“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
The journey in defending and caring for vulnerable children, is complex and weary, at times. The radical needs can be overwhelming and I’m the one set in the position to see that they are met. Many obstacles and hindrances rise, like people coming forward with false motives, allowing Satan to use them as an instrument of darkness, in attempt to sabotage God’s work. Workers meant to help carry the load, appear to be looking for ways to slack back on work, and “cut corners.” Funds for the running must be used wisely and monitored to see that vast, various needs are met. Constant evaluation of effectivity, that of self, and the work as a whole, are constantly pondered. Government systems put in place to protect children, fail to do so. Family members at home are sick, missing you and you miss them. The heat is unbearable, you become immune to clothes drenched in sweat and the dust clinging to the sweat. The list goes on… One can become overwhelmed with the brokenness of families, disconnects and ineffectiveness of services and systems, that it causes one to wonder, “Why am I here?” “Am I making a difference at all?” “Does anyone understand the need, and see how hard we work and desire to make a difference?” To those who believe or wonder if I’m complaining, looking for compassion or pity… I’m not. I’m being very real and transparent, to bring out a point and encourage someone else. Those of you who have dealt with orphaned or vulnerable children, or ministry in general, know what I am talking about. It can be exhausting.
I heard a message lately, “Growing down,” where the gigantic Sequoia trees were used as illustration. They are 100 of yards tall, and they have been on the earth growing even before the time of Christ was born. They have weathered times of drought, fire, storms, and all sorts of harsh environments, and yet they still remain strong and tall, giving praise, honor and glory to our awe-inspiring Creator! It went on to say that these magnificent goliaths, when mature, are 100 yards (a football field in length) tall, but also 100 miles (1,760 football fields in length) long in their root system. What allows these mammoths of trees to survive and live out millenniums is not their height, but their depth of their root system! When looking up at these trees, think of what’s down underneath of them. It’s the things done is secret, the hiding places, where no one is thinking to look at or can see. It’s not the grandeur effects that men easily see… it’s the growing, the reaching, the stretching, the feeding, the supporting that’s all going on underneath the surface. To persevere, the Sequoia grows down, before it grows up.
It’s the same with me and you, if we are to persevere, stand firm, to spread good seed, to multiply, to lift our hands to God amongst fire, flood, and storms, what is unseen and below the surface is far more important than what is seen above. To continue to persevere during long journeys of fights for mercy and justice, we must grow down before we grow up.
There’s nothing wrong with growing up, to see good fruit and multiplication. God want’s upward growth and productivity. However, it becomes a problem when our name, growing our impact, growing our numbers, and growing our productivity consumes more of our focus, causing everything else to be displaced.
Where is our priority? Where is my priority? I asked myself as I listened to this message, as the preacher, starting to name descriptions of those that grow upward vs. downward first. Am I about the size, the audience, the dollars, the numbers served, the followers, the upward growth, or am I about the quality of things that are hard to see at first? Things like hearts, faith, well being, and character? Growing upward first, do I swing between my pride and security of my reputation? Growing downward, one carries the light yoke of self forgetfulness.
Growing upward first, Do I say, “yes,” often, whereas, with growing downward, one says, “no,” often so that they may give themselves more fully to things that matter most. Growing upward first, one is known for talking a lot, growing downward first, one is known as a good listener. Growing upward first, one’s time horizon is usually 3-4 years, whereas, growing downward it maybe only seen in future generations and possibly even eternity. Growing upward first, do I struggle with anything that feels unproductive, including prayer and even rest? When in growing downward first, one understands that fruitfulness often requires seasons without production so that one can enjoy rest, solitude, and silence to be more productive.
So where do I see myself? You can ask yourself this question? I find myself going between the two. I want to be a woman of depth, of compassion, and yearn to grow deep into Christ and His word. Then there’s a part of me that longs to stand tall, to be respected, and admired. Not only for other’s sake and God’s glory, but also that of my own.
In self evaluating with this new perspective, I find myself asking these questions… Did I give little Aaron the attention that he is needing, because at home, the only attention was a good beating? Did I hug and listen to José and tell him I love him, because nobody really cared to do that before? Does Flor know how special and unique she really is? Does Deybin know what real love is, and the Definer of Love? Does JanCarlos see a different way to react to frustrating situations, other than that of hitting with uncontrolled anger, as he saw his parents react? Does Angelo know he’s safe here? Am I reflecting Christ to these children, trusted into my care? Am I focused on growing tall or deep?
The simple fact is, Christians grown tall, are not needed in this generation. We desperately need Christians grown deep! We need Christians who can persevere even when instruments of Satan rise against them. Christians who can continue to love, even when there is no visible result. We need Christians, who’s very presence feels like the presence of Jesus. We can never be this if we are more focused on what’s happening above the surface, rather than beneath. We are not a justice movement or humanitarian movement first, but a spiritual one FIRST, justice and meeting physical needs are the fruit. The spiritual life is the focus. So I am making a choice, this is what I want. I know we want to grow tall and see great numbers, statistics beat, and so on…, but what I want more than anything else is to grow deep into Jesus. I desire to intentionally do this in my heart and demonstrating it to the children.
There are choices I can make to participate in this downward growth. They are not easy, but everyone can do them. Every saint through history has done them. Jesus did them when He walked this earth. We can not produce growth on our own… GOD DOES!!! It is God who gives the increase. He invites us to participate with Him, in this growth. They are called spiritual disciplines that we do until they are second nature, to the point we call them gifts. Steady, repeated habits that nurture beneath the surface. Like memorization of scripture, solitude and prayer, and remaining strict to a Sabbath day. These are like fertilizer, that feeds the root system that will bring forth true strength and productivity, that guards against burn out. Choose to stop working and choose to feed the root system.
All of our roots, mine included, can be deep. If daily we participate with God, in cultivation of our downward growth. If we do this, we will give refuge, shelter and shade to those in our care. We will continue to spread good seed. We will continue to lift our hands in praise to our Creature, amongst fire, flood, and storm. We will stand firm to the end. Then we will enter and hear, “Well done, though good and faithful servant.” Truth is, I may never see the real difference I am making in these children’s lives, and that is ok, the next generation or Heaven will tell.
Written by: Bettina Long