Ian here. I’m not into Taoism at all, but I do read a lot of different stuff and I know wisdom when I read it. Lao-Tzu, considered the father of Taoist philosophy said “He who knows he has enough is rich”. That quote inspired to go outside the other day, sit alone, and think. After a couple hours I wrote the following thoughts which I decided to share here. I’m a little nervous about this because I did not write thinking other people would read it, I was just thinking through stuff to myself. Sorry I’m disorganized and random, it’s just how I think.
Right now I’m sitting barefoot on a manhole cover on an elevated drainage culvert at the Umoja end of our compound. I’m surrounded by tall grass and various low bushes but am high enough to see all around. I look down the valley to wards Landless Estate, behind me I hear lorries on Garissa road. Below me I hear the sewage flowing. To my left I hear the Centre children now at home playing, crying, and yelling in Umoja Slum. I can see a few from here and every once in a while one spots me and yells my name in a high pitched shriek. I can smell the grass and also burning trash. Last night one of our centre girls, an 18 year old orphan named Rose, had a baby boy. At right about the same time a man was killed at the BAT (British American tobacco company) just over the field from here. It’s been raining so much we are mostly stranded because of the deep mud and standing water covering our roads out. The slums are unimaginably dirty with the mud and flowing water that mixes up all the trash, sewage, and other stuff on the ground. Many of the dwellings are full of standing water and deep mud, it is really something.
Most of the time I doubt God if I am honest with myself. However, I usually try to act as if He is real and actively involved in my life and the world around me. Something in me knows He is in spite of the overwhelming evidence I’m surrounded by, that man is alone in this mess we’ve created here on earth. I ache for the day when all is made right. When people can live in honesty, sincerity, and the innocence I know we were designed for. There is no end to the misery and struggle people live with all around me, only the temporary relief of alcohol or sleep for so many.
Even so, children light up at a simple smile, wave, or acknowledgement. They are so quick to smile back, laugh with me, hold my hand and walk together… mysteriously alive in the land of the dead and dying.
No matter where I am in the world there is a constant hum in the background giving the same consistent message: Take, get it for yourself, your pleasure is all that matters, it is your right to feel good, have lots of things, and consume the pleasures of this world. If you don’t take, you will not be satisfied, you will miss out on the good things in life.
Jesus said we should take everything we have and give it away to others and then take our time and serve others, not ourselves. This is the way to fulfillment, happiness, and true reward. He did not say this as an analogy or story representing some abstract truth either, but quite literally and clearly. This scares me, a lot. But it’s kind of like the fear you feel before bungee jumping, you’re body is scared and trying to convince you to stop, but your spirit knows you’re in for something sweet if you can push past it and step off the platform. The ever present battle between the foolish, selfish, earthbound Ian and the spirit within me that knows the beauty, passion, and adventure I was made for. What scares me even more is the idea that I could completely miss out on the life I was made for because I can’t push through that fear and listen to quiet whisper of God’s truth to my spirit. So I chose to listen and act on what I know is true even when it makes no sense to me, or those around me.
The more I give, the more alive I feel. Giving (sacrificing to meet someone else’s real need) has proven for me to be the only reliable means to near instant gratification except for substance abuse and other destructive behavior. When I give up my time, money, pride, stuff, security, ambition, or safety to try and benefit another … the bigger the sacrifice the more “right” it seems to feel. Sometimes the biggest (most painful) sacrifices I feel led to make are not doing what I want, when I want to, or sacrificing what others might think of me (allowing myself to look bad) if doing something to influence their opinion is not in the best interest of others. I become increasingly aware that for me giving is the only path to meaningful accomplishment that I can control. Maybe it’s not the giving actually because it is also linked to following a prompting of my spirit. It’s those times when I know I should, not just whenever a need presents itself. in fact most times when people ask I say no. It’s the times when that small voice tells me “now..this is the moment” and I usually don’t want to do it, but I have learned that those moments are where the greatest opportunity lies. I’ve learned to trust that quiet voice and have yet to be let down, quite the opposite, it has created most of that which I consider good in my life so far. It feels like my little secret sometimes because so few people around me actually practice giving that requires sacrifice and that therefore rewards them in profound ways, at least that I know of anyway. Everyone knows about this concept but I fear that very few have the courage to really test it out in a way that could hurt if God doesn’t hold up His end of the deal.
So, now that I read through what I wrote that day I suppose this itself is an example of what I was talking about. I don’t really want to share this with anyone and feel uncomfortable putting my thoughts out there. I fear I will sound self righteous, arrogant, and judgemental among other things. However, I know I’m not and I know I feel like I should post it, and so I will. Thanks for reading…I’m off to put Lucy to bed.