The next two lives we'll look at make me take pause. (Not that the others don't, mind you!) But, these two stories are really amazing to me because they speak to things that I frequently struggle with: forgiveness and trust... forgiveness of others and trust in God.
By our societal standards, Rachel Saint grew up relatively poor. She was one of eight children growing up in a family that had very little food. However, at the age of 18, Rachel received what many would consider a "golden ticket." A wealthy, elderly woman took Rachel on a trip to Europe and offered to make Rachel her heiress... if she agreed to be her companion for the rest of her life. Tempting offer... and Rachel seriously considered it. But, in the end, she knew that such a life was not for her. Instead, Rachel spent 12 years working in a halfway house for alcoholics and then became a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators in South America... eventually working with the notoriously dangerous Waorani Indians in Ecuador. While many might view this as brave... or crazy... in context, in my opinion, it's miraculous... for you see, Rachel's brother, Nate, was killed by the Waorani people. Such a horrible tragedy might turn many people away from God, but not Rachel... "it only sharpened [her] desire to tell these people about the love of Christ." It took many years for her to finally meet and live with the Waorani people, but she ended up living with them for 20 years... sharing her faith and leading them to the Lord.
George didn't become a Christian until he was in college. Before that, he was known for gambling, drinking and other "escapades." But, through the power of Christ, his life was transformed. He eventually married and became a preacher in England. That's where he and his wife decided to open an orphanage for children living on the streets... free of charge. But, moreover, the Muellers decided they wouldn't even ask others for financial contributions... they would trust God to provide for their every need. (Now, I don't know about you, but having pretty extensive knowledge on how non-profits work... "financial contributions" are the life-blood of most, if not all, of these operations. The thought of not soliciting financial support for such an endeavor is... well... crazy!) Chan writes the following: "Many people were incredulous, and so the Muellers' purpose in starting the orphanage became twofold: The first was obviously to help the orphans; the second was to show people what it looked like to trust God for everything." p. 158. Relying solely on prayer, they opened the first orphanage. By the time George died in 1898, over 10,000 orphans had been cared for in the five houses the Muellers' built... and a million and a half pounds, in monetary donations, were given.
So, today's blog boils down to forgiveness and prayer... I wish it was that easy! For many of us, these two things are big hurdles we need to cross... and conquer... in our efforts to become obsessed with God. This past weekend, we had family in town. It was the kind of visit that stirs up feelings I often equate with having a root canal... anxiety, frustration, physical pain. It just so happened that my eldest daughter's daily devotion for one of the days of the visit was about forgiveness. This started a very interesting conversation about how difficult it is to forgive... and how important it is to forgive... God does have a sense of humor. The person in question began telling my daughter how she finds it more difficult to forgive those she doesn't know compared to her family. This struck me as odd because I feel the complete opposite... and I told her so. She looked at me as if I had three heads, not understanding how that was even possible. I went on to explain that...right or wrong... you don't expect family to intentionally hurt you... maybe because you hold them to a higher standard... maybe because Norman Rockwell has subliminally made us believe that family-togetherness is the thread that binds. Regardless of the reason, a betrayal by family is a bitter wound to heel... because it's personal. Betrayal by a stranger is easier to forgive... at least for me... because I can rationalize that it wasn't personal... they don't know me. So, who's right? Well... it doesn't really matter, does it? Because the issue of forgiveness still lingers. I don't know if this person understood what I was saying... or that I was addressing a particular issue I had with her. But, again, after YEARS of building resentment... I have to really ask myself, does it matter? My "issue" is nothing compared to that of Rachel Saint. Reading her story made me realize that my lack of willingness to forgive is MY obstacle to overcome and until I'm willing to lay it down, then my growth in Christ will be stunted. That's a hard pill to swallow... but I think George Mueller's philosophy on prayer holds the key. If prayer can build orphanages and change the lives of thousands of children... then it can change my heart... if I'm willing to let go of being "right."
Is forgiveness a stronghold preventing you from a deeper relationship with Christ? Do you find yourself constantly "harping" on something, or someone... just not willing to let it go? If so, spend some time in prayer, asking God to work on your heart.