It comes right when we’re at day 11 of praying our way through Ramadan.
Us the the family living next door to Mennonites not Muslims, the women who wear bonnets not hijabs.
The neighbors around here taking their horse and buggy to make a 4 mile pilgrimage to Sunday meeting, not any annual five thousand mile pirimage to Saudi’s Mecca.
But distance doesn’t stop a man from being your neighbor — any more than moving down the street makes you lose your citizenship. When we name earth as our home address, don’t we all become neighbors?
And this Kingdom of God is the only dominion with no distance, with no miles to ever separate but only extra miles to willingly go, His kingdom the only place to breathe in an atmosphere of pure grace.
After we finish the BBQ chicken and spinach salad, I open the prayer book and read about the Rawther people of India.
It’s right there on the page of the prayer book: “There are no known believers among them.”
There are no known believers among them? One million of them facing a Christ-less eternity?
I look up from the book. I look around the table. All six of these kids looking like their Dad. Ocean blues eyes. Freckles flecked across summer bronzed skin. Sun streaked hair.
And I think of Haiti. I think of Haiti and India and the farmhouse I grew up in.
How you live before you die can depend on where you took your first breath and what if I wasn’t born here?
“What if none of you were born here?” The kids stare at me blankly. It’s amazing how we can be complacent to amazing grace. “What if you didn’t have your last name? What if you weren’t born in this country — but somewhere else?”
“What if I wasn’t born on the 12th line of Grey Township, two side roads over from a Good News Bible Club held on a back lawn out by a barn?”
Do they have any idea what my life would be like if I hadn’t heard?
“What if your grandmother, who didn’t speak English as her first language, who didn’t have grade 8 education, who didn’t have two nickels to rub together — what if she had never invited me to hear about Jesus at a Good News Bible Club?”
I can hardly breathe. Why did I hear? Why here? Why not Rawther, India or Port Au Prince, Haiti, or the mountains of Timbuktu?
Sometimes the startling grace of your life can drop you right to your knees and is there any other way to rightly see your life?
What did Christine Caine say that that girl had said? That beautiful girl who’d been sold into bondage and trafficked for pleasure, that girl, a survivor of rape and neglect and manslaughter, who looked right into Christine and said it with her heart running liquid right down her cheeks, “If you really cared about us — then why didn’t you come sooner?“
Then why in the world didn’t you come sooner?
I’m thinking of India and Haiti and the girl born on the wrong side of the tracks right across town and if you really care about us, then why in Christ’s name didn’t you come sooner?
Why in the world am I sitting here eating chocolate and thumbing through glossy pages and fluffing up my comfortable little North American life?
There’s a whole aching, drowning world out there and they’re asking: If what you say is true and if you really care about us, what in the world have you been doing and why in the world didn’t you come sooner?
Who is just playing at all this and who really believes any of this?
I look around the table at our six kids.
Kids talking about the best university programs and the cheapest cars for the best insurance and going to the beach on Sunday and who is getting the canoe down for river jaunt and how do you balance enjoying the blessings with enduring the Cross?
How can we who are saved, who are resting on the wood and righteousness of that Cross, look at a whole world out there drowning in a veritable storm of darkness and just breathe this happy relief that we’ve been plucked out to safety? How have I been doing it for so long?
When was the last time all the evangelicals were actual evangelists and shared the message of salvation with those who are dying without any hope of rescue unless they know? What have we all been doing and why didn’t we all go sooner?
And I want to grab that heart pounding this stuff loud in my chest and too loud in my head and I want to just — gag it.
Because I like the safety of the Wood and the fluffed up life and isn’t it enough to take care of my small little life and these half dozen kids and not do anything that hurts too much?
I like quiet and comfortable and not real pain and just some good hymns belted out on Sunday morning. Normal. I like Christian normal.
But there’s no gagging a heart that’s been possessed by grace.
And after Haiti? When I was scared to open my mouth for the howl? Three weeks later, I’m sitting here at the dinner table with a prayer book and this howl that I just. can’t. stop.
If grace really slays you — then you’ve been crucified by Christ and you are bought and you are no longer yours but you are His.
And my mouth, tail of the heart, it can’t lie still and the words give the heart away:
“Can you be a Christian and not carry a cross?”
I’m holding it in my hand, the prayer book with a photo of a Muslim girl on the cover. How can we identify ourselves with Christ — and have no cross?
How can we claim Christ who paid it all and then lead a life that costs us nothing?
No one can earn salvation in Christ but don’t we spend our lives thanking Christ for it? There’s no questioning that salvation is a free gift — but that can’t mean your life then is a free ride. Jesus plus nothing = everything — means nothing to us unless we’re giving Christ our everything. I’m looking around the table.
I’m looking at me.
Christ presents you a cross and He never promises it will be easy — but He promises it will be worth it. Because He is. And there isn’t one soul who isn’t. Everytime we take up our cross — we take weight off someone else. The glory of Christ is worth any cost and the saving of souls is worth any sacrifice — and didn’t someone do it for you?
With the tip of my fingertip, I trace the photo, the face of the Muslim girl.
It can come right in the middle of a prayer, come like a cry from around the world — like a call:
Where have you been — and why didn’t you come sooner?
Related Awkward Howling Posts:
1 Thing You have To know About Your Family
10 Real Ways You Could the Real Change in the World
Prayer Book through Ramadan: Praying for our Muslim Neighbors
Christine Caine’s ministry
Because you care in Jesus’ name: Sponsoring a Child through Compassion