Beggars

I’m going to finish my relationship series with a few closing remarks as soon as I get back to the States. I’ve been in India for the last 8 days with work. It’s been an enormously big event that I’ve been working on really since my first day at the office. I’ve got a bit of down time while I’m waiting for some details to come together.

I’ve been in the hotel most of the time because my primarily responsibility is to coordinate logistics. But the things that have struck me so far are these:

Children are children everywhere.  I don’t care if they are Swazi, Mexican, Indian, or American, they are the same. I was driving to the airport and we were stopped on the street. I looked over to the left and saw two boys with some sticks and what looked like a marble or golf ball type thing and they were playing a game. It wasn’t one I recognized so I can only assume they made it up or it was something they play in their area.

I smiled looking at the boys because I remember seeing similar situations in Africa. They play soccer every moment they can over there. Regardless of what the soccer ball looks like. They just play. Granted their playing looks very different from ours.

The second thing that hit me is the beggars. Because I’ve seen poverty from a young age I’m not devastatingly shocked by it anymore. It still moves me and breaks my heart but it doesn’t wreck my world. I’ve seen beggars on the streets of Chicago, on bridges in Nashville, covered in boxes in New York, sleeping on the sidewalk in Africa, and now I’ve seen them covered in rags on the walkways of India. You’d hardly know if they were alive except for the small movement of a foot that protruded from the rags.

We had time to go to the Kali temple. Our guide gave us a brief history on the Hindu goddess that is worshipped there and how the temple is being used today. I can honestly say, I felt a darkness as soon as I crossed the threshold of that temple that I’ve only felt once or twice before. My chest got heavy, I felt dizzy, and the oppression was so thick you could cut it.

As we walked to the temple, there were swarms of people. The majority of them headed to worship, and the rest were begging. Weaving in and out of the crowd you try to avoid stepping on someone as they are sleeping while also trying not to get run over by a bicycle or pedestrians. The walk alone is sensory overload.

Sites, sounds, smells, I’ve never seen below. Color, chanting, yelling, and sewage invade every fiber of your being. “Those are used to worship Kali. They look beautiful, though no?” says our guide. “Yeah, I probably would have bought one.” I reply. “No. You mustn’t buy one of those and put it in your house. It would not be safe. There is real evil here.” She warns. And I believe her.

It’s hard to reconcile the beggars across the street with the stalls selling beautiful trinkets probably costing two days wages that will be given to a piece of stone. It’s hard to reconcile the hungry children with the countless animals that are slaughtered at the temple to an inanimate object who has a darkness surrounding it.

It’s hard to reconcile the despair in general.

But the beggars. The beggars are a curious study. Some hold their hands out, stare you straight in the eyes, and ask for money. Others hold their hands out, keep their head and eyes downcast, and quietly ask for money. All in all they have the same need and the basic plan of getting it – the empathy and guilt of other people.

We walk a bit and all of a sudden, as clear as day, poverty of spirit becomes alive for me. No longer is my heart turned off and my spirit numb to the surroundings – a coping mechanism to be sure – but instead I start to see myself as one of those beggars. Of how needy I was and am for Christ. That I have nothing apart from him but dirty rags, an outstretched hand, and downcast eyes.

It’s all I can do to keep from weeping openly at the picture in front of me of the state of my heart before I was rescued. I want to stand there and hug all of the beggars. To tell them I understand, that my heart was there. That I too lived a life of poverty.

But I can’t, because I don’t really understand. I can see them and identify them. But I also can’t perform heart surgery because I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy. I would have to choose a life of physical poverty to understand the depth of my spiritual poverty to fully comprehend the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

And that, that sounds like a heavy task.

Praise God for His grace, amen?

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