkerson - thank you Ramee.]
For my entire life I have been running from and shielding myself from anguish.
The truth is anguish is ugly and messy.
But anguish in this life is necessary, to ignite in us a passion and keep us from growing stale, dormant, un-moving.
Something has been stirring in my soul these past few years, and I have grown tired of trying to protect myself. It takes a lot of effort and energy to cushion and pillow myself inside of a false-reality that blinds me to the anguish that is everywhere around me. In protecting myself I became comfortable, taking a passive, back-seat approach to Christianity.
It was our first day being back in Ethiopia. I had been awake for the majority of 24 plus hours, I was emotional, having just been reunited with my oldest son, and I was walking around in a fog of surrealness that we were really back in Addis. Our schedule was to be light that day as we acclimated to the time change, the culture shock, jet-lag etc. We ate lunch out in typical Ethiopian fashion (- i.e. a loooooong lunch). Several of our team members actually fell asleep at the table. I am sure we were a sight to behold!
We were to take a quick tour of Mother Teresa's Hospital in Addis Ababa. We were hoping to get a chance to pray with some patients, but God had other plans - perfect plans - and for that day, He just chose to have us quietly see. I slowly felt God rip down the protective barriers around my heart, and I looked at, smelled, and experienced pure, powerful, and terrifying anguish. I had prayed and prayed that God would continue to rip scales off of my eyes with this mission trip, that He would continue to break my heart and align it with His, and that I would come home changed and with a better understanding of my Jesus.
He started with this hospital. Mother Teresa Hospital is a place that takes in patients of which many would consider to be "bottom of the barrel" - the least of the least. This was a place of hope and healing for the most destitute and ill people in Addis, a haven of sorts, where people could come for food, shelter, medicine, dignity, and sometimes simply to be acknowledged and recognized as a valuable human being- perhaps for the first time in their lives - before they died . We were given a tour of the clinic, and my heart raced as I walked through the hospital - completely overwhelmed by what I was seeing. It was hard exposing myself to that level of pain. I felt awkward and at times fearful that I was gawking, but even more, I felt the Spirit knitting and urging something inside of me. I quietly observed and listened and silently prayed -that is all God wanted from me in that moment. There was room after room of patients with such debilitating illnesses and heart wrenching deformities- mentally and physically. We saw patients with common African diseases like malaria, trachoma and tuberculosis, and we saw patients with diseases that we had never even heard of in our Western bubble.
One was a little three or four year old boy, with big doe eyes and long lush lashes, who had been born with spinal tuberculosis. The extent of his disease took my breath away and for a brief moment my heart felt his anguish, as my eyes took in the extreme curvature of his little back, I listened with tears and a burning lump in my throat as the doctor explained his deformity and illness and prognosis of this child the same age and size as my Scotty back home.
The little boy's shy eyes met mine, and he smiled. And in that court yard in the middle of Mother Teresa Hospital in Addis Ababa, while terribly diseased patients and the reality of the cruelness of this world swirled around me, God began to write a theme over this trip and engrave it into my heart.
Tiffany, don't you see? These are My children, My precious creation - all of them were intricately knit into the womb of their mother - every last one of these faces were created in My image. Look at them, I mean really look into their eyes and SEE. Look past their tattered rags, their wounds, and diseases, their poverty - they are Mine - hand-fashioned by Me. Look at them through My eyes - stop looking at their exterior, and look at the heart that I fashioned and breathed life into. Every single one of these people need Jesus and the Gospel, and you need to open your eyes and see them as I do - see them as the precious souls that I shed blood for - see them as I see you - stop hiding from the pain, stop running from the anguish, and invite the anguish into your heart as your own, in order that you may burn with the desire and the need to share my Gospel with the people that this world has forgotten. People right here in Ethiopia created in my image and people back at home - all lovingly created in my image and valuable because of the worth I have placed on them. Look at them and SEE.
And on that very first day, back in the country that will beckon me until the day I die, I chose to look anguish in the eye, and really, truly see, and as scary and painful as it was - I am thankful that I did.
Anguish is worth it. People are worth it.
Because my Jesus is worth it.