Earlier this week, my heart exploded with love as I sat on the road just outside our house and allowed 8-10 kids to crawl all over me like a jungle gym. They had come to sit with me when our feeding program had ended, and they eagerly grabbed any body part that already wasn’t covered with beautiful brown skin and claimed it as their seat.
Elizabeth… human jungle gym.
Their curious hands pointed to my ears, eyes, nose, arms, and legs as their curious minds asked how to say each body part in English, often giggling at the answer. They twirled my hair and tried to rub off my tattoo. They scratched my nail polish and played with my earrings and necklace. They told me their names and sang mine over and over.
Joy to be here. Joy to be loved. Joy to love.
Joy thanks to Christ.
I sat with them (and under them!) on the concrete ledge by the road until my legs went numb. I finally had to tear myself away and tell the children “orevwa” (goodbye) because honestly I thought my bladder might explode.
I noticed that I was stiff when I stood up, but like any old woman, I walked it off.
When I woke up the next morning, my back hurt so bad that I couldn’t even bend over at the sink to wash my face. Not good.
I realized what kind of pressure ridiculous numbers of children sitting on me probably put on my previously broken, Z-shaped tailbone as I had sat on the concrete and morphed into a human jungle gym. Sitting on the concrete floor every day for my therapy appointments hadn’t helped, either. Nor had a mattress with springs poking me all night long.
I suffered through a day of excruciating low back pain.
The next day when I woke up, I felt a bit better. I showered and began getting dressed for the day when it happened. Something shifted between my shoulder blades, and I felt as if someone was stabbing me in the back. All of a sudden, I couldn’t turn my head to the side.
As I lay facedown on my floor and sobbed through the pain, my peers urged me to spend the day in bed.
It was difficult for me to rest. To spend a whole day in bed… but I conceded.
And then… the power went out. No power meant no fan to keep me cool.
Excruciating pain. Drenched in sweat.
Lord… am I in hell?!
Needless to say, this week has been anything but comfortable.
Being so uncomfortable this week has honestly made me homesick.
I shared on my Facebook page tonight that I think I am homesick for comfort. I began thinking of all the comforts of home that I used to take for granted.
I’m not even talking about pedicures, 90-minute massages, or sitting in my parents’ hot tub under the stars.
I’m talking about going a whole day without being drenched in sweat.
Being able to take a warm shower. Or even go barefoot in the shower!
Wait. Being able to go barefoot ANYWHERE!
Being able to walk on carpet. Or grass.
I’m talking about being able to shower or use the toilet without being attacked by 10,000 mosquitoes! Or showering without being stared at by a fuzzy tarantula. Or a cockroach. Or termites. (Perverts.)
Feeling completely clean after a shower… and not having to immediately put on sticky bug spray. Not having itchy mosquito bites.
I’m talking about being able to fix my hair… or even wear it down without having a heat stroke.
Having clean laundry… and clothes that smell good. Or clothes that aren’t crispy from the Haitian laundry. Soft clothes.
Being able to lie down at night and sleep on cool sheets… and a comfortable mattress that doesn’t poke me in the hips with its springs.
I’m talking about being able to sit on a couch. Or just one comfortable seat!
Watching TV. Or using the Internet and not having to wait 20 minutes for one picture to upload.
I’m talking about using a microwave, dishwasher, or a washing machine. Or being able to plug in my electronics without worrying they’ll get fried when the electricity suddenly blinks on and off.
Having a peaceful, quiet morning without constant honking, yelling, or construction noise…
Having a belly full of buttery rolls and rotisserie-roasted chicken and a sweet potato from Texas Roadhouse… sweet tea… or ice cream whenever I want it. Snacks. Mountain Dew.
I’m talking about the comfort of having my 65-lb lap baby curl up with me after a long day. Or jumping in an oversized armchair with my daddy (because I promised him I’d never get to big to do so)…
I never knew just a few short months ago that I’d one day consider these parts of my daily life precious comforts.
The thing is… when I am finished whining and I take a look around… when a child leaps into my arms… when I take a walk to the beach or stand on the rooftop overlooking the village… I see that as I sacrifice my comfort, the Lord pours out His love on me. He shows me the greatest joy that I have ever known. He is my joy. Not first-world conveniences.
The Lord never promised that following Him would be comfortable.
All physical comforts aside, just consider how uncomfortable social situations have the potential to be when we are obedient to Him instead of being swept away by the ways of the world: Situations like telling your significant other in the heat of the moment that you want to wait until marriage to have sex. Or telling the truth in an awkward situation even when it means sacrificing your pride. Confessing how you have wronged someone and asking for forgiveness. Being the only person at a party who isn’t drunk or high. Refusing to participate in workplace gossip, even if it means you become the outcast. Being the only person in your family who confesses Jesus as their savior – suddenly making you the black sheep.
Just like the frequent physical discomforts of living in the poorest country in the world, none of these social situations are comfortable either. But sacrificing comfort… turning away from sins… dying to ourselves in these situations where we’d rather feel pleasure, acceptance, or comfort… is what Christ has demanded of us in order to follow Him.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24
Some may argue that the Lord is asking much of us. That he doesn’t want us to be happy. That it is cruel to ask us to “die to ourselves.”
What does this mean, anyway? And what do we get out of it?
Romans explains it beautifully:
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” – Romans 7:4-6
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” – Romans 8:12-13
When we do this… when we are united with Christ in His death, our old, sinful ways are put to death and we live by the power of His Spirit instead of our own measly efforts.
Living in the Spirit allows us to turn our backs on sins, to deny our flesh of the yearning for comforts, and to resist the temptation to live by worldly standards. It allows us eternal rewards. Paul experienced this, stating, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8
Lose life. Gain Christ. No comparison.
So now we’ve established one thing… we die. Great.
But what do we get in return?
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:24-25
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus… If we died with him, we will also live with him…” – 2 Timothy 2:3,11
We die to ourselves, we live for Him, and then… we live with Him. Now and forever.
Denying ourselves and suffering through this life for the sake of Christ will be nothing compared to what we gain! The rewards are often not seen immediately, but they will surpass anything we can imagine.
I mentioned earlier how sometimes (when I stop whining about the comforts I miss) I experience joy as He pours out His love on me. He gives me glimpses of Himself every day…
Walking with Him may mean sacrificing comforts and turning away from selfish desires.
But it also means I am walking with Him.
Did you hear that??
WALKING with the KING of the UNIVERSE! The creator of every atom that exists!!
As I put to death pieces of me that keep me from Him, He fills me with Himself, and I am then empowered to live each moment in the joy that I will one day be with Him, forever.
And what place could ever be more comfortable… than in the arms of my Father?!