Monday, October 24, 2011

The Easy Kind of Hard

me at an orphange in India
 A number of years ago, I met a sick woman.

As I walked into the large, crowded room, the hot dawning sunlight warmed the rows and rows of small gray cots tightly packed together. On every scanty bed lay a woman. A human tragedy. A social disgust. An untouchable, good-riddance. Forgotten and sentenced to a horrid fate. Each solemn face bore the marks of shame and despair. Many ladies looked away, looked down, or bade to hide their curious glances upon my entrance into the putrid room. Just barely able to offer a warm smile, I made my way through the scores of women each residing in her personal chamber of death. To each woman I encountered, I spoke a simple, cheerful greeting and then proceeded to maneuver through the close living quarters.

I am not sure if it has been the passage of time or the shocking experience that has erased the names and faces I met on this particular summer day in India at Mother Theresa’s Death and Dying Institute, but I can only remember one woman - Alice.

She was sick. She was hurting. She clasped my hands ever so tightly. She smiled. Her eyes reached deep into her soul and shined the brightest I ever remembering seeing a person’s eyes shining. To my surprise, she spoke a little bit of English and she knew His name—Jesus. I loved her without reserve. I loved her despite of the way malnutrition had conquered her body; her upper thighs were nothing but skin and bone—measuring about the radius of my lower arm. The harshness of life had etched deep, telling lines into the skin that stretched across her gaunt face. To top it off, my new friend was unable to walk, move, or even clean herself. She was condemned to merely lay motionless.

As it so happened, our small missionary group arrived on the Institute’s bathing day. We worked for hours that morning washing all of the 140 suffering women. For me, it was physically painful, sickening, and traumatic (and that is mildly put!). When it was my new friend’s turn to bathe, I insisted that I care for her. The icy cold water the caregivers sprayed on the women must have hurt because my friend tightly closed her eyes and tried to suppress groans of pain. The caregivers vigorously scrubbed her with a brushed that I would have used on a rugged animal at a zoo. As I watched the unfamiliar way of caring for outcasts of society, I could hardly breathe. At least someone takes care of them. Their families left them on the street to die, a voice of reason and justice echoed in my mind.

I lifted my friend and placed her on a hard wooden bench to dry her like a baby. She shut her eyes as though she could close out the pain and she lay so still that I thought she would die.

I will never forget her. I will never forget how much I cared for her. It was hard but I loved her.

Over the years since my short mission trip to India, I have easily adjusted to the ease and comforts of America, but there is one thing paradoxically easier in India than in America. For me, in India it was easier to love when it was hard to love and in America it is harder to love when it is easy to love. Confusing? Take for instance, in my American life as a regular homemaker I encounter needy people who are clean, mobile, fed, healthy, wealthy, and optimistic nevertheless they are needy. Shouldn’t it be easy to love them? Instead, I dig in my heels and demand my rights, my time, my desires, my dreams, my needs, my comforts, my health—all the things I sacrificed to love an objectionable outcast. What’s wrong with this picture?

Steven Curtis Chapman has an awesome new song called “Do Everything”; the lyrics say:

Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long

As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,

Cause he made you,

To do

Every little thing that you do

To bring a smile to His face

Tell the story of grace

With every move that you make

And every little thing you do

So whether I am in India or in Indiana, I am to do EVERYTHING, easy or hard, in love.

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

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