I used to think I had to be somebody important to accomplish things, but now I know that Jesus ordinary people more.
- Bob Goff, Love Does
For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading through Bob Goff’s book Love Does. I first became aware of Bob Goff a few years ago while reading Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Miller’s book is a memoir about his desire to write a better story, not just for print media, but to write a better story for life. That idea of writing a better story with our lives is something that really captured my heart. I knew that in adopting four children from overseas, we had already written a better story for ourselves, but had begun a better story for our children. But that desire to do more, has never really left me. Sometimes when all was quiet in the house, my husband and I would bounce ideas around of how we could leave the traditional US life script behind and do something radically different. In Goff’s book, he spends most of the book convincing the reader that it can be done, that all that is really necessary is to love in a radical way, the way that Jesus loved people, and then to jump “off the map.”
In many, many ways, this book was inspiring, and it came at a really good time. I think. It comes at a time when I am looking at my children, hearing their arguments, the way they pick at each other, the way that they are constantly wanting more – more food, more toys, more games, more attention, more, more, more. I just want to place my hands over my ears, scream, and say “make it stop!” We hear almost daily from Pope Francis the admonishment to leave consumerism and materialism behind. Even before Pope Francis’ election, I felt this desire, but the truth is that I am a wimp when it comes to implementing these beliefs with my children. That is my flaw, not theirs, that I can’t look them all in the eyes and say, “No, we are going to choose a better way to live.”
There were many stories in this book that really inspired me, but the one that impacted me the hardest, was the story he told about the school children at the Restore Academy in Northern Uganda. These children who at one time were either child soldiers, potential child brides, heads of household at 12 years of age, and on and on with the horrors these children experienced. These children, who are just like the children that we might be asked to sponsor through a Christian aid organization, became sponsors themselves. No joke! They planted, tended, and harvested crops to raise money to sponsor a young, fatherless boy, in Portland, Oregon. Seriously?!? Children who came from less than nothing, had probably very little to call their own their whole lives, were working hard so that a young boy without a father in the US could have some things he wouldn’t otherwise have. Whoa! That is radical. I feel like such a schlump with the little bit I have done with my life.
Ah, and there in lies the problem with the book if we don’t read the book with a balanced understanding of our own calling, our personalities, our stage in life, and our financial resources. I admire Bob Goff for his ability to not just seek “whimsy” (as he calls it) but how he sees the opportunities everywhere. That is a unique gift of his personality and others who might be internally wired like him. I am not one of them. I am not naturally gifted at seeing the whimsical side of life. It doesn’t mean I can’t, because on many occasions in my own way, I create moments of whimsy with my kids. My children are not hardwired the way his children are to thinking outside of the box. Mostly, my kids are struggling each day to figure out what the box is and how to make sure they keep their space in the box. I needed to tell myself that the people in his life that he inspired to “go off the map” were in a position to make those radical choices. I am not. However, I can make some smaller choices that will still help me to feel that I am actively loving in the world around me.
In recent months I have been feeling the tug to downsize our lives further. We have downsized our house by about 700 sq ft, yet we have all the necessary spaces for our family, at the same time we upgraded our yard, neighborhood, and cut our commuting time. I’ve been getting emails and feeds in my Facebook from a website called “Becoming Minimalist.” There are articles and tips galore on how to take small steps over time to remove unnecessary clutter from our lives and create a simpler life for your family. I have also spent the last year reading several of Sr. Meg Funk’s books from the Matters series. I have read Tools Matter and Discernment Matters in their entirety and I am still working on Thoughts Matter. Sr. Meg has spent years researching, writing, and teaching a spiritual discipline based upon the 5th century desert monk, John Cassian. “Drawing on the writings of the fifth-century monk John Cassian, Funk goes on to explore deeply using such tools as memory, imagination, and rational thinking–tools right out of early Christianity–to work on inner healing. She also explains how other positive tools, such as ceaseless prayer, manual labor, and isolation, may lead to uncluttering the mind and purifying the heart” is part of the book description for Tools Matter. Using the tools, to unclutter my mind and to work toward a more pure heart (pure motives), will help me to discern more properly the ways in which God is calling me and my children to better show His love in this world.
Another recent acquaintance has introduced me to Ignatian spirituality. I think it’s a God thing because he could have no idea of how the Holy Spirit has been moving in my heart and in my thoughts. He sent me some links to a couple of websites and recommended a book, A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin, SJ. I can not share much about what I have learned because I am literally only a chapter into the book, but I can say that St. Ignatius of Loyola created his spiritual exercises with the intent that they would be performed while his monks were actively working in the world. That means the exercises can also be adapted for those of us who are actively living in the world. I believe this book will also help me understand this “crazy” new Pope we have who is always going around “lovin’ on” (that’s Oklahoma speak for showing love to others) people, especially those who are marginalized in our world – the poor and disabled, widows and orphans, those who have been treated unjustly. From the small portion of the book I have read, I think Pope Francis epitomizes what it means to be a Jesuit, which is very different from what my previous understanding of what it means to be a Jesuit. I am excited to read more about this spirituality which really seems very complementary to what I have been learning through Sr. Meg’s books, and is also complementary with how I believe the Lord is leading me to “release” attachment to the things that this culture says are necessary to being successful or to feeling love, but to instead become an active proponent of showing God’s love to the world around me (and teaching my children to show love to the world around them). We maybe won’t be writing to 250 world leaders to ask them if we can come interview them, and then give them a key to our house so they can come have a sleep over with us (chapter 10, pp 67-75), but we could have a garage sale to sell all the things we really don’t need anymore, and we could take that money and write a check to a charitable organization to be used to help others. Or better yet, we could actually show up at a charitable organization and do something they need done.
On the very last page in the book Love Does, Bob Goff printed his telephone number and said to feel free to call him sometime if I feel like it. I made it personal because something tells me that Bob Goff doesn’t really know what it is to meet a stranger. Everyone is a potential friend. I am contemplating taking him up on it to see whether he really answers. Bob and I don’t see eye to eye on religion. He’s a Protestant that sees “religion” and religious institutions as an unnecessary road block to actively showing the world the love of Jesus Christ. I humbly disagree. However, one of the things we do agree on is Love Does. I will let you know if he answers my call.
~ The Reluctant Widow