There are certain wisdom’s and understandings that can only be learned in suffering. There are lights that will never seem as radiant as when we are covered in darkness. I know this because I have seen it. I saw it this past month in the eyes of orphan children.
A week ago, I was sitting on the cement floor of the orphanage’s church, surrounded by a group of about twenty-seven children, all orphaned for different reasons. Every one of them has a story that became a reason for their lack of loving family. For one high school boy it’s a story that leads to his mother working the sex industry in Pattaya,Thailand. For another fifth grade girl it’s an unknown mystery of being abandoned at the border of Thailand and Cambodia.
On our last night in Cambodia they shared their love with me and my team by performing traditional Cambodian dances. The tears that streamed down their faces as they performed surprised me. They’re weeping, I thought to myself as my heart broke, here at home, back in America and my mind flashes back to that beautiful, and heart wrenching night.
She says each phrase, smiling up at me with beaming brown eyes. Her words didn’t break my heart as much as the smile covering her face as she said it-a smile she uses to hide her pain. The strength of these children humbled me. The Cambodian people’s joy in simplicity, taught me joy in simplicity.
One day while I was sitting outside having a heart-to-heart with one of my teammates, a beautiful, elderly Cambodian woman whose weathered skin could tell centuries of stories, shared with me. Her heart seemed to open with an unassuming gratefulness as she squeezed me and my teammate shoulders. She told us a vibrant story in Khmer (Cambodia’s national language) and lingered as we smiled up at her unsure what to say. As she left light-hearted giggles escaped us as we waved goodbye and the sun started to set. I couldn’t understand her language but I could understand her love.
I believe it. Yes, this joy found in Jesus that makes our love so much fuller. Her smile was as alive as her pain, and today God used her to teach me this: There is richness in the core of pain that can only found in the pit. A dying man understands the treasure of life when given a second chance at living-a treasure that those who have never looked death in the eye can’t grasp.
This is the gift of suffering. We can be broken but not desperate. And we can be desperate but not broken. When we allow ourselves to be desperate for God out of our brokenness, we find true surrender in Him.
In my own time of surrender, I learned that when you have nothing else to hold on to but God, all of a sudden, God is all you need. You treasure Him. Like breath. Either that or you blame Him. But healing cannot be found in blame, and I chose life.
One afternoon as I was painting in the hot Cambodian sun the lyrics of one of my favorite songs made me stop and think: Oh isn’t that just the way it goes. You’re dealt a good hand and you get celebrated. Oh how am I the only one who knows? I’m half the man of the men who drive me places.
The singer (Ben Reactor) describes a working class man that drives him places, he’s a man who built a future out of hustling. Is proud of his daughter who is going to be in college this fall; regrets not getting a college degree, still uses a flip phone with an obnoxious ringtone, and is fifteen minutes early picking him up. The moral of the song is simple. It’s the unnoticed ones.
People often compliment me on how well I’ve handled my adoption. Which I appreciate (don’t get me wrong) but I can’t help but think: How am I the only one who knows? I was dealt the best possible hand. Fostered by my family from the time I was six-months, adopted by the time I was two. Loving siblings and parents who have that mush-gushy kind of love that makes all the kids tell them to “get a room”. Had the opportunity to grow up as a third-culture kid in Kenya, where I’m adopted from, for half my life.
Yet somehow without all of the blessings life has dealt me, each one of these children still possess a love that catches your soul. For that reason I’m not the one who should be celebrated.
I’m not a success story that’s about me. Jesus work in me, made me who I am. He gave me a complete sense of awe for Himself. He called me Beloved. I am His Bride, beautiful to Him. Without Him I would still be on a quest for my identity. The heart of Jesus can be found in the middle of suffering. In this we find a deeper communion with the heart of Christ.
I saw this every day in Cambodia: Sitting with children as they drew pictures that looked like families made up of myself and my teammates; standing in front of a hot crowed church one Sunday morning as children from four to eighteen came forward for prayer. When you are surrounded by seas of people just watching you for direction; you feel how inadequate you are. Those are the moments you know its Jesus!
Out of our suffering let’s find wisdom. The kind that presses us further into the joy we have in Jesus. This joy will lead to a love the catches souls. If at the end of the journey of pain we look more like the heart of our Savior isn’t it worth it? Yes, it is. Jesus is giving me a glimpse into the spiritual world of wealth; He sits with me as I mediate on it. I am realizing that America we live in such a physical wealth, we are actually unaware of the depths, of our spiritual poverty. Surrounded by “stuff” that keeps us from being desperate for Jesus; yet, it’s in the cry of the desperate that the marvelous spiritual riches can be found.
My prayer for myself and all of you today is that Jesus would give us His eyes through which to see the world. If you and I embrace suffering, choose the joy that unlocks a contagious love, and walk by faith and not by sight. In full surrender to Him, the Kingdom will explode.