July 3, 2012
Quick Thoughts: Hot as Haiti
A quick thought from David A. Zimmerman.
My power's out at home. Current estimates for restored power are 11 pm, July 4, 2012. That's still thirty-four 100-degree hours from the time of this writing. I've never been so happy to go to work, where the air conditioning is free flowing and you can open the refrigerator whenever you like. But eventually my bosses kick me out of the building, and it's back to my house, where it's currently hot as Hades.
I'm reminded of a passage in Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan, one of the best writers I've ever had the pleasure to edit. The book recounts Kent's early experience living and working and building a home in Haiti. Having grown up in the air-conditioned United States, Kent had to adjust not only to the abject poverty, the political corruption and the woeful public education system that he went hoping to help improve, but also to the heat. Here's an excerpt that made my wife and me laugh last night as we simmered in our own sweat.
***It's mid-afternoon--very hot outside and even hotter inside, with no windows, as the heat radiates down in palpable waves from the tin roof. Dough on our little table would turn to bread. I'm sick. I lie on the bed, sweating profusely, reading a book, searching vainly for sleep, hoping to tap a yet-undiscovered source of energy. Shelly comes in. We've already spent a good seven hours together during the day. She lies down right next to me on the bed. . . . I mutter just loud enough, not with meanness but not with tender loving care, "Get away from me."
I wasn't being hostile. It was just too hot already, and her being close made it hotter. I had the energy to muster a maximum of four words, and "Get away from me" was the most efficient way to express "Leave me alone and take your body heat with you." . . .
Being pushed to my limits in every way brings back Jesus' question to the rich young man. I've answered in part but still feel like I'm being asked, "What are you willing to give up?"
So you gain everything by losing everything. What does that mean in real life?
There are plenty of people peddling definitive theoretical, self-help and theological answers. It's the personal answers that are more interesting--and demanding--though. Really personal. What am I willing to give up to follow Jesus and to help others? Things that make life comfortable. The little and big lies (mostly to self and some to others) that make getting through the day easier. There's money, of course, and all it buys. There's being successful, being hip, being right, being good, being respected. There are ambitions and lust.
These days, whether living around the corner from a Burger King or living here, where the nearest bacon double cheeseburger seems a million miles away, I think part of the answer is another pair of questions: What is in the way of my loving more? And what am I going to do now to starve this desire--so I can hunger for something better?