photo credit: Joanna Howard
Blessed are the poor in Spirit for there's is the kingdom of God.
We noticed a new woman sitting on the wicker chairs on the front porch of Heartline's women's clinic.
Beautiful. Tall. Thin. Wearing a bright yellow shirt.
She said her name was Fabula.
I remember thinking her name fit her well, like expensive jeans.
She came to the clinic for a pregnancy test.
I sat with Beth and Joanna in one of the exam rooms as they delivered the news to this young woman.
"You're pregnant. The test is positive."
There have been times when I thought I was pregnant. My pregnancies are terrible, so the thought of being pregnant again terrifies me. Given the choice, I'd never be pregnant again. And yet, no matter how long Aaron and I have been having sex, and that we know exactly how to make a baby (even though people look at our four kids and annoyingly ask, "You do know how babies are made, right?")...there have been a few times when I thought I was pregnant. My period was late. I psyched myself into thinking my boobs were bigger.
One of those times that I thought I was pregnant I had five little kids in my home. Three biological. Two foster. It always shocked me that even though my pregnancies were a nightmare, and being pregnant while fostering would have been a disaster, I was still so disappointed when the pregnancy test came back negative.
Odd, isn't it? No matter how much I did not want to be pregnant and logically knew it would be totally insane for our family at the time, I sat on the toilet, holding a negative pee test, and cried.
I wonder if deep down I knew..."If I'm pregnant, it will be hard, but I have everything I need to get through this. I live in strong community with other believers who will be by my side the next nine months. They will help me with my other kids, and they will help me with this new baby. I'll have a love affair with the toilet for 25 weeks, but I have enough money to hire someone to come to my house and help me with my children. I won't be able to cook for nine months, because I'll be in the bathroom trying not to throw up my baby, but my friends will bring meals. Everyone will feel sorry for Aaron and the kids. They will feed them. My family will take care of me. My husband can make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids. He has a great job. A job that pays him enough to meet all our needs and take our kids to Jason's Deli for dinner several nights a week."
I would never inconvenience everyone around me on purpose. My pregnancies were hard and difficult, so I wouldn't have walked into another one without counting the cost. Pregnancy would have meant I was sick all day every day. It would mean I had to get help to do basic life. Two lines on a pregnancy test would have meant total chaos in our home with so many little kids.
And yet I cried and Aaron held me for awhile when the test came back negative. It's hard not to get excited about the possibility of new life, no matter how inconvenient new life might be.
Deep down, I must have known...it may be difficult for awhile, but I have a wealth of resources at my finger tips to make this work. I have money, friends, family, and a husband. After several months, my friends and husband may hate taking care of my life while I sleep in the bathroom floor, but then I'll have a new baby and will be too tired to care what they think.
"You're pregnant. The test is positive."
You don't have to be able to speak Creole to know when the news you just delivered has sunk a woman's soul. I was waiting for the sound effects..bombs exploding...water rushing...like on my son's Battleship game.
Beth asked her, "Are you happy to be pregnant?"
She talked slowly. Quietly. Her eyes had glazed over. Such sadness.
"I'm going to abort the baby. It's not a person yet."
She already had two kids and knew...she can't take care of another one. She had been taking birth control. Something went wrong.
I had to blink fast to keep the tears from spilling. Beth's tears were there. Her eyes were full. She gently reminded this scared mom that her baby is a person.
A decision was made. Forget the waiting list for the program. Let's get her in class today. She'll see pictures of how a baby develops in the womb. She'll hear the truth. She'll hear about what God is up to in her belly. She'll understand that her baby has a heartbeat. She'll see that we're committed to helping her through this pregnancy. She'll have support here.
She didn't stay for class.
So the three of us prayed. We cried.
There was this moment when we were trying to talk Fabula out of an abortion that I wanted to jump into a routine I'd use at a crisis pregnancy center in the States, complete with charts, videos, full-color pamphlets, tap dancing and jazz hands.
"Don't abort your baby. This is a person. This is your baby. You can do the right thing. You don't have to kill your baby. There are plenty of places that can help. We'd love for you to keep your baby, to parent your child, and if you want to, we can point you to great resources. If you don't want to keep your baby, then someone will want to adopt your child. There are families right now, waiting, praying for a baby. You can give this child life, and a loving family. This story can end well. It can have a good ending. Not a tragic one."
The white people in the room sat in the silence for a little while, breathing in the difficult air of Haiti. Sometimes the truth slaps you in the face, takes your breath away, and you're left to sit there with the sting for a little while...speechless.
