In June 2012, Kari and I started our mission-adventure. Dedicating the next twelve months in Ethiopia, Haiti, and Nicaragua to Simply Love on the mission field. I didn’t set any measurable objectives. I’m not building churches or homes or orphanages. I’m not setting up a sponsorship program or trying to get sponsors for an area. I’m not researching any programs. Kari and I just simply wanted to live Out Loud for Jesus! But, what does that look on the mission field? I imagine Mark 12:30-31 gives us a good snapshot … Love God, Love People!
Honestly, it’s not easy. I mess up a lot. Actually, it’s more like every day and many times throughout the day! Unfortunately, I don’t exactly fall into the Mother Theresa category in compassion. In fact, when Kari and I were first married we took a “marriage test” to find areas of compatibility and areas of potential conflict in our relationship. After we took the test, the counselor met with us and highlighted how extremely compatible we were according to the test. But, he went on by asking me a question, “Roger, when you see a cat in the middle of the road in front of you, do you slam on the brakes or push the pedal to the metal?” At first, I was like uh … uh … uh and then I heard Kari laughing. After she caught her breath, she blurted out to the counselor, “Well, he just ran over a bird on the way over here.” There were a bunch of birds in the middle of the road and I figured, as the car got closer they would fly away, but one didn’t make it. All I saw in my rear-view mirror was a poof of feathers. The counselor laughed and proceeded to say that Kari and I were as opposite as a couple could be in our levels of compassion. Kari scored in the “Mother Teresa” range. Me … “The Grinch.”
After that, I kind of just accepted that was the way God designed me. Yet, I’m called to be a follower of Jesus (Eph. 5:1) and in His ministry here on earth He demonstrated compassion daily. His first miracle, he demonstrated compassion by refilling the wine jars. He didn’t want the wedding party to be embarrassed, so He filled the jars back up with the best wine any lips had ever tasted and He saved the day for the bridegroom from shame (Not to mention that would be a horrible way to start off your honeymoon first night.) Christ demonstrated compassion everywhere He went: weddings, in the city, out in the countryside, and even at His own death. He took the burden of our sins even though He was without sin and paid the ultimate price. He knew the path that was before Him – PAIN! But, He cared enough to take those punches to the face, being spat upon by many, lashes from a whip, a crown of thorns pressed deep into his scalp, and a gruesome death on a cross. Why? Just because He loves you and I.
It wasn’t until I experience the brokenness in my heart, that I grew in compassion for others. My first experience in Ethiopia was for our adoption of Zoie. Immediately, when I came off the plane in Addis Ababa and smelled the air, I was ready to go get Zoie and get out, but God had different plans. Shortly after we had our “gotcha moment” with Zoie, I learned that we would have to stay longer in Ethiopia because I passed court as “Robert Gibson”, not Roger Gibson. We were told, “If the courts cooperated and all went well, we would be on a plane quickly.” I asked, “How long is quickly?” Three weeks.” If not, we would be there long enough to become fluent in Amharic. (Read our adoption Gotcha Day experience here and here.)
During those three weeks on the ground in Ethiopia, God peeled back the layers of my heart. He uncovered a lot of embarrassing things in my heart: selfishness, pride, comfort level, etc. It was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. To have my heart fully exposed; to have all my “junk” rare its ugly head, at a time I should have been compassionate, loving, and protecting the fatherless. You can read the full story here. To love BIG, God will often bring us to a place of brokenness. James 1:2-4 is a popular passage for us to grab onto when we are going through tough times. But, for me the beauty is in verse 4 “ … that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The Greek word for “perfect” is teleios, which translates to being “fully equipped.” I didn’t know it at the time, but God was getting me ready for missions. I needed compassion. I needed to raise my score from the Grinch range to at least Father Murphy range. I may never attain Mother Theresa level, but I know God is always at work in me to grow in maturity for who He wants me to be. Not in knowledge, but in my heart. Just like the Grinch.
Today, as I look back on that “repulsive” moment in my life, I’m grateful because that was the catalyst for Man Up & Go. God uses people just like you and I, but we need our heart to be ready. If not, here is the formula to get your “heart” ready: brokenness + humbleness + loving God + loving people = compassion. Without compassion, it’s really hard to just Simply Love.
Brokenness is the beginning.
How has God re-shaped your heart?