Thursday, September 22, 2011

Enough

I'm honored to have my sister, Melissa Fitzpatrick, as a guest blogger today. Her post took my breath away. Be blessed. ~Amanda

Ten years ago, before transferring to Moody and moving to Chicago ever even entered my mind, I was a little sophomore at Baylor University. One fine central Texas day I went down with a friend to a place cleverly called Waco Hall to listen to an increasingly well-known “upcoming” musician. All I knew about the musician I had gleaned from the signs scattered on walls around campus: he had really good hair.

The musician was Shaun Groves. And if I remember correctly, he had just released his first big record Invitation to Eavesdrop. I knew, even then, after just a few minutes listening to Shaun sing, that he had a special voice. Something about him was unique. I sensed that he was a person who both thought and felt deeply about faith and the world. What I most certainly did not sense is that in less than a decade I would be bouncing around East India with a tiny group he was leading.

But in the third world together we were destined to be.

April 2009 to be exact.

On one of those blistering 125-degree days in Kolkata, Shaun and I got to talking. We were on the bus doing what theology nerds do best . . . taking ourselves far too seriously and talking about some Bible verses. We were throwing around phrases like “the new perspective on Paul” “the kingdom” “inaugurated eschatology” and whatnot. We discussed how necessary it is for us to have a holistic understanding of Scripture’s voice about wealth and poverty. We were ranting and complaining how it simply won’t do to quote one or two verses from the gospels; we need to understand everything we can about poverty and wealth in the entire canon. Only then could we really understand the Church’s mission concerning wealth and poverty. But then we got to talking about a couple of verses in the book of Proverbs. Specifically these:

Proverbs 30.7-9

Two things I ask of you;

deny them not to me before I die:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

give me neither poverty nor riches;

feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you

and say, “Who is the LORD?”

or lest I be poor and steal

and profane the name of my God.

Interesting verses, right? We both suspected that these verses are crucial to the Church’s conversation concerning wealth and poverty. Shaun swears that, among other things, our conversation about these verses has something to do with the song “Enough” on his new record Third World Symphony. I imagine he is grossly exaggerating but I really don’t care since it happens to be my favorite song on the album.

Enough by shaungroves

These were fun times, good conversations.

But nothing could have prepared me for the moment, just a few hours later, when the ideas in this conversation would become a human being. Kiran is the real reason Shaun wrote "Enough."

Nothing could have prepared me for Kiran, a Compassion student who lives in one of the slums of Kolkata.

On April 30, 2009 seven members of our team crammed tightly into the home of twelve year old Kiran Mallik. The home she shares with her four other family members. Three of our team members simply couldn’t fit inside. The tiny little shack was about the size of a twin bed, approximately the size of my spare powder bath.

Here is a picture of Kiran standing outside her house.

We couldn’t stand up inside the little house so with knees and thighs touching, we kneeled around on the floor. We sat captivated by Kiran as she revealed to us who she was through a translator. She told us how much she loves Jesus, how she loves to study and hopes to become a teacher someday.

And then she paused.

And she asked us, with a soft and sincere smile on her face:

“How do you like my house?”

Looking helplessly at one another, we collectively cheered:

“It’s beautiful!”

“Yes, it’s beautiful!”

She beamed in agreement and with satisfaction.

But the thing is, I really couldn’t see beauty.

What I saw on that hot April day was a flimsy little box of a house roofed with plastic paper, rocks, and sticks.

Later as we walked around the slum, Kiran would start to cry.

Tears of joy, she said. Tears because she was just so happy she had God.

Then she would literally burst forth into songs of praise. This is the stuff of the Psalms or maybe even the book of Acts. I saw these things in an Indian slum.

And all I could think about was stuff Kiran didn’t possess.

The dark, scary place we were walking around.

All Kiran could think about was that God was with her.

Where I saw tremendous lack, Kiran saw an extravagance worth displaying.

The radiant joy Kiran effused challenged the “lack” I saw.

Her intoxicating presence told me she lacked no good thing.

This was one of those remarkable moments when fixed values start to move. A paradigm shift, if you will. I had to start deconstructing and reconstructing meaning; I had to start trying to make sense of things again. Clearly I had been missing something major about basic life questions. I started posing new questions: What does it really mean to be blessed? What does it mean to have enough? Can I really trust myself to answer this former question?

Being in Kiran’s presence was something of a dream. Surreal. I felt like I was bound in chains in a dark room gazing out a window at a little girl skipping in a field of sunflowers at the brightest point of the day.

It wasn’t that Kiran was proud of what little she had. That would have been admirable, indeed. But that wasn’t it. It was the very idea that Kiran had absolutely no idea she had little. No one could have convinced Kiran she was “suffering,” not without performing some kind of lobotomy anyway. She was rich and full, living off of a couple of Compassion meals. She knocked me off my white horse. I wasn’t the one doing the liberating anymore. I never was. Maybe I had been bound all along.

The remarkable thing about the Proverbs text I mentioned before (30.7-9) is not that it mentions living in the middle of two extremes: poverty and wealth. The astonishing thing is that it links spiritual infidelity to these two extremes. In other words, living off of just enough, that which is necessary, is spiritually advantageous. At least according to the wisdom writer.

Kiran’s effortless joy, her tremendous wealth in living off the Lord alone, not only reverberates the sounds of the ancient sage; it takes the shape of a cross. Her abundant life is nothing short of cruciform. Undeniable power in perceived human weakness. And not even the thickest darkness can obstruct this kind of light. It is the overwhelming penetrating light of the cross. I was blinded by it because I couldn’t stop staring at Kiran.

