The Bag

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
Psalm 34:8

Last year, my daughter, Jennifer, went on a mission trip to Bogota, Columbia. Teaching soccer to young girls, high up on a mountain that overlooks the city, my daughter found herself working in the worst of the Columbian slums. Living in shacks, made up of heaps of trash, used tires and cardboard, families crowded into their hovels; sewage running down the streets. Nothing prevented roving packs of dogs from ferreting through their doorless shacks in their constant search for food.

In the midst of this squalor, my daughter met Maria, a four year old girl, who came to the mission for her only meal of the day. The next morning, Jennifer gave the child a small day pack, designed in the shape of a cat. It was then that she noticed that every child carried the entirety of their belongings with them. They had no place to leave anything, without it being stolen. The boys’ only pair of pants were held to their shirts by clothespins. Their unwashed hands might clasp a comb, or some other bit of flotsam that had drifted into their empty world.

It was then that Jennifer gave Maria a small bag of sugar cookies. Maria beamed as she ran about, playing with the bag; imagining that it was a stray cat, a puppy, or perhaps a playmate. Several hours passed. The bag of cookies never left her side, nor was it ever opened. The next day Maria appeared again at the mission, waiting patiently in line for her breakfast; the unopened bag still at her side. All day long she played with the bag, delighted at its bright colors and designs.

“She doesn’t know there are cookies inside!” The stunning thought burst into Jennifer’s mind. “She has no idea what it’s for!” Maria had never seen a package of cookies before.

Jennifer took Maria aside. Never taking her eyes off of the bag, Maria watched as my daughter tore it open, reached in, and pulled out a large cookie. Offering it to Maria, she watched as a look of surprise and wonder appeared on the small girl’s face. As she took her first bite, Maria reached out and grabbed the bag, clutching it fiercely to her side.

As Jennifer told me about her encounter with Maria, it occurred to me that many believers are like this small child. Having spent years in spiritual poverty, they finally receive the gift of eternal life. God has declared that His love has been deposited into the farthest corners of their hearts, that they have become partakers of His divine nature, and that they are filled with all the fulness of God. He has called them to live fearlessly, carelessly and to be filled with joy. He promises to be with them forever, that He is the answer to every problem they will ever encounter.

Instead of stepping out to discover their fearless new life with the Living God, these believers play with His promises. While they summon up the courage to attend a bible study, they dare not pray out loud. Leaving requests for the church prayer team, they freeze when encountering the sick and broken in public. Giving becomes a bland experience of writing weekly checks, instead of a rich feast of adventure and ministry. While today’s believers certainly enjoy the benefits of living life according to long established principles, they often mistake fearfulness for meekness, mistrust for discretion and compromise for grace.

Indeed, not realizing what Christ has done for them on the cross, they remain sinners saved by grace, fearful that their sins will be found out by the Holy God. They are unaware that something unbelievable happened on the cross; that they became the righteousness of God, and that their sins are no longer the main interest of Their creator. When considering which spiritual gifts God has given them, they look at helps, administration and hospitality, not miracles, faith, and healing.

There is something far better than a life tentatively lived for Christ. It is rooted in the realization that we have received the glory that the Son of God had on this earth, that we are the apple of Yahweh’s eye and that He withholds no good thing from those who love Him. It is to find out that He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we can ask or imagine through the power that works in us.

If we will fully open our hearts, walking openly before God, hiding nothing from His Son, and act on the hope that His Word is the truth, we will find something delicious. Living in our heart is the author of every good and perfect gift. The creator of this magnificent universe has created a life of adventure, passion and brilliance; available to everyone who will grab hold of His promises and tear open the bag.