by Danetta Kellar
|Together, our gifts became what they never could have been alone.|
It took me a long time, and years of painful comparison, to realize the profound need we have for one another’s differences.
It was early in our African village life that my friend came to visit. My husband and I had been there just long enough to be weary and a bit hardened around the edges. Having arrived with stars in our eyes imagining all the good we were bringing to the villagers, we had tasted the bitterness of disappointment when they did not receive our gifts with immediate acceptance and transformation. Instead, we were stolen from, lied to, and mocked.
When my friend arrived for a visit with all her fresh zeal and compassion, it was a stark contrast to my disillusionment and exhaustion.
Through her eyes, I saw mercy again.
One day she pulled me quietly aside and rebuked me for giving up on the village alcoholic. I listed for her all the things he had done wrong to deserve our desertion. With tears in her eyes, she reminded me of the eleven children he supported, the same children who came eagerly each week to our Bible Club, their arms laden with charms and fetishes purchased from the witch doctor to protect them from illness and evil.
I was deeply convicted. But obstructing conviction was a tremendous, stormy cloud of envy.
I envied my friend’s gift of mercy.
I was a wielder of Truth, there to make truth known clearly. Sure, I was compassionate, but nothing like my friend. She seemed to feel the pain others felt, and easily identify with them.
Tears of compassion came easily to her. The Africans could be heard commenting, “See how she shows her heart.”
Did they not see my heart? Did they not see all I had given to show them I love them, Christ loves them? I went to God alone and cried out in my anguish. I am jealous, God. I want to be like her. I am a failure. Why did you send me here?
His words to me were gentle and firm. You need her. And she needs you.
I could sense her value to God, and mine. We were both precious to Him.
Instead of comparing myself to her, scrutinizing and envying her gifts, I began to realize that her gifts belonged to me, and mine to her.
Something profoundly changed in me that day. I began to seek my sisters’ and brothers’ giftings when I sensed my lack.
If I had to confront someone with a difficult truth, I would go to my mercy friend and ask her how she would do it. If she in her mercy was shrinking back from telling someone the truth in love, she would come to me and ask me how I would do it. Together, our gifting began to complete one another’s lack.
One day, long after my friend had returned to her home country, I sat in the little dusty compound of the village alcoholic. I was reading from the book of 1 Peter, one of the few books completed in the local vernacular. The children gathered around me transfixed.
As I read, I noticed the mother pulling with discomfort at the fetish bracelet on her arm. More and more agitated she became, until finally she leapt to her feet and ran into a nearby mud house. Moments later she emerged with a small, smoldering ember from the morning cook fire. Placing it on the ground, she began to fan it into flame. Calling the children to her, she frantically removed their fetishes and her own, throwing them all into the fire. The flames consumed the amulets, objects of protection that had cost the family many goats.
Looking directly at my astonished face, she declared, “We will follow Jesus now.”
I know that mercy and truth met that day, in a small dirty compound deep in the bush of Africa. I needed my friend to be herself, to remind me of mercy. I needed to be me, armed with truth.
Together, our gifts became what they never could have been alone.
On that afternoon they displayed God’s glory in a way that would have never been possible had I continued to envy and compare. I am still working to make the daily journey from envy to gratitude for the differences I see in those around me. Sometimes I forget. But this story is a reminder to me of all we gain when we depend upon one another instead of insisting on our own superiority. May God help us all to grow in gratitude for the marvelous diversity of gifts He has granted.
How do you manage the differences you see in others? Share your story in the comments section below.