Yesterday I had a moment where I was completely focused on what I could not do. Have you ever caught yourself in a moment like that? It was humbling.
For years, twenty-three plus of them (ever since we got married) we've sponsored a child through Compassion. We've been blessed to have had relationships with three different children in that time, one of whom is now grown, a wonderful woman with whom we are still in touch.
In recent years, our monthly giving commitments have grown harder, not just with Compassion but with everything else. Our decision to stay in mission and ministry in our small town, and the various work the Lord has led us to (all part-time and self-employment) means we live lean and a bit adventurously. That last part has never come naturally to me, quiet and uncourageous woman that I am sometimes.
Some months we are able to pay our bills and meet our giving commitments, and some months we aren't. In those months, in order to keep lights on and food on the table and medicines paid, we sometimes fall behind on other things that don't seem to have the same immediate urgency. (Sometimes we also squander where we shouldn't...just because we're relatively poor doesn't mean we don't sometimes make stupid budget decisions, or give in to the whispering that tells us we deserve to eat out or we really need more books.) I have been grateful beyond words that even on the months we've fallen behind, Compassion has been willing to work with us. And that the Lord continues to provide us enough work that often, when I am paid for one of my self-employed writing or teaching projects, we are able to catch back up. I always feel better when that is the case.
We are in one of our lean, adventurous quarters right now -- end of the year is always particularly difficult for us -- and yesterday an envelope arrived from Compassion. I opened it, and several pictures fell out into my hand. Pictures of unsponsored children. The enclosed letter asked for generous giving to help them and other children like them who are in need.
The guilt I felt in the first moments when I saw those pictures was palpable. Our bank balance at the moment is at serious low-tide. We've had two recent gifts from friends that have been designated for other things than immediate spending (one is to ensure that we can spend a few days at the end of this month with our beloved parents down in Virginia) for which I am overwhelmingly grateful, but we're behind on bills and have fallen into the hole just trying to cover the month's day-to-day expenses. In other words, my immediate heart's response to seeing those pictures was an anguished "I can't."
And the "I can't" made me feel crippled. I literally almost put the pictures aside. I didn't want to look at them because, narcissistic fool that I was, I had about seventeen seconds of only thinking about myself. Poor me, not capable enough to support my own family, much less give the way I want and long to.
And then I heard the still, small voice. You know the one! The one that said, simply, "you can pray for them." The one that didn't want to brook my navel-gazing nonsense, and who simply wasn't interested in the fact that I sometimes put justifiers in front of the word "pray," as in "we can only pray," or "there's nothing I can do in this situation but pray." There is nothing mere or only about prayer.
So I started looking at their faces and reading the backs of the cards. I've put them on the kitchen table and I'll go back to them and read more. I will be praying for these children.
Sometimes it's not what we can't do....it's remembering what we can do. I am deeply thankful that God got my attention on that yesterday.