I got an email from Dalena with a ton of pictures of our folks “passing it on” at RIFA. I quickly uploaded them to Flickr, posted the gallery on the Thrive web site, and then fired off a “thanks” email to the wonderful people of Thrive Community Church. I had some other tasks to mark off my to-do list and once finished I decided to actually LOOK at the pictures I just uploaded. I saw their faces. I began to wonder about the stories behind those faces. What circumstances led to their position of need? What do their futures hold?
Two thoughts wrestled for attention in my head – both drenched in guilt.
First, I was ashamed of how I had been looking at these people. At the end of John’s Gospel an important story is told – the story of Jesus’ reinstatement of Paul’s apostleship. Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs/sheep”. I realize that it may be contextual massaging to connect this scripture in this way, but the Holy Spirit’s words to my heart are “feed my sheep”. The weight of this heart-call is especially potent to me because I often suffer the temptation to allow myself to judge these people.
When Jesus preached to feed the poor and to look after the widows he never attached the phrase “as long as they deserve it”, or “as long as they look for a job”, or “as long as they promise to come to church afterward”. He just said to feed his sheep. Now I realize that we need to be good stewards, but we better be careful what criteria we place on that stewardship. Merit has absolutely no place in such decisions. It’s never about whether or not they deserve it, but rather if we have the resources and the logistical capability to be of aid.
The second potential guilt-trap is one of expectations – expectations placed on myself. You see, as I looked at those faces I also began to feel guilty because I had not been able to be a part of passing those bags out on any of the nights for various reasons despite great intentions. I, the pastor of Thrive, did not make it to a single night. God reminded me that we have over 80 others who are a part of Thrive’s family who are quite capable of being involved. God provided people to handle every night. So there was no reason for me to feel guilty – God had it covered.
I wonder how many of us are tempted to allow guilt to make us feel like we MUST be involved at every plea for help or for every plea for funds. I am not giving anyone permission to do “nothing”. But, I wonder how many of us put ourselves into slavery by volunteering for everything instead of allowing God to steer us to the things where He wants us to be a blessing and steering us away from things when He wants SOMEONE ELSE to be a blessing.
In His grip,