Lakshmi* is a Christian Dalit woman I met in India years ago. Her gentle smile and deeply haunted eyes, caught in a photo, captivated me long before I made the trip.
Over there, despite the barriers between us—language, nationality, distance—we formed a connection I can’t explain.
During a Bible study in her Eastern Indian city recently, Lakshmi—lovely, wraith-thin, long-ill—sank to the floor, seized with convulsions. An even closer friend, the study leader, snapped a photo and emailed it to me.
Lakshmi lies on the floor like a fallen sparrow. Her tangled saree, a puddle of azure blue, splashes over the cement. Its colours blur—she writhes. Brown hands hover over her skeletal frame, entreating the monstrous motion to stop. Praying for healing, for Christ’s presence, for her not to swallow her tongue.
Someone inserts a silver spoon in her gasping mouth. Stainless steel. The irony doesn’t escape me. The spouse of a no-gooder, a wife-beater, Lakshmi was born impoverished. Lakshmi is still impoverished.
The shot slices me. I loathe it.
I have sent Lakshmi aid, as we rich Westerners often do when confronted with mountainous need. Rupees for a few groceries, a little medicine, a trip to the doctor perhaps. But my friend needs much more than I can give.
Jesus said that human need will never end. I’ve come to accept that to be a child of Adam is to suffer, to experience want along some lines—conscious or unconscious. Somewhere, there will always be a pain in need of a balm, a stomach that needs refueling, a child who cries alone.
Yes, God shows up, often miraculously banishing need. But sometimes people of faith die in fear and pain, while people of no faith whatsoever accept their end quietly and peacefully.
I’m so glad I don’t have to figure all that out. Glad too, that I’m neither judge nor savior.
What I know is precious little, but what I know is precious: Creator God, for whom our cosmos is but a speck of lint on his breast pocket—had he one—chooses relationship with us earthlings. Pursues us with love. Rewards faith. Meets our deepest needs for validation and inner peace. Sends the sweet companionship of his Holy Spirit – wherever we fall.
Life is but a dandelion puff, and I’ve had my fill of leaning on spiderwebs. Simple certainty remains: God cares for us and our needy friends in ways we cannot now comprehend. He allows us the blessing of lifting each other up, and not one of us deserves that.
We especially don’t deserve to benefit from what Christians prepare to celebrate: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet his sacrifice, if we accept it, dissolves our sin, stamps us “forgiven,” and restores us to an eternity of opportunity.
Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
But oh, my God, hold tightly to my fellow fallen sparrow.