Having this world’s good

Confession: Life is not fair.

People say this a lot to children, the littles with the big expectations. I remember having it said to me, and I hated it. I thought then and I think now that it’s a poor excuse for leaving things the way they are.

1 John 3:17 “If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?”

No, I do not think that life is fair. But shouldn’t we try to make it as fair as we can?

I have an unfinished story to tell:

On June 1st, 2012, I went into Fashion Bug with a wonderful coupon-about-to-expire: $10 off any purchase of $20 or more.

I rarely buy new clothes, except fabric to sew into dresses. I like frequenting secondhand stores. Jesus has been so tender about meeting the needs of my family in this way. Yet armed with my coupon, next thing to cash, I thought But of course! This means getting a $20 sweater for $10. I will go see what I can find.

I had one of those wonderful hours of shopping in which the stars are right, the styles are right, the colors are right, the prices are right. Aarick and I pranced around finding me some treasures. A lovely little white sweater. A soft oversized gray one. A black top, and a white vest. And a flamboyant salmon shirt, with embroidery. I fell in love, and I carefully selected these five out of a hundred and bought them all.

Confession: (this is harder to admit than I thought it would be) I spent fifty dollars in Fashion Bug.

A rare, exhilarating, slightly-guilty splurge.

A friend of mine used to say, “It’s not about how much you spend, it’s about how much you save.” And I saved upwards of $40.

I came home and hung up my purchases and went online to check the news.

This is what I saw, while the bottom dropped out of the world.

"A woman holds her malnourished child at a therapeutic feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, May 28, 2012. Yemen is facing a food crisis of “catastrophic proportions”, with almost half the population going hungry and a third of children in some areas severely malnourished, aid agencies have warned."

Source credit: fotojournalismus

Photo credit: Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

This is not a random picture from musty archives. Three days before my splurge, this Littlest lay in distress. Global suffering is stretched around his ribcage, but global suffering means nothing to him. He is just a child in Yemen, and everything hurts. Where is he now? Did he live? I cannot get him out of my mind.

What does this mean? What does it change?

I know it is about far more than what I did on June 1st at Fashion Bug. It’s about my lifestyle, and the only thing that comes to mind is filthy rich. But somehow it doesn’t feel alright to give a little money, painlessly, soothe the conscience and go on enjoying my wealthy treasures. I cannot get him out of my mind. Those clothes scream accusations at me now, especially one flamboyant salmon top with embroidery… they scream filthy rich!

Am I brave enough to undo that splurging action, to return the clothes I loved and chose so that a boy in Yemen can have food?

I feel compassion and powerlessness all mixed. I can donate till I’m blue (and I hope to) but I cannot save that child. And I cannot change Yemen, a country torn.

Who am I to be talking about fair? This rich white American woman with enough clothes to layer for effect, for heaven’s sake; and food in her freezer and ten acres of paradise and a huge house and healthy children and all the people I love safe and well—comfort and security and warmth and books and beauty, peace all around me.

No, I do not think that life is fair–but shouldn’t we make it as fair as we can?

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11 years ago

I’ve been wrestling with these questions too lately and haven’t come to any brilliant conclusions. But here are a few disjointed thoughts.
>The Bible says true religion is visiting (helping?) the fatherless and the widows
>God intentionally gave us the riches we have–for what purpose?
>If we come at this question with the aim of making life as fair as we can, it seems to me we’re setting ourselves up for a monumental, maybe impossible task. What looks more doable to me is giving what we feel called to give and holding our riches with the knowledge that God has given them, and they are His to use as He chooses. Ugh. So much easier to say than to do.

11 years ago

Thank-you for your honesty and reminding me again of how blessed I am. That photo stirred something in my heart. How can I call myself a follower of Christ and turn a blind eye to the misery I see around me? How can I refuse to be educated about the dilemma of hunger and extreme poverty in the world today when it is only by the grace of God that I am in my shoes and not in theirs {if they have any!}?

I find for myself it is easier to care for that child far away than it is to care for the needy within arms’ reach. But as Andy Stanley would say, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.”

(p.s. I enjoy your blog. 🙂 )

11 years ago

Shari, first of all I would say “guilt is not of God” so then you cannot allow guilt to hound you every time you make a purchase that might be categorized as a splurge. Why, even a simple grocery list of milk and eggs would be far more than these poor deprived children would ever have. So it can’t be about “equaling” the scales, because that can’t happen. We live in America and we are very wealthy. So rather, just ask God…what would you have me do about this?
Go ahead and buy the beautiful skirt, but give as graciously, as extravagantly, to those who are in need. Thats my 2 cents =)

11 years ago

Shari, I too have wrestled long and hard with this, and I still wrestle with it. Our family believes we should live simply so that others may simply live. But exactly how far does “simple” go?? Only one pair of shoes? Two? Is three extravagent if we have a need for them? What about (as another person posted) the meals we eat each day? I don’t know if ANY of us can answer those questions for another, but I do believe that each of us do well to take that before God–again and again–and ask for HIS guidance and direction to us in this area on a regular basis. I honestly believe we have fallen far short of what God wants as a group of Christians in this area, and that “being good providers for our families and our future” has taken the place of a open-handed approach to those in need. We think we “need” so many things, but do we really?? No. My heart still bleeds when I think about the shape we found our daughter, Katya, in merely a year ago–and how she came home to us wearing size 3T clothing that BAGGED on her due to starvation at age 6.5. Along with that, she was (and is) completely non-verbal, and had been severely medically neglected, causing damage to her body and brain that is irreversable short of a miracle from God. She is now much healthier and happier but the physical and emotional damage that the years of neglect and abuse left on her will take years of love, food, family, and God to heal . . . We can not save all the world, but we CAN do our part, and for us, that has meant adopting two precious girls who would have otherwise been sent to a mental institution to a living death. Death would have been kinder. They now grace our home with their love and laughter, and each day I thank God for them. Meanwhile, there are other children . . . still languishing in orphanages around the world. And we can ALL give them the gift of prayers . . . http://theblessingofverity.com/ Thank you for being honest . . . I love you for that (and so many other things), and thank you for sharing . . . Hope Anne

Mom Coblentz
11 years ago

Pictures of this nature are almost beyond ‘bearing’. They haunt, make one weep, ramp mother instincts, make me feel helpless, and bring a certain amount of hopelessness to my heart. What all else goes on in our world that we never hear about or get a glimpse of? And what of the Father’s heart? He sees it all!!! How can His keep bleeding over and over, year after endless year? And when will He put a stop to all this unfairness???????

11 years ago

My heart connects with this post, because I almost can’t buy anything for myself without feeling guilty…even at a thrift store…and I know it isn’t a healthy balance…and yet I struggle with even the idea of balance.

Jesus gave all and so why shouldn’t we? And we have so many reasons to excuse our purchases and I don’t really believe that buying myself a sweater or even occasionally the once-in-a-blue-moon $50 splurge for things we can use and maybe need is wrong…

and yet…

that little child in Yemen starving.

I hear you Shari.

I don’t think your purchases were inherently wrong, but I like that you care deeply and willingly question our lifestyles which often is extravagant in light of eternity…

and that little child in Yemen starving to death.

I’m with you!

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