I feel like it would be natural and even expected, that as Americans we would be greatly saddened by the material poverty of a place like General Cepeda, Mexico. But to be honest, I have found that I have become jealous of their poverty. I loved that the people in this little town lived in one or two room homes without heat or air and sometimes without any kind of bathroom. I think as Americans, we see this as sad because we think that we need heat and air conditioning and hot water and washing machines and dishwashers and spacious houses with more bedrooms than we have people to sleep in them. As Americans, most of us own cars, computers, ipods, closets full of clothing, and all sorts of other things and we really think that we need them. But the beauty that I found in Mexico was getting to experience people who knew the difference between need and want. They were people who were thankful for food on their table. One day, we went on home visits and brought bags of food with us to people’s homes. One lady cried when we gave her a bag of food. I wish that I could be that thankful for the food that I eat.
I think it would also be easy for most people to think that God has forgotten these people because they don’t have as much as we have. But in a very big way, I think that God has protected them. He has protected them from the greed and consumerism of America. He has protected them from the addiction to “stuff” that we suffer from in our country. I read in a book once that addictions take the place in our hearts where God should be. I think all of us in America, whether we realize it or not, whether we deny it or not, are addicted to our material things. I imagine a picture of my heart, and while it should be filled with the Lord, my laptop is also taking up space, as well as my car, as well as the different pairs of shoes that I own. I know this sounds like the normal thing that someone would say when they get back from a mission trip, but I mean it with great conviction. I saw a woman in General Cepeda whose shoes were literally broken open and yet she was still wearing them. Why do I have so many pairs of shoes just sitting in my closet?And yet, the poverty of these people was beautiful because their hearts were not taken up by stuff. They did not suffer from greed. They did not suffer from wanting all the things that we want in America.
After returning from Mexico and being back in this country for over a week, I’ve come to believe that it is us in America who are poor. We are lacking so much because we have not the faith to embrace material poverty. We are lacking in joy. We are lacking in hope. And we do not allow ourselves to depend on the Lord. My heart breaks for America because we do not even know that we are poor. And okay, so the majority of America is spiritually poor and doesn’t know the love of Jesus, and I think our material riches contribute to that type of spiritual poverty, but even those of us who do know the love of Jesus are often poorer than we know because of our material riches.
In the last couple of weeks, I have come to learn how poor I truly am, how wrapped up my heart is in this addiction to material things. I long for the poverty of Mexico. I long to depend on the Lord in the way that the people of General Cepeda depend on Him. I long to be as wrapped in His love as they are. But I think all of my stuff gets in the way. I think it would be silly to have pity for the people of Mexico. Compassion, yes, but not pity. Because pity implies that we are looking down on them. In reality, it is the people in Mexico who should be looking down on us, caught up in all of our selfishness, caught up in all of our greed and consumerism. I am positive that the people of General Cepeda are much holier than I am. These are a people who know that the Lord is good. I long to be like them.
Jesus, strip us of everything that is not of you. Strip us of everything that takes the place in our hearts where You long to dwell. Jesus, make us holy. We cannot do it on our own.