I woke up Friday morning and it was pouring rain again — really, really pouring… consistent with most of last week, actually!  I was up earlier than usual and absent-mindedly grabbed one of the books I have sitting on my coffee table — a collection of stories, prayers and quotes by Mother Teresa.  I flipped open to the middle of the book and read words that I’ve read before, but they particularly stood out to me on Friday and I’ve been reflecting on them since.  They are just too good not to share…

Sacrifice, surrender and suffering are not popular topics nowadays.  Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome.  This is not my attitude toward sacrifice.  I know that it is impossible to relieve the world’s suffering unless God’s people are willing to surrender to God, to make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor. 

From the beginning of time, the human heart has felt the need to offer God a sacrifice.  What is an acceptable sacrifice?  One that is good for the people of God.  One that is made on behalf of the world.

There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards.  There are so many people who are homeless!  In New York City, our sisters are working among the destitute who are dying.  What pain it causes to see these people!  They are only known by their street address now.  Yet they were all someone’s children.  Someone loved them at one time.  They loved others during their lifetime.  But now they are only known by their street address.

The words of Jesus, “love one another as I have loved you,” must not only be a light for us but a flame that consumes the self in us.  Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.

Suffering is nothing by itself.  But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.

I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others.  This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.  Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace to those around me.”

Such simple truth.

I make it too complicated sometimes. I get caught up feeling too small and unable to make the difference that I long to. And then I read words like these and I remember that it’s NOT ABOUT ME!  Even when I am wanting so badly to give more and do more, it’s still about ME when I am worrying about my impact. 

I think it’s easy to idealize lives like Mother Teresa’s.  I am profoundly inspired by her selflessness and her service and I long to live my own life in the same way — but I tend to view her opportunities for service as more noble than the ones I have around me.  I want to touch people on that level, but sometimes I struggle to see that I have the opportunity to practice that level of love EVERY day.  When I am up all night with a sick child — that’s being Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth (just so happens to be my kid — but still!)  When I visit the local nursing home and sit beside precious old men and women who have no one in their lives — that’s being Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth.  When I stop and talk to the homeless man on the street corner and give a little of my self and my time — that’s being a conduit for Christ’s love.  When I step out in faith and open my home to a stranger in need — that’s a chance to practice true love.  The opportunities are endless.   It doesn’t matter where I live or who I am surrounded by.  There is always an opportunity to give freely and serve wholeheartedly WHEREVER God has me at the moment.  There is always the need to be emptied of self and become a conduit for God’s love. 

It’s easier in some ways to excuse my selfishness when my selfish actions happen everyday with everyday people.  It’s easier to assume that if I was in a situation where I was surrounded by great and obvious needs, I would do whatever I could to physically, actually relieve as much as possible.  It’s easy to think about being the good Samaritan.  Yet how many times do I walk by the old man on the street corner without stopping?  How many times do I turn my head so I don’t make eye-contact? How many times do I turn from needs that are all around me because they are familiar?  Or write them off as not great enough…  or even worse, how many needs do I not even see because I am obliviously filled with myself?

Ouch.  So convicting — but necessarily so. 

Oh God, keep convicting me.  Keep showing me the areas where I am so self-focused that I don’t even realize the extent of it.  Empty me of self so that your love can be poured through me to all people.  Literally.  The near, the familiar and the far alike. Remove the pride that wants to serve in ways that satisfy some strange sense of idealism.  Remove ALL of me.  Remove ALL of my ideals and leave me with only YOU.  Fill me with your heart and your deep, deep love that consumes all.