The truth is, we have nothing tangible to offer this scared woman so that she can parent her child. We have no idea how hard her life is. We have no way of understanding how impossible adding another child to her home will be. Does she even have a home?
Adoptions and caring for orphaned children in this country are incredibly difficult and complex. The truth is, there are probably not any couples in Haiti begging God for a child right now. The next Together for Adoption Conference will not be in Port-au-Prince. No one here is putting adoption tickers on their blog. No one in the states can easily adopt this child right now either.
Silence and tears.
It was all we had to offer.
To judge this woman we'd have to assume that she has friends that could help. She has family. She has a husband. She has money. She has a government that will work for her, serve her, educate her, and protect her.
The reality is...
She has none of those things.
None of those things.
Blessed are the poor in spirit?
It's tempting some days to think Jesus is crazy.
I'm finding that true poverty isn't about not having enough money. Jesus was poor, after all. He said He had nowhere to lay His own head.
Maybe true poverty is more about not having any way to ever, ever, work hard enough to ever, ever, have the slightest chance of changing your situation on your own.
True poverty, the kind we see here every day, looks more like hopelessness.
To wake up every morning and know, without fail, all of your days will be as hard as this one.
No opportunity for change. No light at the end of the tunnel. No pulling yourself up by your own boot straps. Boots in Haiti don't come with straps. Not even those have been provided for you.
No hope. No hope.
I've never felt such hopelessness like I did yesterday with this woman. Chances are...there's no one for her call. No one to help. Nowhere to turn. No last ditch effort. No great idea she hasn't thought of until she's in a horrendous pinch. She has nothing.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit?
I know the poor were not put on this earth for the sole purpose of teaching me a lesson. They don't exist so wealthy Americans can briefly see them, go home and be introspective for a week. I know I can't hold onto my US passport, dive into the life of those in abject poverty, and then claim that the only reason I've gotten a glimpse into their life is so God could lovingly use their intense suffering to teach me some awe-inspiring lesson. If that's the only reason I think the poor exist, for me to gain something from their oppression, that's a little sick.
But I'll admit. As I sat with this lady and watched the scene play out in front of me, I was given a gift. Which is a little twisted, since it seemed to come at this woman's expense. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about situations like these. I don't really like them and don't really like God in the middle of them either.
Regardless of how I felt about God in that moment, I was given a perfect picture of what it means to be poor in Spirit.
The three of us in that examine room were forced to admit...unless God moves on behalf of this woman and this child, there is no hope.
Unless He changes her heart, she will not keep this baby. It will die. There is nothing this mother can do to fix her situation or make adding a child to her home possible. There is no Rolodex of resources we can offer her. She can't work harder. You could read her "The Little Engine that Could" and she would laugh. She hasn't been given the train or the coal. She hasn't even been given the track.
Unless God breathes life into this circumstance that wreaks of death, there is no hope.
We prayed for this woman. We wept for the baby. We cried for Haiti. We asked God to defend this country's women and children. I have not stopped pleading that the church would hurt over this, that back home people would be asking God, "What do we do? How do we help? Make it clear, Lord. Make it clear, but never ever let us sit here another day thinking all is well in this world."
May we remember the poor. May we hurt with them. Weep with them. Plead with God to intervene. Beg Him to return. May we ask God what it looks like to care for the poor and defend them. To be used by God to redeem situations like these, show grace, mercy and above all else, love. For each of us. What does that look like?
In the midst of such sadness yesterday, I understood a little better what my life looked like before Jesus graciously intervened. I saw my soul in Fabula's story. The hopelessness. Utter hopelessness before Christ stepped into the picture. I saw how He rescued me when I didn't even know there was hope for rescue. I saw how my best efforts, my attempts to be better, my righteous acts could have never saved me or gotten me out of the situation I was in. I was enslaved and oppressed by a force far greater than Haiti's corrupt government. My sinful acts had condemned me. And yet, my righteous acts condemned me as well. They were like filthy rags before God. Unless someone came for me, I had no way of climbing out of such a pit.
I hope that's what it means to be poor in Spirit. Because then there's hope for Fabula. The Kingdom belongs to people just like her...for the countless, oh God the countless women just like her in Haiti. No circumstance can take that hope away from her. No government can come against it or steal it. That hope is stored up for her in heaven, and it's guarded by God Almighty who holds the hearts of earthly kings in His hands and turns them whichever way He pleases (prov. 21:1).