We’ve been enjoying reading aloud the Christian Heroes: Then and Now biography series by Janet & Geoff Benge. Together the kids and I became friends with Nate Saint and his buddies who entered heaven from a jungle beach in Ecuador in 1956, and our faith grew with George Mueller’s as he served the street children of Victorian England. Right now we’re getting to know Amy Carmichael and how she rocked the missions boat with her passionate urgency to reach people of every caste in India with the gospel at the turn of the 20th century. I referred to Amy once before, inspired by the way she changed her rescued girls’ birthdays to the day they were freed. I recently found myself inspired again by her life.
Fueled by the interest generated by From the Sunrise Land, her book of letters from Japan, the Keswick Convention had asked Amy to write a book about India. It took many months of writing and rewriting, but finally Amy felt happy with the result. Then the question came, what to title the manuscript? Amy didn’t want anything too grand or too flowery. She wanted something that was simple and to the point. Finally, she settled on the title Things As They Are. That said it all for Amy. It wasn’t about things as she might want them to be in India, or things the way people in England imagined they might be. No, it was about things as they are.
…It seemed they felt her manuscript was a bit depressing to read. Perhaps, the editor suggested, it needed a lighter touch, more happy stories, and fewer stories about young children and women in unreachable situations. Again Amy was confronted with the desire of Christians in England for “happy missionary, happy ending” stories. She shook her head. If only the committee could have spent a few days with her, they would have quickly seen that for every Arulai [a rescued girl], there were a thousand girls who were temple prostitutes or household slaves. Their lives did not have happy endings, and Amy could not pretend they did. (p. 138)
Most of us like happy endings, but ministry is messy and often doesn’t result in a neat package adorned with a beautiful bow. Like Amy, we’re committed to sharing the truth whether or not it makes people happy.
Many people, especially those who’ve walked challenging roads with violent behavior in their homes, have given the gift of kind, encouraging words regarding the years and tears we invested in K’s life. They were refreshing to our souls, full of power to help build up during a time when much felt torn down.
We’ve also encountered people who felt the need to tell us how extremely upset they are that their dreams for K’s happy ending with us didn’t materialize. Sometimes people speak with authority on matters they simply don’t understand. I intend to minimize the amount of times I am the one doing this. Here are a few things the Lord gently showed me as we worked through some hurtful words directed at our family:
- I should never presume that just because I don’t understand a situation from the outside, God is not working in it. That would be selfish and conceited to expect His ways must always make sense to me.
- When someone else is grieving or going through a season of difficulty, my own emotions regarding their situation are obsolete. I don’t need to bring my negative feelings about their difficulty to the table; they’re dealing with enough already. A better option would be to bring grace to the table.
- Forgiveness is a moment-to-moment choice. When hurtful words replay and the sting feels fresh, I choose to forgive.
- A chance to forgive is a sanctifying experience. It draws me closer to God, so I will not run from opportunities to forgive.
We knew that by choosing to blog about our adoption, we opened up our family to a degree of scrutiny. We don’t regret sharing about K’s adoption. It started with a desire to be transparent about the facts – such as finances and travel timelines – and grew into a desire to share her story of redemption. People who followed her story for years may feel like they know everything, but they don’t.
Amy Carmichael’s example has inspired me to continue telling things as they are. We have an adoption story that did not end up the way many people wanted it to; but we are content in knowing God planned every step and that He clearly showed us which way to turn each time we felt lost. He did this through His Word and through His people.
No matter what our life circumstances, Jesus alone has the words that are more life-giving than the sweetest encouragement from the lips of a friend, and more powerful than the most devastating judgment from the mouth of a critic.
And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63
So, how about you – do you tend toward telling things as you might want them to be, as others imagine they might be, or just as they are?
Like Amy, I’m learning to trust God with things as they are!