I’m not perfect. Far from it. I’m not a perfect mother or wife. Nor am I a perfect daughter, sister or friend. Every day I make mistakes. I am full of shortcomings and, no matter how hard I try, I fail to be what I want and hope to be. Maybe I say the wrong thing, or forget to do the right thing. Perhaps I overlook something important or maybe fear or impatience get in the way of making the right decisions. I have this frustrating condition: I am a human being.
I often reflect back over the last few years and think about how I got here. When I think back to where I was in life when I started this work with full force in August 2014, I wonder who would have looked at me at that time and chosen me as the suitable candidate to start this work and set up this charity. If someone had been looking around my church, trying to find the perfect person to take this on, I feel sure that they wouldn’t have chosen me. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t have chosen myself!
At that time I was a stay at home mum with two little children aged four and one. I had no experience in charity work, fundraising or project management. I had very little ability to travel, and would not have identified myself as the right person to go to a dangerous war zone like Syria. I didn’t have a big network of contacts through which I could get started, and I had no experience of public speaking.
For me the most humbling and encouraging thing is the fact that God does not see us as we see ourselves, and He certainly doesn’t judge us the way others judge us. Instead, He searches our hearts. His concern is with how we look on the inside, not how we look on the outside.
When He looks at us, He doesn’t focus on our weaknesses, of which we all have many. He doesn’t choose to criticise us about the things that He would like us to be but that we aren’t. He doesn’t overlook us because we don’t have the right skills or experience. Instead, He looks at our hearts, and sees our potential.
He sees us as more than a collection of words, actions and abilities. In fact, the weaker and more humble we are, the more He can do with us, because we don’t have to be anything special. He is something special, so we can depend on Him to do through us what we are unable to accomplish through our own abilities, or lack of them.
Every day I feel this immense sense of gratitude, that the master and creator of the universe could look at me and think “I can do something through her….” Wow. Little me? Because that is the situation.
How could I know that He would take little me, and give me the opportunity to step out in faith. And that my tiny steps in the beginning sending clothes from our own wardrobes would lead me to work with so many of you amazing people to clothe more 170,000 people in Syria and Iraq, open three hospitals in Syria, send 11 ambulances to this war zone, and send a huge collection of hygiene items and thousands of care packs for pregnant women and babies?
What wonderful compassion He has, that He can look past all my mistakes and inadequacies and still decide to use me to do something to make a difference in this world. He doesn’t require perfection from any of us, He just requires our willing hearts; hearts that that say “I have nothing to give, but the little I do have I will give you.” hearts that say “I can’t do it, but whatever little I can do, I will do.” hearts that say “I am nothing special, but if you are willing to use me in spite of all my failings, I will do whatever you ask.”
We shouldn’t wait until we are at the right time and place to get started, because the call on our lives is for us now. Just as we are. Warts and all. If we wait, we may never do anything at all, because the truth is that most of us will probably never be perfect enough, or experienced enough, or strong enough or talented enough. Most of us are just ordinary people. But throughout history our God has chosen the ordinary, the weak and the most unlikely people to do the most amazing things.
His grace is something special. His grace is something that we have never known or experienced from anyone or anything else in this world. It goes beyond our ability to imagine and can’t be compared to anything else.
I am thankful for His forgiveness, because I need it every day. I am grateful for His amazing grace, because without it I would have no hope. I am grateful for His mercy, because through this I have the chance to be more than I can be on my own. I am overwhelmed by His unconditional love, because we all need love, even more than food or water or any physical thing in this world.
If you lack direction, or a true sense of meaning or purpose in your life, be sure that there is nothing in this world that can help you find it without love. God is love. But love is not just a gushy emotion that we feel. That feeling is our call to action. Love is a verb, a doing word. It requires action, and we all need to act.
Before I had children, I did many exciting things in my life: travelled to exotic countries, stayed in some beautiful five star hotels as well as a hotel made of ice. I went snowboarding, scuba diving, wakeboarding, dog sledding. I dined in some of the most exquisite restaurants in the UK and abroad, visited some of the most prestigious health spas in the UK and abroad, and the list could go on….
But these things are short-lived, and they lost their meaning to me. How can I find any sense of satisfaction in my heart eating a Michelin-starred meal while a child in Africa is starving to death? How could I choose the most beautiful hotel which is expensive, knowing that a displaced family with small children in Iraq only have a tent that leaks to try to survive in over winter and no way of heating it, through driving snow and winds? How can I find any sense of peace in my heart, pampering myself in a beautiful and expensive spa while a man in Syria, a father of young children dies of diabetes, such a manageable condition, simply because he had no money left to buy insulin?
A number of years ago I picked up a copy of the Bible for the first time in many years. I started reading the gospels again, curious to remind myself of the teachings of Jesus. I had been searching for something in my life, but nothing that I did ever truly hit the spot. No matter what you believe or don’t believe, there are few people who wouldn’t agree with the principals of the teachings of Jesus: love, forgiveness, sharing, respect, treating others as we want to be treated, caring for the sick, being a voice for the most vulnerable. At that time I had thought I was a good person and lived a good life, but as I read the words of Jesus, my heart sank as I realised that my life looked so very different from the way He encourages us to live.
I have been humbled by the patience that God has shown me in my life when I have made the wrong choices, when I have ignored someone in need, when I have been unfaithful to Him, when I have let self-indulgence come before serving others who are in great need.
We all have some tough choices to make in this life. Do we give in to the consumer driven society that we are surrounded by, which always encourages us to want more, to deserve more, to treat ourselves, and that we are worth it?
The children starving in Africa deserve to eat three meals every day as much as my children do. The displaced Iraqi family who are trying to survive in a tent with holes in through a freezing winter deserve a warm home in winter as much as my family do. The diabetic father in Syria deserves a high standard of healthcare and insulin to manage his condition, just as we would expect and feel entitled to have here in the UK.
Perhaps you don’t feel that you have much to give. Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anything to give. But when we are willing to give that tiny little bit that we do have, however small it seems, and to sacrifice our small little piece of time, energy, money, belongings, passion, this is where it starts. God sees everything we do, and knows what it means to us; how easy or difficult it is. He sees our hearts when we feel we have nothing to give, but give our tiny portion anyway. He honours our sacrifices and makes them more than they could or would be from a human perspective.
If there is one thing that I have learnt over the last few years it is that it truly is better to give than to receive. There is no experience that we can create in this life that compares with the sense of satisfaction we get from giving up something we might have liked or wanted, to instead make a difference in the life of someone in great need. We all have something to give, no matter how big or small.
We are all on a journey through this life, and we each individually have so much to learn. Our mistakes are part of life and we will continue to make them, but we have this wonderful opportunity to learn from them.
If you find yourself searching for something in this life that satisfies more than material things do, and more than the thrills or experiences of self-indulgence or treating yourself, please know that God will meet you wherever you are if you ask Him. He does not meet you in judgement, He comes to you as a poor, humble man, Jesus Christ, who was willing to sacrifice everything to come to live with us, and to suffer the most brutal death, so that He could meet you exactly where you are, full of mistakes, and prove to you how precious you are to Him.
When we truly open our hearts to Him, we discover a love and peace that goes beyond all measure, and He takes us on a journey that changes our perspective. This journey has been more exciting for me than any of the exciting things that I have done in my life. He colours our life and shows us what love truly looks like.