I'm part of a really committed group of Christians. People would consider us deeply devoted to Christ and willing to bear shame and hardship for his name. What I learned in Myanmar was, What hardship?
Along with everyone else on the trip to Myanmar with me, I wondered during the trip whether I was even Christian. If God lets me into heaven, I thought, then he's probably got apologies to give to a lot of the people I've met here. I'm a stinkin' rich American who has lunch out at least once a week, eats restaurant dinners with my wife and guests of our choice every couple of weeks and considers skipping an evening snack for the purpose of weight loss to be denying myself. After traveling to Myanmar and meeting real Christians, I suddenly understood the import of the statement, How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
As I talked with Chashaq, one of my brothers in Christ here at Rose Creek Village, in Myanmar I wondered aloud whether I would simply return to the U.S. and to my rich and selfish ways. We can't, he said. I want to be a real Christian, too. I wasn't sure I could do it. It is amazing how easily my heart is hardened and my mind deceived. It was the only moment of real moping that I had in Myanmar, where so many are poor and so many are happy.
On the plane back to the United States, I read Psalm 119. Several verses spoke to me so clearly that I named them The Myanmar Verses. I want to share them with you.
How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord,
You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh, that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
I will meditate on Your precepts
and regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
Above all, those last words rang in my ears. I shall not forget your word.
In Myanmar I met men who had swam raging rivers pulling a huge bundle of plastic-wrapped Bibles to deliver in communist China. They had trusted God and risked imprisonment or even their very lives to deliver Bibles to those in China who could not obtain them. I met an old widow who was taking care of dozens of orphans because she simply could not turn any way. I met another lady sleeping on a bamboo floor in a one room hut with over twenty children, all under 12 years old, just so she could watch over them and take care of them. The man who swam the rivers wrote about nights next to the river where he stayed up all night because it was impossible to sleep because of the mosquitos.
In the meantime, I'm denying myself by not having an evening snack so that I won't look quite so much like a rich pig.
When one of the Myanmar missionaries was asked what time lunch was, he replied, We Burmese do not think like you Americans. We eat only if there's food. We do not plan on three meals a day.
Oh, that my ways may be established to keep your statutes! Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all your commandments.
I shall delight in your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.