I was just minding my own business, driving down the road in a foreign country, taking in everything I could, not wanting to miss one thing. Not one single thing. Sun high above me, not a cloud in the sky, big smiles from everyone. The smells in the air of fires burning and coffee beans roasting, the sounds of the car straining to manuever through tight spaces, past stalls filled with colorful fruit and candies, crowded with people with places to go, ladies with bright scarves. Things were good. We had almost made it…
And there they were.
Feet peeking out of a box
I remember thinking it looked like a coffin. That’s how small it was.
Being driven down a cramped alley, I would have missed these feet if I had been behind the wheel. It’s nearly four years ago, but the memory is still fresh and brings quick, hot tears.
My son saw these feet too. We exchanged a knowing glance because there were no words, yet we both knew what we saw.
A man, sleeping in a box by the side of a road, small cans and items found, marking his poverty.
And I sit in my house, at my desk, in front of my laptop with socks on my feet, and I’m crying over my own poverty. How could I forget this image, this person who haunted me for so long? How could I assume a life I couldn’t rationalize or even enjoy anymore after seeing what I had seen? It hadn’t taken long to forget something I thought I never would.
Now I’m reading these words from James, “ Now listen you rich people (this would be me)…your wealth has rotted… your gold and silver have corroded… your have hoarded wealth… the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty… you live in luxury and indulgence… you have fattened yourselves…” This cuts me quickly, but not as quickly as it should. I’m much faster to defend myself with excuses such as, “I don’t live extravagantly. I tithe and even give an offering from time to time. I pray for the oppressed. I know others who have much more.”
And herein lays my poverty: my quick attention to myself, to how good I am for at least noticing the feet lying outside the box.
But I came home. Busied myself with life, with trying to create a new normal, and eventually, I forgot.
It’s funny how that happens, forgetting. Things creep in, my time gets away, I’m convinced I have nothing really to offer. And now my heart is cut wide open, and I find myself thankful for those feet.
There is no hiding what God has shown me. There is no forgetting when a scripture many would say refers to non-believers alone, pierces my heart like this. I can’t ignore the words God is speaking to me, “Remember how it was. Remember my heart. Remember Me. Those are my feet.”
I can’t help it. I want things – things that have no use other than to be placed somewhere and looked at, then forgotten and eventually hauled off to a resale shop. Deep shame setting in now… remembering feet.
You might think, “Sister, you’re being too hard on yourself. God meant for you to enjoy life. You share, you stand up for those less fortunate.”
Do I really?
James’ language stings me and my defenses rise because in reality,
I love my stuff.
I love my comfortable life.
I say all too often, “Sorry for your luck. I’ll pray for you.”
The thing is, James is right, and I don’t want to admit it. The truth is I really want comfortable, easy, normal. I want to look at others and think, “How sad. Thank God I’m not you, ” because at the heart of it, I’m most concerned with me.
This letter of James, he’s writing to them, he’s writing to us, it’s hard to take.
But it should be hard not to do something.
Doesn’t James tell us at the beginning that faith without action is fake?
But what can I do? It seems simple; take care of what I have, share and give, live lean, content, and joyful, remembering to enjoy all that God generously gives to me.
So I start again… and maybe you begin as well.
Find out how you can join the efforts our small part of the global church is taking today and get started, giving, sharing, and practicing the discipline of living content lives. Investigate what is happening around you, take notice of others and take notice of what makes you stop and pricks your heart.
Maybe it’s a stranger’s feet.
Then don’t stop. Go ahead and ask questions, find out more and ACT.
Learn how to give all the stuff away, your time away, your talents away and not just the excess, but many times, your best, and don’t stop until only one thing remains – love. Then you’ll have everything.
Be left with what counts, something moth and rust can’t destroy – what is permanent, what lasts.