I just posted on my Facebook page (yeah, I do FB!) that it is “cold- not so much outside as inside.” I just returned from visiting family and friends in Cincinnati where the temperature was in the teens with wind chills at who knows what, but at least in Cincinnati there was good heat inside. A few minutes by the fireplace with a warm blanket wrapped around my legs and I was snug as a bug in a rug! Not so here. We have cinder block buildings and space heaters here and there. And for someone like me, who always argues with his wife about wanting things cooler inside, I am always a bit surprised that it gets too cold inside our home even for me.
In seasons like this, my thoughts more often than not are about the people in Meme’s Rio or in the Cadereyta (two of the impoverished shanytowns that Back2Back works with). My mind drifts to the 70% of the population of Mexico that live in poverty. It considers that the majority of the world lives more like someone at Cadereyta than say someone living in the suburbs of Chicago or Cincinnati (where I grew up). What do they do on nights like tonight when the temperature is supposed to get down around freezing? How many blankets can they throw on to keep themselves warm throughout the night? Do they ever feel snug as a bug in a rug? Somehow, I doubt it.
The past two winters, I’ve been able to work at Cadereyta with a group of men from Columbus. Each time we’ve gone, not only has it been cold but it has also been rainy, leaving the dirt roads nothing more than a sloppy mess. Several times, just walking through the six-inch deep slop, my shoe has almost been pulled from my feet. As we get on the bus and head to the Back2Back campus and relative warmth, the hour-long bus ride home is often more quiet as we think of the people I am leaving behind in the elements: the little kid with a runny nose and hacking cough or the grandmother who is nothing but skin and bones. How will they fare over the night as the temperature drops even more?
I think in America we tend to think that because we have warm homes and comfy beds that we are experiencing the shelter of God. So, if that is true, then what does that say about the people at Meme’s Rio? Do they experience the shelter of God any less because they have a tin roof over their heads? Or let’s turn it around. If the person at Meme’s Rio that is fortunate enough to have a space heater (that runs off pirated electricity) is experiencing God’s shelter, does that mean that we experience it more because we have a thermostat we can set to a comfortable temperature?
I am coming to believe more and more that God’s shelter has little or nothing at all to do with this kind of thing. I’m not so sure He cares how comfortable I am – He just promises to give me comfort through the Comforter. I don’t think that God is pulling for me to have lots of money, but He is desperate that I would be rich in faith.
God does bless people materially. We see that in the Scriptures, but not as much as some people may think or want. What we see more is the promise that we will struggle and have trouble in this world. God’s shelter comes to us regardless of where we live, or how we live (economically, comfortably, etc). God’s shelter is ours because we believe in Him and follow Him and trust HIM- not what He may have given us.
Are we prepared to accept that God’s shelter may not keep us warm? It may not help me purchase those extra Christmas presents for the kiddos. It doesn’t mean that I can finally sell that heap of metal I’ve been driving and nursing along for three years and get a new car like the guy across the street.
But it does mean that as I stand on the side of the road because that bucket of bolts has finally died, I have the assurance of knowing that Someone is standing next to me. It does mean that there may be fewer presents under the tree, but a deeper understanding of Christmas than ever before. It does mean that there is peace in my heart as my bones shiver when the sun goes down, because the truth of the matter is that sometimes, it can be bitter cold in God’s Shelter.