In Plain Sight
I was sitting outside, like I did every morning. Bible and notebook in hand; swatting flies and swinging my legs. If I could just keep moving the flies could not land. Funny how a few hundred flies can take away the peacefulness right out of a quiet time.
I was determined however to spend my time with God outside. I wanted to pray and see what I was praying for. I wanted to read the Bible and be seen reading it. I wanted to pray and be seen praying. Not because I wanted to be seen as holy, but for the simple matter that I wanted to practice what I was preaching. And I felt that God wanted me outside (and not held up in the small tent with the two other girls on my team).
The bench was too high, and my feet did not touch. I had to sit carefully to not get another hole in my pants from the nails. The height of the bench made it perfect for leg swinging, which made it the best (as in better than the rest) place for my attempt at 'quiet' time. It was often a struggle to keep my focus on God and not my war with the flies. (Or my fear of another hole in my pants.) And believe me it was war.
This morning, I was caught in a struggle, feeling lead to pray for the people I was surrounded by and at a total loss of how to even begin. The poverty that surrounded me was unsettling, but it was not my focus. The spiritual battle that began long before we stepped foot in the tribe was raging. The needs were great. Physical. Spiritual. My prayer began with pleading, asking, begging Jesus to pray for the the tribe. How could I know how to pray? But He, their creator, surely He knew how to pray. And surely His prayers would be better than any that I could offer.
I had been praying, head bowed, eyes tightly shut. A noise, had caught my attention, and I looked up. There stood a very adorable looking little boy. No flipflops were on his little feet. Infected mosquito bites covered his bare little feet. He wore a tattered shirt, and his shorts that were too big. Both were soiled with yesterday's romp in the dirt.
I looked around, and saw a few other people. All of them dressed in filthy rags. They were wearing the clothes that would not sell in an American thrift store. Holes. Dirt smears. Sweat stains. The filthiness was appalling. My heart ached not for the physical filth that I saw, but what it signified. The filthy sinfulness that had ensnared them. That trapped them. The sleeping around. The drunkenness. The list is a long one.
I realized how I needed to pray for them. That they have eyes to see the truth of their sin. The Bible says our righteousness is as filthy rags. Their sin was in plain sight, but they could not see it. They were blinded by life. By sin. By their desperation. They could not see their need for Christ.
It had come to my attention that sin to them was a fuzzy line. There was an understanding that sin was bad, but what exactly constituted a sin? And what sin was so bad it kept you from God? And exactly how close was God anyway? Sin. Something that had always been so black and white in my head, was so gray in theirs. How do you backtrack through a life and teach the building blocks of right and wrong?
I chose the Ten Commandments.
It was amazing to walk through Scripture with people who had never been taught so directly about how exactly to define sin. Realization dawned in their eyes. In true Filipino style there was much laughing and joking. But there was also a deep sense of 'ulaw' -shame.
I remember that moment, as a 6 year old; that moment when I realized I should be ashamed of myself. That moment when I cried out to Jesus wearing my filthiest rags. That moment when He forgave me and gave me clothing of righteousness. My prayer that had begun in heart wrenching silence had now turned into begging and pleading. 'Oh God give them sight, to see their sinfulness; to see your goodness. That the conviction in their hearts be not wasted, Oh God please do not let it go to waste. Do not let their hearts harden to Your truth. God may they see their filthiness and repent.'
One thing I learned this summer is that if you pray for conviction, you should also pray for repentance. The saddest soul in the world is the convicted one who does not turn in repentance. The most angry man in the world is the one that heard God speak but turned a deaf ear. The person filled with the vilest hatred is the one who almost knew love, but turned his desires away from God and back to the world.
Do not be fooled though. If you are reading this and looking down at your name brand clothing. Thrift store or not. Do not be fooled by the self-righteousness that you clothe yourself in. Do not be tricked into thinking that because you are physically clean that your soul is not bruised and dying.
Do not be so foolish as to confuse the righteousness you are wearing with your own. Do you not remember that you were once clothed in rags as well. Do you not remember the weight of your sin?
I often regret not being better than I am, but by God's grace I am clothed in HIS righteousness. The hope that I have is given. The ability to withstand temptation is not my own. The strength I have to face each day, it comes from Jesus. Nothing is my own.
Nothing is my own. Think about that for a moment. All those things that you pretend to own...not really yours. All that righteousness you pretend is coming out of the goodness of your heart... it is a lie. It is flowing directly from the Father. If not than it is not righteousness, it's just 'prettied up' self seeking good works.
Oh God, may our eyes be opened to our sinfulness and to our salvation. May our petty complaints and fears be put aside. May our lives bring honor to Your name. May our hope bring glory to Your name. And may the righteousness we wear be a testimony to Your redemption.