(Photo by Wicker Furniture)
Like many of you, I’ll step on a scale on Jan. 2, 2014, and think, “OK. Its back to leafy greens and carrots for you!”
Then, I’ll make a resolution to change my wayward eating habits. And while I’m at it, I’ll look at my monthly budget and adjust it to save a little more.
And after hearing a rousing sermon, or a TEDTalk or reading a great op-ed on the Web, I’ll make another resolution to give more time to helping the needy right here at my doorstep.
The first week of January puts us in a “change the world” mood. We come up with so many resolutions, but what’s at the root of this need for change? This year, I’ll enter that season with a poignant reminder, from the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan response.
“This can’t get any worse!”
Driving into the disaster zone with our media team, I kept thinking, “This can’t get any worse.”
First, we saw wind damage that sawed the tops off stately coconut palms, and sheared banana plants to the ground. Then we started to see trash and debris hanging in trees well over our heads, evidence of the 20-foot wall of water that crashed ashore. Finally, we drove into neighborhoods where not one building or tree was left standing.
I thought, “There is no way I’m going to be able to stand the despair to capture the stories of the people here. I don’t know how to do interviews in this kind of environment.”
A Gift, Just in Time
The minute I stepped out of our van, in front of the mayor’s office in the town of Basey, I got a gift: a Holy Spirit one-two punch.
“Why are you expecting a spirit of despair here? Take a look around. Listen. What do you see and hear?” the Spirit said.
People waited in line, quiet and orderly, while social workers counseled them and provided them with access to food, shelter and medical care. Government leaders huddled together to solve problems amid the cacophony of thousands of people being relational. Chain saws buzzed and hammers rang as people rebuilt homes and storefronts.
I thought I had disasters all figured out. I expected to see people sitting on their hands and waiting for the government or the relief agencies to rescue them. I realized I had made a really fatalistic and even bigoted assumption about what I’d see on the ground in the Philippines.
Spiritual Poverty, Step One
I realized the first change I needed to make was not in my interview methods. I needed to change a very deep, inner assumption about the nature of poverty and those living in poverty. I had to acknowledge my own spiritual poverty, the attitude that I’m the bringer of all answers and solutions.
During the two days gathering stories, talking to people trying to rebuild, there were many moments of sadness. I cried at every interview. The stories were heart wrenching.
But the Lord guided us every step of the way through the whole process. God brought questions when my stress-addled brain couldn’t function. God brought answers through wonderful translators. I didn’t bring solutions, God did.
This year, we need to pray for our own inner change. I hope that you will know the joy of change that comes from God’s prompting, and goes heart-deep in this New Year. May it help you to make resolutions that will further God’s kingdom in 2014.