Ordinary meets extraordinary.
January 31, 2012
Serious Tuesday post time.
I’m not really sure why Tuesday, it just seems like a good day to be introspective.
Last Serious Tuesday post, I wrote about why I wanted to adopt. In the post, I mentioned the blog, Kisses from Katie. A precious (and super hilarious) lady at church gave me a copy of Katie’s book a few weeks ago. I must confess how negligent of a parent I was the day I started reading it, because I absolutely could not put it down. Beckett got some quality bonding time in with his swing, bouncer, toys…pretty much anything to keep him occupied while momma read her book.
It’s an incredible story of a now-22 year old girl who adopted 14 children in Uganda. She’s from Tennessee, my home state. She is 2 years younger than me. She’s living an extraordinary life.
I have a love-hate relationship with stories like Katie’s. Part of me is motivated to do something insane for Jesus, like give all my stuff away to Goodwill and move into a crack house to minister to and befriend those battling addictions. The other part of me realizes I have a different calling. Who knows where we’ll be in the future, but for right now, my calling looks quite different from Katie’s.
Knowing that doesn’t stop me from sometimes wishing I had a crazy life like that.
When I feel like I’m not doing enough, sacrificing enough, etc. I remember a time when an ordinary guy made an extraordinary difference.
I had been working at an orphanage in Ghana for several weeks when a group from ACU dropped by just for the afternoon to visit and play with the kids. My friend Josh was one of the visitors. Josh struck up a conversation with Isaac, a boy I had grown close to over the summer. After playing soccer with Isaac for an hour or so, Josh found out that Isaac was a runner. Without hesitating – and in a moment of word vomit – Josh said, “Awesome! I’ll have to mail you a pair of shoes when I get home.”
I was so frustrated with Josh. He obviously didn’t understand how seriously these kids took him. Plus, the postal service was less than reliable. If something happened and he wasn’t able to send shoes (highly likely), it’d be just another empty promise for Isaac. Either way, Josh left, I moved on, Isaac kept running.
The dude ran 8-10 miles every morning before getting ready for school. He was crazy.
Someone at the orphanage found out about a marathon/half marathon happening in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Isaac immediately signed up.
When it came time for the race, another intern and I were able to drive to Accra with Isaac, his house dad, and the driver to watch him run. Isaac was super nervous, but we were all so excited for him.
We left the orphanage in the wee hours of the morning and got to the race site while it was still dark.
Pause. Have you seen the Invisible Children video? There is footage of rooms with children literally piled on top of each other. It’s shocking. And I witnessed it in Ghana. As we pulled up to the site, our driver stopped unexpectedly. When I looked out, our headlights were shining on the road in front of us but I couldn’t see the dirt. The road was covered with children. Most of them barefoot, all of them sleeping on top of each other. I looked at the other intern and nearly yelled, “Get your camera! There are more invisible children!” but before I did, our driver honked and shouted out the window about it being time for the race to start. All the kids got up and started walking to the starting line. Turns out they were catching some zzz’s before the big race. Phew.
Isaac got his registration number and started stretching. As we looked around, we realized he had signed up to run with the grown men, not the children/young adults. He had accidentally signed up for the full 26-mile marathon, instead of the half. He stuck with it, though, and off he went with the sound of the gun.
|Isaac right before the race.|
Isaac had one leg that was slightly deformed – about half the size and muscle of the other leg. Needless to say, the race was grueling.
We got to drive the course while Isaac ran. The only problem was this:
Most of the marathoners would bum a ride off any car in sight, ours included. As it turns out, riding a few miles on a moving car here and there really makes running marathons much easier.
As much pain as Isaac was in, he refused to follow suit.
…until mile 22 or so.
His house dad kept encouraging him to take a break and just ride for a second. Isaac kept refusing. Finally, the exhaustion overwhelmed him and he caved. About 3 minutes after he grabbed on to the truck, the race police drove up, gathered every runner who was cheating, and escorted them straight to the finish line.
Isaac, and the others, were disqualified.
It was heartbreaking for us. It was devastating for Isaac. The whole ride home, Isaac hardly said a word. I’m sure he was planning ahead for how he would tell all 150+ people waiting at home what happened.
For the next few days, Isaac stayed in his room a lot. He wasn’t much of a social butterfly after what happened. I’m sure he was embarrassed and ashamed. Over the next several weeks, Isaac didn’t run in the mornings anymore. Or at night. Or at all.
But here, friends, is where the story takes a turn for the awesome.
A few weeks after the race catastrophe, a package came in the mail to our guest house. When I saw who it was from and the approximate size of the box, I ripped that box to shreds.
Inside the package was a brand-new, beautiful pair of Nike Shox in Isaac’s size.
I can’t even begin to describe the joy on Isaac’s face when we called him down to our house and gave him his own pair of running shoes. This kid never owned anything this nice in his life. He was beside himself.
I swear he never took the shoes off. I would bet money that he even wore them to bed.
Guess what? Isaac started running again. He also started smiling again.
Isn’t that the greatest story ever?
Here’s the thing – it’s a pretty ordinary thing to do. Buy someone a pair of shoes? Not quite as extraordinary as adopting 14 Ugandan girls. But those shoes changed someone’s life. Those shoes gave someone hope. Those shoes told a child of God that he was loved. Those shoes were the exact right gift at the exact right time.
I guarantee Josh couldn’t see into the future to what would happen. Maybe he felt a calling to send this boy, out of 150 others, a pair of running shoes. So he did.
Sometimes our lives aren’t as “exciting” as we think they should be. Sometimes they don’t generate very much conversation. But always, God has a calling for all of us.
If we are listening to his calling, loving radically, showering others with undeserved grace, giving generously… it’s ok that our lives don’t appear crazy. God will work in and through us.
He will change lives whether it’s through adoption or a pair of Nike Shox.
I hope to never underestimate or forget that, don’t you?