“Do you love me?”
I heard God ask me that question one hour before the close of a Journey of Generosity I attended recently. You might recognize it as the same question Jesus asked Peter three times at the end of the book of John.
Do you remember how Jesus responded each time Peter answered affirmatively?
Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep.
Feed my sheep.
I’ve never tended sheep. I haven’t even fed one at a petting zoo. But I knew what God was communicating to me in that quiet moment of reflection. He made it rather obvious, in fact. When he asked me whether I loved him, I saw the faces of our sponsored children in Tanzania—and then immediately I saw other faces: faces of more children, all living in poverty, all loved desperately by God.
A region—and a heart—transformed
I have traveled three times to Tanzania; each time I have left part of my heart behind. As more of my heart resided there, more of our money went that direction as well. Our initial $35/month sponsorship turned into a $100K commitment. Over the past 10 years, we have seen the region transform. Homes now have cisterns with fresh water; a newly constructed health clinic offers vaccinations and maternal care; the primary school has latrines and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of disease.
Investing in the lives of these Tanzanians has been my passion for the last decade. Yet this message from God received in the last hour of my JOG told me clearly that I was at risk of letting my charity become about me and my joy, and not about God and his plan.
God’s question broke my heart. And that was the point.
My heart needed to be broken by the lives of other children and their mothers, by families hovering near starvation, by communities under continual threat of violence.
Something new is next
And so I have begun to pray about where I next leave part of my heart. I don’t believe God is asking me to discard all elements of my passion. Quite the opposite. I sense God validating my passion for educating children, for eradicating poverty, and for leveraging economic systems to improve livelihoods. I believe I’m being asked to bear fruit in more than one field.
The prospect of opening my heart beyond Tanzania’s borders scares me a little. It will require that I invest in new knowledge and new relationships. The scarier part, though, is what I will lose: an identity I’ve adopted and, frankly, really enjoy wearing. It feels good to be known for my love for this cause. My real fear is that I might not be known for anything as a result of this pivot that God has asked of me.
Jesus ends his dialogue with Peter with the words Follow me.
I’d rather know Jesus than be known by the cause I support. I intend to follow. May we all seek the Lord’s joy first as we travel our journeys of generosity.
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