April 11, 2010
Praying It Forward
Seeking nothing in return.
Keeping the cycle going.
Infusing good into the world three acts at a time.
What a concept.
It is interesting how quickly the inspiration we receive from movies, books, sermons, or teaching evaporates against the cold black night of a dark world.
People are mean and hateful.
It doesn't take long before we are begin battening down the hatches and withdrawing from those who need our kindness most in an attempt of self-preservation.
When we find it may cost more than we feel we can invest to pay it forward what once sounded easy suddenly seems much more difficult, risky, and frightening.
I believe that the enemy paints a terrifying picture by allowing us to experience rejection or pain, from time to time, so that we will be swayed in our desire and attempts to perform random acts of kindness.
Because when we pay it forward we are essentially showing the love of Christ.
The way that He did.
To the unlovable.
Desperately needy people.
Paying it forward has basically been a way of life for me. Not because I am ultra-kind or super spiritual but because I genuinely enjoy helping people in any way possible.
It brings me joy and fulfillment along with the satisfaction of knowing that my works have the possibility to be viewed as Jesus' hand extended. That part has always thrilled me most. At least until I woke up one day and made an alarming discovery.
The thrill is gone.
For quite some time I have been exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I've conquered many things in my life but before me stands "a mountain" like none I've seen before.
I can't see over it.
There appears to be no road around it.
I'm unable to tunnel through it.
When push comes to shove, and trust me I've been pushing and shoving hard, it seems that the only place that I'm going is down. That makes the mountain appear larger while my faith seems even smaller.
But it only takes the faith of a mustard seed.
Can I muster that up? No.
Is God capable of stirring up the measure of faith that He placed in me? Absolutely.
This past week I wrote an article on a festival that is taking place in our community next weekend. It caught my eye while doing a "random" search that needless to say was ordained by God.
The Pay It Forward Festival would not normally attract my attention especially since I have no young children at home. But there were three things about it that immediately caught my eye:
1. They are attempting to collect 3,000 pair of shoes for Soles4Souls.
I love shoes and have not been able to wear a pair of shoes in almost 14 years. I know what it is like to have pain in my feet 24/7. Prior to my illness I worked for a shoe company and developed quite a shoe fetish. So shoes are near and dear to me and I love the Soles4Souls foundation.
2. They are collecting money for the MS Society.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with probable primary progressive MS. The good news is that the progression of my illness is slow compared to some. The bad news is there is no approved treatment for this type of MS which makes the long term prognosis poor. Needless to say this is another endeavor which is close to my heart. I'd love for the MS Society to find a cure.
3. They are collecting money for The Well which is a local food bank.
I've never lived a life of poverty or been without the means to obtain food, clothes or shelter. However illness, at times, has robbed me of the ability to eat. I've experienced feeding tubes and felt the pangs of hunger on an abbreviated basis. It is no fun. As a way of life, I can't begin to imagine it.
Those are only 3 of 6 charitable organizations that the festival will be raising money for. Relying solely on the merchants of the community the goal is to pay it forward and at the same time provide fun for families.
Admission cost: a pair of gently worn shoes or a canned good item.
Who can't afford to attend?
Who can afford not to attend if they live in the area?
Here is the interesting part for me, personally. My energy level has been so low that I don't know why I even considered attending this event. It is difficult for me to navigate crowds, in a cast on crutches, even when I have the strength of a bull.
Right now it is unthinkable.
Yet I found myself writing to ask permission to photograph the event to use for a follow-up article on Examiner.com. The person was thrilled that I had written the initial article and elated about me coming with my camera. Although I made no mention of it, he asked me if I would open the event with prayer.
How could I refuse?
It's only a prayer, right?
I talk to God all the time.
I'll just be talking to Him out loud.
It's not like I haven't done that hundreds of times before.
The surprise and thrill initially felt when I received the invitation began to dissipate a day later when I realized it meant I would have to "come out of hiding" which is something I've nearly mastered over the past year. (some would argue that it has been even longer)
Then it dawned on me that I had not prayed publicly since I spoke at the funeral of my best friend nearly a year ago. As a matter of fact I've done very little publicly since that time. Little fellowship. Little fun. Little living---period.
I realized that I had stopped paying it forward since the night I stayed at the hospital with my friend. A wonderful example of Christ she was such a source of encouragement to me. She and her husband have dedicated their lives to paying it forward.
During an over-nighter at the hospital we were talking one moment and then she slipped off to heaven, in the blink of an eye, while I turned to make a phone call. My heart was broken and my mind was blown. I felt tricked and abandoned.
It was costly.
Once the funeral was over I returned home feeling an incredible sense of loss.
The thrill was gone.
I still helped people, mostly online, but out of compulsion rather than out of joy. It has been fairly risk-free, impersonal, and unfulfilling.
But holding back kindness displayed lovingly has been costly, extremely painful, and life-altering, too.
It has not worked as I had hoped.
It has not healed.
It has injured me further and left me feeling abandoned by many--including God.
That is until the other day when a simple article prompted a chain of events that caused me to realize two things:
1. It is easier to give than withhold.
2. I'll always be a minister and a representative of Christ.
With that in mind next Saturday, despite pain in my body or reservations in my mind, I will go and pay it forward along with members of my community.
At the same time the random act of kindness bestowed upon me which nudged me enough to remember "who I am in Christ and who He called me to be" will pay off as a step back into ministry.
In a way I'll be "praying it forward."
Perhaps the healing will begin.
You can read my article on the upcoming festival here.