I have always been pretty good about being self-reliant. It’s an inheritenly deep American, Westernized trait that we forge our own paths, and pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps. And if you don’t, then often you are left behind, or looked down upon as if you have some sort of deficiency. And so that’s what I do…I rely on my skills and my gift sets. I use those things to help people. And to a degree, those are the tools that I brought to Haiti with me.
But what does one do when those things are stripped away?
When your ability to continually depend on you…yourself…are stripped away?
You break down and cry.
Okay, maybe not you, but that’s what I found myself doing today in front of a couple hundred Haitians underneath a dirty, makeshift church that was protected by the scorching sun by torn tarps.
It took me about a minute or so to gather myself on stage before I was able to bring forth the words that they had invited me to speak to them. And what’s a minute anyways when I had been asked to speak in the prior thirty seconds. That minute or so seemed uncomfortably long for my translator who was encouragining me to go on. If it was uncomfortable for him (as was the slow painful march to the front of the church) it felt both humiliating and freeing for me. And when I looked in the faces of the Haitians staring up at me, I knew we had connected on a much deeper and personal level than any of the words I could have spoken to them anyway.
In the quiet silence of the church, where only my sobbing could be heard, I was able to identify with their pain in a way that I didn’t think possible…and I believe they were thankful that I could mourn the loss of life with them…and then celebrate the living of life with them.
And now that all my self-reliant gifts and skills had instantly crumbled in front of me, there was only one thing that I could be dependent upon. And that one thing was the person who has always been there, and who I could always depend upon…if I only took the time to lay down my stuff and realize that the things he had given me (the gifts and skills) were to be subservient to him…not to be used in place of him. That one person is…
He’s all I had left when I was standing there, when I had nothing to say to a people who have been devastated by one of the worst human tragedies in history.
I have preached in Brazil, India, Mexico, and several other countries. But I have never preached in the midst of such destruction. Never been in a situation where there is almost nothing to say. Up to this point everything I have preached almost seems like lip service (I know it’s not, but that’s how it felt). All one can do is pray, and hope, and love, and be a presence in the midst of people’s pain.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
Those are the words I spoke when they finally broke free from my mouth. Except it was more of a rambling mess…but they must have gotten the idea because they were cheering and clapping and uttering all kinds of praises. These things were not directed at me of course, but to the reality that layed beyond…that I(we), and the Haitians are only parts of the larger body of Christ. And that when we as the members of the body, work together, it is God who brings about the restoration. Not me. Not we. Not us. GOD.
As I walked back to my chair after I finished speaking I sat there looking at all the hopeful Haitian faces in the audience, and I realized that it was THEY who had taught me an important lesson.
That it is GOD who we are dependent upon, and not ourselves. Their jubliant praying and worshipping in churches and streets all over Haiti the last three days taught me that.
And for them I am thankful.
I only hope that in my short time with them, I have been able to transform their lives as much as they have mine. And that GOD will continue to transform us both.