The Embarrassing Reason I Didn't Help a Little Girl in Need
This is embarrassing, but the least I can do is shoot straight about it. Maybe my honesty can keep you from making the same mistake.
For several years we have been praying for a little girl in South America. She’s a sweetheart, and every time we get her letters, I’m moved by her depth and her joy.
I’m also overwhelmed with guilt.
See, I’ve always wanted to do something amazing for her. I have secret daydreams of being able to pay for her college, of being able to build her a better house, of being able to send her some massive gift that will change her life and future.
I have wanted to be her benefactor because I grew up in churches where middle-class white people went on summer mission trips to change entire cities. We started schools. We dug wells. My people did big things in a week -- community-rocking investments that we could pack into PowerPoint presentations to show to auditoriums full of donors how good we had been.
We reveled in the power of our generosity. We liked being strong enough to change the world.
So now when I look at international giving, I feel an obligation to “Go big, or go home!” It's a weird kind of pride, a perfectionism that has often paralyzed me from doing anything at all.
In all these years that I’ve been waiting for a day when it it would be easier to send $2000 than $10, I’ve missed the chance to write a little girl letters that might have encouraged her. I didn't do what I could do, because I wanted to rescue her whole life.
I’ve asked “What would Jesus do?” too much – thinking I could somehow manage the work of Divinity. Instead I should have asked, “What does Jesus want to do through me?” I wish had realized the difference between those questions sooner.
Because I was proud, because I was ashamed that I couldn’t do more, because I was embarrassed that I couldn’t charge into poverty on a white horse, I dropped a precious opportunity to invest in the simple, daily journey of a single child’s life.
And she’s grown up while I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to “save” her.
The worst part of this is that I knew better. I've read about the dangers of this kind of thinking in When Helping Hurts; and through international adoption, I have learned first-hand about the importance of respecting the dignity of those we serve. I know how toxic a messiah complex can be. Still, I've let it take me over.
All along the way this child has sent me drawings of her trip to the beach, or palm trees, of chickens. I’ve listened to stories about the loss of her father, about her dreams for the future. And I’ve felt for her. I've prayed for her some. Mostly I’ve felt guilty, and that guilt has pushed me into daydreaming, “I’ll make up for this somehow, little girl.”
I keep making these silent promises to her. "Someday I'm going to wow you. Someday I'm going to make a real difference in your life."
My throat is tight writing this, and I have tears in my eyes. I'm so sorry for what I've let pride work in me.
If I could do all this over, I would just send letters if letters were all I had. I would just send $5. I would let myself be humbled by my own poverty, and reach horizontally to another human being in need, instead of waiting until I was powerful and self-sustaining. I would confess my arrogance instead of letting it turn my hands to stone.
I would let Jesus be Jesus to both of us. I would be a woman in need getting to know a child in need. I would receive from Him and let what He gave me flow into her life. I would love her simply, kneeling down, so that I could look my little sister straight in the eye.