Guatemala 2016 | Paradox

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 1.49.01 PMI am in a season of processing paradox.

For a girl who has seen the world in terms of black and white for as far back as my memory goes, this is proving to be incredibly hard, while at the same time, incredibly transformative. For example:

Much of my days are spent “looking for light” but to do that you have to enter the darkness.

I love to travel and meet people, but I am not sure you could find a more introverted introvert.

I am a white girl from Mississippi, but hope for racial reconciliation is deeply implanted in my heart.

I am learning the deep connection between contemplation and action.

This is a sampling of items on my ongoing list, but the one I find myself struggling with most these days is the tension of wealth and poverty.

On virtually any state poverty map you look at, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in our country; I have friends and family members there who struggle to pay their monthly bills. I have been to some of the very places we will be spending time in Guatemala, including the city dump where I have a sponsor child, whom I have hugged in her “home” made of corrugated tin walls. In other international travel, I regularly spend time in homes that are smaller than my new bedroom.

In the past few years, as my eyes have been more opened and my focus has become less self-centered this tension has become a daily struggle. I long to live in one of those Portland “tiny houses” you read about and have all my possessions in a backpack, even as in my “real life” we move from one “non-tiny” house to another across the country. Reading about the poverty stricken and the power inequality in our world that is largely based on money, as I sort through our lifetime of possessions, has made for a week of great internal struggle:
with shame
with sorrow at past spending habits
with gratefulness for the life I have lived
with confusion at how to make changes that matter on a larger scale
with frustration at all there is to do and not knowing where to start
with peace from sitting in the grass with a glass of water, watching the ducks and geese come in for graceful landings.

Paradox.

Wealth and Poverty.

In reflecting on scripture and our reading this week, it seems that Jesus and his followers had much to say about this, words I’ve read but they haven’t always hit this deeply. The oft-misquoted verse comes to mind of course from 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” but also further down in verses 17-19 I see more: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future….” In reflecting on how in this world I can hold all these tensions together in my life, the one I am living now, our “required reading” of John 15:1-17 seemed to speak so loudly into this very paradox: Jesus says exactly 10 times in this passage to “abide” or “remain” in him. Whether material and monetary blessings overflow or whether one is picking through trash for pennies for their child’s dinner, somehow remaining with Jesus is the key. Even as I type this I struggle to understand it because it feels wrong, insulting, even heartless to say from where I stand.

Yet, this is where I’m landing:

Somehow it’s not the presence or the absence of the money that matters. It’s the desire for it that holds the key to peace.

So as I struggle to know whether to hold on to “junk” because to throw it out would be doubly wasteful, or to gently add it to the donation pile with a prayer that someone will find it and that my future spending habits become more helpful to the world, I wonder what difference these decisions make to my friends living in very different circumstances and neighborhoods across the world. While I might WANT to move into that tiny house, there is my husband to consider, the people our home and our money can provide for and the truth I am coming to understand more every day. I can be just as attached or unattached to my money and material wealth as I choose to be, just as those living in poverty can do. I don’t fully understand it, but I’ve seen enough impoverished people with straight joy in their smiles to know that there is a way that living in this way can bring us closer to God’s love- and I’m reminded of the Sermon on the Mount and the call to that one word: “Remain.” Somehow as we both remain in him he has the ability to make all things right. I will admit my struggle remains and I don’t see it fully now, but I have “set my heart to do good…to be generous and ready to share…” and to “Remain” with Jesus, hoping his light shines on places that give me an invitation to be generous.

DawnBioPicDawn is a 40-something recovering control-freak who is encouraged by encouraging others. She works “super part-time” as a Pediatrician and is passionate about exploring the intersection of mental, relational, spiritual, nutritional, social, emotional and physical health to bring holistic health to people. She and her husband Pete love hiking, camping, coffee and adventures of all kinds and along with their two pups Sam and Frodo, recently moved from the beautiful Pac NW to VA. She occasionally writes about life at: cupsrunningover.com