I stood in the entryway of my middle-class home in my above-average neighborhood, and my eyes scanned my lovely surroundings. I took in my leather sofa, my overstuffed chair, and the large portrait of my beautiful family.
And I wept.
I didn't cry because it wasn't nice or good enough.
I cried because it was too much.
It was my first day back from a life-wrecking trip to Africa, and I was burdened with more than the heavy luggage at my feet or the desperate need for a bed and shower. I was burdened with my mess.
At a glance, my home looked neat and tidy. Everything had a place; there was order. I've always been one of those irritating neat freaks, organized almost to a fault, and friends would scoff at my so-called mess.
But then sometimes we discover that we are the mess.
I traveled to Kenya in 2010 as a blogger with Compassion International. I knew it would be a life-changing trip, but I had no idea just how much it would alter my family and our future. I added new words and phrases like slums and orphan-led home and prostitution-for-food to my vocabulary. I stood on garbage floors where children slept, I walked through sewage on my way to cardboard shanty homes, and I inhaled smells I will never forget. I met the poorest of the poor—people who had nothing, not even enough to eat.
One of the people I met that day was a boy named Vincent, a sponsored child who was an orphan and also served as parent to his little brother. While we were standing there, I was startled when water began dripping through the cracks in the tin roof and hitting me on the head. I tried to move out of the way. I blocked out the sounds coming through the community toilet's walls, one that Vincent and his brother shared with their neighbors. I closed my eyes and listened to Vincent tell us how he walked miles to school every day, coming and going in the dark.
When I opened my eyes and looked at Vincent, he looked so peaceful. The light that radiated from his eyes filled the dark room of his hovel. How can he be so content with so little?
I couldn't stop the questions from coming out of my mouth. "Why are you so happy? Why aren't you afraid?"
He looked at me as if I'd missed it entirely. "Because I have Jesus."
He didn't say anything else. He didn't have to. It was enough.
He was right; I had missed it. Entirely.
I said I lived for Jesus but the truth was that Jesus really wasn't enough for me. Not like he was for Vincent.
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For Further StudyDownloadable resources to go deeper
- Carolyn Custis James: What It Means to Be a Woman in MinistryeBook Format Available! Author and speaker Carolyn Custis James offers leadership insights for women.