My vision will never be the same.

If I close my eyes and focus long enough, I can still hear the sound of Kiran’s voice. She is singing, “Lord, I lift Your Name on High. Lord, I love to sing Your Praises.” The cadences of her voice are still in my heart.


25 comments:

Allison said...

Beautiful! Thank you...

Kelly said...

Hi Melissa and Amanda,

Thank you for writing this post - it is water to my dry bones in this season of life.

On another note - my husband and I just moved to Houston from California so my husband could pastor/minister over at MDPC. We've been following your blog and your journey with BCF and are praying for you all and for BCF! Know that you have supporters throughout the Houston churches.

Much love,

Kelly Gaide

Amanda said...

Kelly, thank you so much. That means a lot to us.

Sarah said...

Yes, very beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

Karen E said...

Thanks to Melissa for sharing her experience and how God is changing her through it!

It's a privilege to be able to see God's hand at work in our world! Thanks to Amanda for doing that on her blog. God is sooooo good! Sometimes we need to be prompted to see His goodness.

boomama said...

YES. THIS. "I wasn’t the one doing the liberating anymore. I never was. Maybe I had been bound all along."

So good, Melissa. Love y'all!

Kristen Maddux said...

*tears*
Thanks for sharing.

Lauren said...

This is beautiful and beautifully written. Thank you, Melissa!

Shaun Groves said...

Amanda, thank you for posting Melissa's incredible words. What a centering story. So glad to have lived it with her. And so thankful for the friends you've both become to me. Love you, Amanda. Thanks.

Sabrina said...

Powerful post---it spoke to my heart. Thank you for sharing.

Christy said...

Thank you for sharing Melissa's words! I'm almost stunned because I experienced the EXACT same thing when I visited my Compassion child in Indonesia last year. I have felt that I could adequately describe to others the depth of spiritual and intellectual change that happened in that village on the other side of the world. Melissa did it beautifully. I will cherish her words and use her testimony as a way to help others understand what I experienced.

The only way before reading "Enough" that I've found to describe my experience was to relate to others a conversation I had with one of the translators Mathilde. After I told her explained to her my amazement that the villagers I met had so little, yet had more than most people I know. She smiled and said: the people you know "have things," the villagers here "have everything" because they "have God."

Christy said...

As an aside... The photos caught my eye because I recalled seeing them before! Shaun Groves shared them at a concert I worked for Compassion in Valdosta, GA. I will long remember his use of scripture (God's instructions regarding manna) to describe "enough." Inspired testimony for sure!

Jamie said...

just wow. goosebumps and teardrops. I am positive I will be thinking of her words for a while...

Ashley said...

YES. It's it not what, but Who, that makes us blessed, and I fear that we have so much that we can't see it. I heard Bebo Norman share about an African man, who had nothing but a shack, a tree that produced fruit and a running stream nearby, and he said with joy, "What more could I ask of Him?" God had been good to him. As we kneel to bow before our iPads and flat screens, we feel pity for them, and are thankful it's not us. Pity us. Sorry to sound preachy...struck a nerve.

Unknown said...

I love when old truth becomes profound in new application.
Thanks, Melissa.
I lurve my coffee-slingin partner!

Gena said...

I just don't know what to do with this, Melissa. Thank you.

happymcfamily said...

love.

Tracy: said...

Beautifully written! Leaving in two weeks for my first missions trip out of the country! I just purchased Shaun's Third World Symphony! LOVE IT!!

Leah @ Point Ministries said...

Radical...that is what this post reminds me of....Platt's book 'Radical'. While we, in America, believe we have it all, in truth, we really are poor. Oh not in material things, but in having the contentment in any circumstance. We are poor in being able to understand what is really important. God bless Kiran. God bless you, Amanda and Melissa.

gregandkim said...

I read it yesterday and can only say The Sweetest..... the sweetest post.
Just loved it! Just love it!
It's interesting when God uses us to write something it sticks. This post is powerful. Like Him.
I don't know your girls, but I am certain I would love ya.
Kim

Nana said...

I think this touched me more than any blog I have read. Thanks for sharing in a way that God is so able to use it to reach a needy heart. Thanks Melissa and Amanda for your faithfulness and love for our Lord.

Vicki

Nana said...

Thanks for sharing this in a way that God can speak to a needy heart. Thank you Amanda and Melissa for your faithfulness and loye for our Lord.

Annie said...

Beauty and joy come from, perhaps, the strangest of places. Thank you, Melissa, for reminding us of that.

Priscilla said...

This blog post made me see that God can do this in me and this has been my prayer for the past little bit, so it's really cool to know this is possible, and I am more determined to ask God until it happens, "I want this!!!"

Thanks for the lesson and for sharing because it's been an inspiration. Also, more like a push to become like this: so happy I have Jesus that everything else dims in comparison, all the heartache, all the gloom and doom....I have Jesus and He is enough....

Shellie Paparazzo said...

Wow! Melissa, you put the truth of what you saw and experienced and learned through that experience into words that very much touched my heart and made me want to know Kiran and to experience the joy that she experiences every day! Perspective is everything I am finding. I have often been a bit intimidated by you in the past as a bible scholar. I thought to myself as I was reading, "Is this the same girl who uses all those big words that make me feel so tiny?" Thank you for letting me see your absolutely beautiful heart under all that knowledge. I love you so much more after reading this.

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your sister with us, and for all of the wonderful posts you write as well. Both of your hearts touch mine deeply, thousands of miles away! And I guess I will be meeting both of you in person in January! I can hardly wait!!!!