Micah 6:8-9 (New International Version)
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Often we go through our every day lives, compartmentalizing our faith into the "Sunday" box and maybe pulling it out once in awhile during the week when it is convenient. We might find ourselves around the water cooler debating which version of the bible is the "correct" one, or whether God really created the world as we know it in 7 days. Perhaps we pray over our evening meals or throw a "what a blessing!" into a conversation. But blending our faith with our daily life to the point where there is no separation between the two can be a challenge for most of us, as it seems to be the natural order to see things as "either/or" rather than "both/and".
I had a long phone conversation with someone this week in which they were seeking my opinion about how a particular circumstance should be handled. This person was struggling to gain a new perspective and wanted to visit about it. Without going into too many details, it was a dilemma that many of us face as we are involved in activities with our children...some families gladly pay their fees and others are less willing or are simply unable. When it becomes a regular occurrence, often parents will find themselves feeling angry at subsidizing those children whose parents are not contributing.
I listened carefully as my friend revealed what was known about the circumstance and as she expressed her ambivalence about it...admitting she could see both sides of the story. Her sense of fairness was winning out, her desire for all things to be equal was leading her.
I felt a sudden strong conviction that this was a moment for me to show that blending of faith with my "real life", that regardless of how this person...whom I happen to like very much...took what I had to say, I simply could not deny what I knew in my heart to be the right approach, and that I couldn't tippy toe around it.
At times like these, when we are involved in a dialogue with someone who does not share our worldview or our particular faith, it can be awkward and uncomfortable to proclaim something that is faith based. It also can invite criticism of our beliefs as someone may see us as naive or unwilling to see the world as it really is.
I forged ahead though, and expressed that I hoped my thoughts and deeds accurately reflect what I carry in my heart, that God doesn't want us keeping a tally chart when it concerns an innocent child who is not at all in control of the situation. We would essentially be punishing the child for the actions of an adult if we don't do all we can to include them despite their ability to pay.
I also feel to the very core of my being that like the drops of rain that nourish the soil, so too does our love and care for one another nourish a growing child...or anyone for that matter, but for the sake of this discussion it is children. It doesn't matter to me if that child doesn't look as clean as I might wish them to look, it doesn't matter if that child doesn't always act the way I wish they would, it doesn't matter if that child is the picture perfect image of what we all wish our children would be...that very child who is often left behind in the group, that child who perhaps looks a bit scruffy or unkempt, that child who often is the "wild one" of the group...THAT is the child who needs us most. They need that hug more than ever, they need someone to look for the good behavior and recognize it when all day long they find themselves reprimanded in class, they need someone to look into their eyes with a smile and offer them a warmth they might not always find amongst their peers as they struggle to fit in.
My children go to school in a small town where the graduating high school class hovers around 70 each year. We have an average of about 10 boys per grade level in our Scout group now. That is more than 10% of each graduating class which hopefully finds a place every week where they finally fit in and are accepted for who they are, where they can succeed at something even if they will never be academic stars, where they can explore new things and discover new talents and interests. Of that 10%, how many might treat others more kindly because kindness was shown them? How many might be moved to serve others because they saw it demonstrated? How many might not strike out in anger at others around them because they were shown how to better handle their feelings?
How many will be different because they knew love?
These are the very children my own will be sitting next to in class for the remainder of their school careers, these are the very children who will grow up to be our auto mechanics and our fireman, our doctors and our carpenters. They are ALL our children in a sense. How can we possibly justify excluding any one of them because a parent can't or won't pay a fee?
I am so fortunate to have an outstanding group of parents in our Pack, many of whom have quietly offered to help others should a need arise as they too don't ever want a boy left out for lack of funding. This issue has thankfully never been something we have faced, no one has ever questioned as we all see that we pay what we have the ability to pay.
But what if we pull money from the equation and for a moment let's assume it is about sharing our time or our efforts. Do we only help the kids who will be academic superstars because it is rewarding to see them shine? Do we force ourselves to lean over the desk of the unbathed child whose hair is a rat's nest, even though we'd much rather be working with the child next to him or her whose hair gleams and teeth shine? Do we show compassion and smile kindly to the kid who drives us nuts with his or her erratic behavior? When it is the hardest or most uncomfortable for us, do we step up to the plate? With all the WWJD bracelets out there...do we ever really blend our faith with our physical "real" life and put it into practice? After all, what WOULD Jesus do?
I know what He would do...as Micah teaches us he would act justly...He would be fair to all regardless of outward appearance. He would be merciful regardless of whether others thought He was a sucker for allowing Himself to be taken advantage of. He would walk humbly, as we all so often don't do as we see ourselves as being above so many others in our life...we see ourselves as above the migrant Mexican mom with the infant on her hip struggling to speak English at the school office, we see ourselves as somehow better than the obviously poverty stricken family who has a hard time meeting financial obligations yet still finds money to buy cigarettes and we judge them for their "excess"...as we stand there with our $4 Starbucks coffee in our hand.
Proclaiming Christian or not, it is hard not to look at the declaration made in Micah and not see it as the ultimate best rule for life. "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.". Be fair, show mercy to others, be humble...how can you ever go wrong if you do those three things? Whenever we are faced with a situation where we need to make a judgment call, if you just see how it fits within that verse you will quickly have your answer about how to handle just about anything. Ere on the side of mercy, ere on the side of fairness, if it makes you feel "higher up" the pedestal than someone else reconsider it. If we make our decisions based upon these basic principles, we will not loose sleep when we lay our head down at night, even if ultimately others think we are being "saps" and are being taken advantage of. If we make our decisions based upon "getting even" it might be much harder to get that good night's sleep.
It is THIS kind of faith I want my children to practice and possess. While admirable it is not the end of the world if they don't memorize bible versus or if they don't know every bible story backwards and forwards. But it is life changing if they learn what humility means, I do care if they understand how to show mercy for someone else and how to stop for a moment and put themselves in the other persons shoes. I do care if they know how to be fair.
After explaining in general terms to my friend how I felt, and not knowing how it might be taken but also not being able to express it without being fully forthcoming about my view from a faith oriented perspective I finally said "You know, for me it comes down to something that to others is not a rational way to balance it all...I try and see how God would want me to act and then act on that. Often it doesn't make sense if one is weighing the scales and trying to get even. Not everything can be measured that way."
As I finish typing that I also see how spending $35,000 to adopt a child from another country makes no sense at all either. How many of us have born the judgment of others for that one? But there you go again, there is yet another thing that can not be measured by the usual scale. How can you equate a child's life? What is it worth? Is it worth $500? $5000? $50,000? Your entire retirement fund? As any mom, biological or adoptive, would quickly tell you...our children are priceless. There is no way to measure their worth.
So when considering a child other than our own, is there suddenly a price tag that can be placed on them? Are the worth less because they are not "ours"?
Sometimes as we walk through our days, mind numbing though they may often be, we don't recognize the millions of opportunities we have to put it all into practice. Its not in the big acts, its in the little things we do each and every day when we walk in our faith daily and don't carry it around in a brown lunch bag to be pulled out when we are hungry and need nourishment ourselves. Sometimes it is we who need to nourish others and in turn we find ourselves being fed.