Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Real Nice Gal

We have been studying India in History and just finished reading this book about Mother Teresa. Sadly, I knew almost nothing about this incredible woman prior to this. I knew she was a nun who worked with the poor and that was about it. After reading the book and watching a documentary on her life I am convinced she is the clearest, most beautiful example of humility (other than Jesus) that I have ever heard about.

Humility is such a difficult quality to define, and even more difficult to achieve. Websters defines it as:

1. (n.) The state or quality of being humble; freedom from pride and arrogance; lowliness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth; a sense of one's own unworthiness

2. (n.) An act of submission or courtesy. Low in rank or status-"a humble position"

My favorite definition, in fact the only one that has ever been helpful to me, is:

"True humility is not thinking less of myself, but instead, thinking of myself less." C.S. Lewis

Mother Teresa chose to become a nun and lived in the convent for many years teaching in a school on the same grounds in India until one day the Lord called her to give it all up to serve the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta. What I love about this book is that it tells us she was normal. Her first experience with these "untouchables" was in a hospital where an infants foot had been nearly chewed off by a rat. The baby was too undernourished to cry out for help. This case and others like it scared and disgusted her and she vowed she would return to the convent and never come out to the streets again! But soon she sensed God reminding her of the passage from Matthew 25

42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

What I love about this is the acknowledgment that she was a normal human being as opposed to some unique, one-of-a-kind super-human! Was she special and unique? Oh yes! But was she "special" in some sense that you or I couldn't do the same thing when filled and submitted to the power of Christ? No! She felt the same disgust that any of us would feel in that same circumstance. The difference is, she allowed God to change her, to grow her into a woman who looked past the outer and loved the people in spite of their sickness, their smell, their imperfections.

Because, many times, I think we decide that people like Mother Teresa are "different" than we are and that's why they are able to do these awesome works for God. We make excuses..."well if I had___.", or "if I was ___.", as though there is something fundamentally different in her biological makeup that enables her to do hard work and love it and we just don't have that "special something".

We don't just do it on the BIG scale though, we do it in the smaller areas too. Like marriage, we say "I know the Bible says I should submit to my husbands leadership and I would BUT..." Then we explain why Sally can do it because her husband is the pastor and he is a great Godly man and "if I was married to him..." We say it about weight loss and physical fitness. We see a star lose weight and we say "sure, I could do that too if I had a personal trainer and a chef!" Really? Does that make it easier not to eat the brownies at midnight? Do they sleep with you and hold you down? Mother Teresa compared herself to a "pencil in the hand of God". Let's just admit that God would be pleased to do equally amazing work through you or I if we were but willing to surrender to the same degree. Ouch.

In addition to her humility, which was so beautiful to see in action, here are some other points I learned from her life:

  • God doesn't force us into His service kicking and screaming. He allows us to be involved and if we will obey we will find ourselves LOVING it! He always blesses our sacrifice. She didn't tolerate this work, she lived for it!
  • She did not set out to cure the worlds poverty problem or build some kind of ministry empire. She simply saw a need and began to meet it one day at a time.
  • She did not make long term plans or goals. She did the work that was in front of her today. When she saw a new need she began to move in the direction to meet it too. She didn't know how or when it would happen, she just moved in faith that God would supply.
  • What she was doing seemed like foolishness to many.
  • She didn't have money and that was never a concern for her.
  • She drew near to the people she wanted to serve. She chose to become an Indian citizen, she lived where they lived, how they lived, dressed as they dressed, ate as they ate.
  • She didn't "recruit" helpers or supporters in an active way, she was too busy doing the work itself. She trusted God to handle all the details.
  • She worked hard! She slept 2-3 hours per night and prayed 2 hours each morning.
  • When she had a need she went directly to her knees. She never tried to handle things herself, she depended on the Lord.
After we completed the book we watched a documentary on Mother Teresa's life on Netflix. When it was over my youngest daughter Carley, age 5, said to me "she was a real nice girl huh mom?" This cracked me up since Mother always looked like she was a hundred and twelve years old and she was so much more than nice!! Hilarious!

A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility. --D. L. Moody

How do we know if we have a servant’s heart? By how we act when we are treated like one! Unknown

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

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