Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)
TITLE: As the Spirit Moves
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Ahahita’s deep, oceanic gaze revolutionizes me as she peers from a sponsorship picture displayed on my refrigerator door. Although her pursed mouth seems serious and even drawn, and her delicate cocoa-brown hands press stiffly against her thighs as if in self-protection, a subtle quality defines her visual gaze: childlike hopefulness that refuses to own defeat.
Spirit-eruptions are reshaping Ahahita’s heart and soul.
My young friend Ahahita belongs to the lowest Hindu caste in India, the Dahlits or Untouchables. According to those in higher castes, her life has no value. The socially elite consider Ahahita sub-human scum destined for starvation and desperation amidst squalor and poverty.
As a very small child, Ahahita’s diet consisted of scavenged rotten garbage. Currently long-distance supporters encourage indigenous teachers and caregivers to provide food, education, medical treatment and clothes for Ahahita and other Dalit children. Ahahita is learning to deny caste lies and embrace hope in Jesus Christ.
When I first displayed Ahahita’s picture on my refrigerator, I was unaware of the intensity with which she would watch me every day. From that surveillance post her fixed stare influences me to confess that the American Dream is warped with its own sophisticated version of despair. She inspires me to put aside Westernized self-absorption with its self-gratification, self-occupation, and self-sufficiency and embrace humility and sacrifice.
Ahahita and I have both been duped by infectious cultural epidemics that trapped us into believing false identities: hopeless depravity in her case, and indulgent pride and arrogance in mine. We live in a time of rampant, toxic cultural extremes. I grew up guzzling opportunism until my whole being overflowed with it; she grew up shamefully pecking at scraps of smelly refuse gleaned from upper caste garbage heaps until she believed she was trash. Malignant pride consumes many in my culture, while deception and abasement splinter those in hers.
We both understand our respective imprisonment and are grateful for the promise of hope. The Lord has called us to flee false attitudes and embrace rash humility and radical dependence. As we do so, Ahahita’s presence in my life challenges me to turn from pride and extravagance to compassion and mercy. At the same time, I support her ongoing jailbreak from the confines of judgment, condemnation, false guilt, and overt despair in order to embrace lasting hope in a divine promise that will never fade.
Our eyes meet each time I open my refrigerator full of cheese and eggs, apples and carrots, orange juice and milk. Her visual challenge gushes from the printed photograph like an unrestrained river at flood point, sweeping me to an inner place of turbulent reevaluation. “Where is God in the midst of America’s opulence, consumerism, and gluttony?” her eyes seem to say. Their glint speaks of redeemed suffering that mirrors the Light of the World.
Every day Ahahita watches intently as I consume the sumptuous contents of my refrigerator in quantities that might easily sustain an entire family in her village. Although I complain about wanting to lose a few pounds, I continue stuffing myself with highly processed pizzas, crackers, cookies and ice cream that perpetuate my addictions. On the other hand, Ahahita explains in her letters that she gratefully enjoys one generous bowl of brown rice a day at her small Christian school. Is not simple, whole food in ample amounts sufficient for me as well?
I have told Ahahita, “Americans expect luxury: a constant flow of gratification. But God is leading His people from a preoccupation with possessions to passionately seek the Truth.”
And she has replied, “Dalits expect poverty: swarming and gluttonous flies, unbearable stench, and hunger. But God is leading His people from a counterfeit wallowing in despair to embrace hope.”
Ahahita and I pray for and encourage one another, and praise our God for the revolt being led by His Spirit in the midst of our unique circumstances. Our partnership is changing the course of history - one day, one prayer, one letter, and one transparent look at a time.
The Spirit is moving.
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