A Burdened Heart

Have you ever spent a week at church camp or gone on a mission trip? The traveling, the relationships, the food, the work, the learning - so enriching and enlightening. We are exposed to experiences that fill our souls yet break our hearts. We make new friends, feel a special kinship to them, and sadly say goodbye at the end of our time together. Our heart stirs in new ways, feeling emotions it has never felt before, and should we choose to delve deeper, investigate, process, and follow its lead, we know our lives will never be the same.

Then we come home. At first we feel raw with emotion, the experiences so fresh in ours mind. We share with anyone who will listen about all that we saw, did, and cannot wait to do now that we are home. There is a new passion alive within us. We correspond with friends we met during the trip, and share a common desire to go back. We long for the memories and intensity of emotions to be real again. We have come home with deep convictions, which lead to new priorities. We hope to never go back to life like it was before this experience.

Day and weeks go by. The intensity of emotions shifts to a mild remembrance, and the convictions we felt at one time now feel a little dramatic (i.e., It's not wrong to have 10 pairs of shoes). You slip back into old habits and ways of life.

     A week of providing food to starving families initially led us to extreme gratitude for food without waste, and before we know it, we're throwing away leftovers in the fridge because they just don't sound very good.

     A week of studying God's Word and singing our hearts out initially led us to waking up at 6:00 a.m. every day to have quiet time with God, but a couple weeks later, we are back to sleeping in every single day because we stayed up too late watching TV and playing on Facebook.

     After a week of seeing children rummaging through trash, playing with a half-deflated soccer ball, going to the restroom in the streets, and living at a landfill, we promise ourselves that our children will get one or two Christmas presents this year, but when the holiday season arrives, we can't help but buy them toys, candy, clothing, and gifts galore because they will be so happy on Christmas morning.

On the inside, we feel a little guilty that the experience did not change our lives like we hoped it would. We had the best intentions to never forget what we saw and did, and in our heart of hearts, we truly wanted the passion we experienced to transform us. However, we live in America, and the people we surround ourselves with did not have our same experience. The passion we felt is not affirmed. Our loved ones do not feel our same convictions. Their hearts are not burdened in the same way ours hearts are burdened.

And the burden hurts. It is painful and real, and part of you wants it to just stop hurting. How can we live in America, with this burden, and still live a happy life when that is the American way - to strive for happiness? Our longstanding priorities of success, wealth, material goods, approval from others, achievement, and love beckon louder than our new passions to change the face of worldwide hunger, orphaned children, preventable disease, vulnerable widows, and clean water. Our original priorities are affirmed by those around us, and suddenly, it feels normal to pursue them again.

In the end, we decide that the best thing we can do is send money to an organization that supports what broke our hearts. We know that it will truly benefit the lives of others, and when we're really honest with ourselves, we know that our guilt for not doing more will also subside. We didn't make the life changes we had hoped for, but at least we were doing something to help (and of course that financial aid helps...it's just not what the initial convictions of the heart led us to do).
Today, I found myself wanting to forget what I've seen. I want to forget what I know. The burden is too heavy and cuts too deep. They are just children, helpless, and vulnerable and deserving of so much more than life has given them. They deserve a mom and a dad and brothers and sisters. They deserve a hug in the morning and a kiss goodnight. They deserve to have healing for their club feet so that they can walk and run and play. They deserve to have their HIV treated so they can live a long life. They deserve to have their cleft lips and palates repaired into beautiful smiles. The deserve to have their extra chromosome cherished and celebrated. They deserve to eat meals that nourish their bodies. The deserve to learn at school and become world changers. They deserve to hear about the Father who loves them so much and learn that they fearfully and wonderfully made. They deserve LOVE. Oh how they deserve love. Unconditional, sacrificial, I-would-give-my-life-for-you kind of love.
Ryan and I went on a mission trip of sorts, and we came home from China on October 25, 2013 with Tucker. Our experiences filled our souls yet broke our hearts. We made new friends, felt a special kinship to them, and were sad to say goodbye. Our hearts were stirred in new ways, feeling emotions like never before, and we knew our lives would never be the same.

Then we come home, our emotions raw and the experiences so fresh in ours mind. Through this blog, we shared with everyone what we saw and did. Our passion for orphans was stronger than ever. We regularly correspond with other China families and share a common desire fight for the fatherless. The memories and intensity of emotions is as strong as ever. We came home with deep convictions, changing our hearts and leading to new priorities.

Our adoption experience has changed our lives, the kind of change that, even a year later, makes life in America still feel different. There are many times I have wanted to leave, walk away from our life here because I don't feel like I fit anymore. The passion we feel has transformed our hearts. Much like in the example above, despite their incredible love and support, the people around us did not have our same experience. The passion we feel is not always affirmed. Many people do not feel our same conviction that every child deserves a family. Their hearts are not burdened in the same way ours hearts are burdened. And the burden hurts. It is painful and real, and sometimes I want it to just stop hurting.

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes” -David Platt

Go to Africa to build a clean water well, but don't just come home when you are done. Instead, invite a family who has never experienced clean water to live with you in your home. I bet you will be aware of your seven faucets, washing machine, water heater, refrigerator with filtered water, dishwasher, and three toilets like never before. The family's presence makes you aware of just how very fortunate you've been all these years. You realize that real people spend a large part of their day collecting water to drink, cook, and clean. You know they are real because they live in your home. These real people watched their child and dozens of others die from a water born illness. You try to explain to them why you own a water softener, but when the words come out, you realize how crazy you sound. The family living with you continuously ignites what you experienced in Africa. Because of them, you can't forget what you know or what you've seen. You can't brush your teeth with the water running ever again because there is a family in your home who sees water as more valuable than gold, and now you do, too. Your heart has been transformed, and you will never be the same. All you want to do is get more involved with the water crisis in the world. You blog about it. You post about it on Facebook. You donate to clean water causes. You see Christmas as an opportunity to fundraise for a new well. You go back to Africa every year instead of going on family vacations in order to build new wells, maintain the old ones, and connect with the people who still suffer from the water crisis. You realize that while God has created you for many purposes, one of the most important is helping people obtain clean water.
The people around you support your efforts, but you wonder if they are tired of hearing about the water crisis. Maybe they want to brush their teeth and take long, hot showers in peace. If that's the case, you understand how they feel - secretly you miss the days of long, hot showers, too. God has put this desire in your heart so strongly, though, that it pours out at all times and in all places. You find yourself sitting quietly at get togethers just listening because you know what will flow from your heart if you open your mouth.
Everyone thinks the family living with you is really nice and that their kids are so cute. They can't believe how much the family is thriving in your home. You think that maybe, just maybe, getting to know this family will make the water crisis real for them, too. Posting pictures of them on Facebook and telling stories about them on your blog...surely that will make the crisis come alive, making it personal to them, too, right? Every time you look at this family, you are reminded of all the other families trying to survive in Africa. You hope and pray that it stirs the same in others and motivates them to get involved in the water crisis, too. Your heart's burden to provide clean water for others is lifted only when many carry the weight. So you stay, and you keep sharing.
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