Mozambique: Nothing Good in Me Apart from Christ

When I originally set out to keep a blog, I wanted to share my struggles and weaknesses with the same openness in which I share growth and victories. I wanted to give a full picture of my experience in Korea—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to be real. But that’s hard. It’s especially hard when your audience is as diverse as this one—grandparents, church friends, cousins, best friends, acquaintances, teachers, students, and so on. It’s hard to write something that will speak to everyone. But when I write letters—personal letters—to my bestest of friends, I find my fingers flow more freely with honesty and humility. When I write to my closest friends, I feel no need to impress, just a need to be known and accepted as I really am. For that reason, as I share with you one of the more bittersweet realizations I came to in Mozambique, I’d like to quote from a letter I wrote recently to one of my best friends:

“I realized [in Mozambique] how inadequate my love is for others. It shames me to say it, but it was hard for me to stir within myself feelings of love and compassion for the many orphans I encountered every day at the center where I stayed. And of course, it made it worse that I was surrounded by other do-gooders who sincerely and faithfully loved on those kids every day and seemed to honestly enjoy it. I found it tiring and it really tested my patience and the scope of my compassion. I was repulsed by some of the ugly things I found in myself. Like the desire to love on clean kids. Not grimy, dirt-streaked kids, but clean kids. And I didn’t want to clean them up either, just have them presented to me that way. I was disillusioned by the limits of my love. I expected that for three weeks I could lay all comforts aside and spend every day embracing the ones the world had cast aside. I thought three weeks wasn’t asking too much. In fact, I couldn’t live one day like I wanted to like that. It made me realize that without Christ there is nothing good in me. Apart from Christ I can do nothing. I can’t even love on my own. I especially can’t love on my own. That was both a disappointing and liberating truth to recognize.”

This feeling of inadequacy ran deep during the three weeks in Mozambique as I compared myself to the remarkable Christian servants around me. I could go into detail about what made them so admirable, but I won’t at this time because the point is quite the opposite. Depending on whom I compare myself to, I feel very small or very smug. I sometimes feel strides ahead of the other, or sometimes lightyears behind. When I compare myself to others, I can never be sure how I measure up because the standard is always changing. But when I compare myself to Christ, there is no confusion or uncertainty: I always fall short.

A couple days ago I enjoyed the great blessing of a tri-way conference call with Benny from Australia and Courtney from Texas, two of the dear friends I met in Mozambique. Benny shared with us a quote he’d read recently by Charles Spurgeon. The words were antiquated in style but relevant as ever in meaning. I hope they will encourage you as they did me. For on our own we are nothing—no, not even as neutral as nothing, for we were sinful from birth. But with Christ, we have everything. Thank you, Jesus, for trading our sins for your perfection on the cross, that we might be made right with God by your holy sacrifice. Help us to lay down our lives as an offering of love to lead others to You.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “All the blessings which thou wouldst have had if thou hadst kept the law, and more, are thine, because Christ has kept it for thee. All the love and the acceptance which perfect obedience could have obtained of God, belong to thee, because Christ was perfectly obedient on thy behalf, and hath imputed all his merits to thy account, that thou mightst be exceeding rich through him, who for thy sake became exceeding poor. Oh! how great the debt of love and gratitude thou owest to thy Saviour!”