Beautiful in His Time

So, after I completed my list of complaints, which God graciously hears and understands, He began to redirect my heart.  There are, of course, many things to enjoy and appreciate in our time here.  Lying under my mosquito net at night with my two older children, reading as if in a play fort, and falling asleep snuggled together are all things we won’t be doing at home each night.  Playing Mother May I and Red Light Green Light in the yard of this guest house is something we could do at home, but rarely take time for there.  We have also made special new friends, like Isma (who I’ve called Ishmael this whole time until I saw it spelled out), who comes to visit us and play with Ellie and Chad.  We walk to the market for our food, which is simple and for that reason a nice thing.  We are living with another family, sharing all of our meals and even car rides and it isn’t invasive but rather very satisfying.  Why don’t we live together like this back in the U.S.?  Why is individualism and autonomy of such a high value?  And I even found myself grateful this morning for a time of merely waiting in the shade of the U.S. Embassy for my ride to return because I know that kind of stillness and quiet is rare and coveted in my days at home.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Eccles. 3:11-14

When I went on a three hour errand the other day (the business itself was about 10 minutes, the traffic was the other 2 hours and 20 minutes), I was surprised by a sudden wave of sentimentality at seeing a particular playground for what may be the last time.  The playground isn’t all that unique, nor is it set in a particularly awesome setting.  But, the playground had been a fun place for my children on several occasions and that, suddenly, gave it special significance.  That’s when it hit me that the beauty of a place (or a person) has everything to do with what is brought to it rather than what exists in its own merit.  It is why a crying, snotty nosed toddler is so beloved by his parent while a passer by may think, “Now that is birth control!”  And, it is what makes a muddy, primitive house feel like the safest and happiest home on the earth to its inhabitants…because it is where love is.

 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:3

My complaints about hardship, though they are perfectly ligitimate and reflective of my full humanity, reveal a lovelessness in my heart.  I have felt myself excused from really loving and serving the woman who takes care of this guest house because all of my comforts and preferences are not being met.  Not until God finally prompted me to sit with her and dig into her story did I learn how terribly homesick she is.  I am so much like Naaman, as I just read with Ellie in the Jesus Storybook Bible, who thought himself so very important that he was above needing God or others or even considering their needs above his own.  The fact that my unmet entitlements seem to excuse me from gratitude or a greater interest in others above myself and that they seem to give me liscence to grumble and complain show me a little more of who I presume is actually sitting on the throne.

But He shows me these ugly things in my heart (my lack of love, my self-centered entitlements, etc.) not to shame me but to offer me more grace…and show me why I need it.  He is making all things beautiful in His time and has promised to complete that process without fail.  From muddy, polluted streets to my muddy, polluted heart, the cleaning, restoration and beauty that God brings will endure forever…unlike my creature comforts which are like shifting sands.

So, I am grateful for this thaw of my cold heart which will certainly produce tears as I say goodbye to this place that I failed to love as Jesus does, but am beginning to appreciate through His eyes of love.  He cherishes these people and is as committed to them as I have been to seeking a semblance of my familiar lifestyle.  And He is committed to me no less.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9-10

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. Rev. 22:1-3

He Left His Home to Bring Us Home

I’ve been in Uganda for three weeks now and, honestly, it feels like I’ve been here for at least a year.  Apparently, people at home marvel at how quickly I’ll be home.  For me, the days are now as long as nursery duty at church, the land where time stands still.  I hate to complain, but I’m tired of inhaling the toxic fumes from burning trash (plastic bottles, diapers, etc.), of frequent yet still unpredictable power outages, of cars that aren’t asked to pass emissions tests ever, of mosquito nets, of the absence of trash cans in public places and then discovering that the ladies room stalls only contain holes in the floor but nothing that resembles a “toilet”…just a hole in the floor that you can flush as if to pretend the whole thing was actually civilized.  Cold showers, I’ve learned, can actually be refreshing even if there isn’t enough water flow to really feel like you’ve rinsed all the soap and shampoo off.  I miss brushing my teeth with water from the faucet rather than partially rinsing my toothbrush with a water bottle that just can’t accomplish what a faucet can.  I miss eating food that is a color other than white bread.  Have I complained enough?  No, I miss clean clothes that actually smell clean rather than worse than before I had them washed.  I miss traffic that has some kind of order to it rather than a mosh pit of cars, buses, boda bodas and bicycles all shoving their way into whatever space (whether sidewalk or street) can be grabbed.  I’m tired of the language barrier which is compounded by cultural barriers so that every basic conversation is full of confusion, walking on ice and left incomplete or with less understanding than existed before it started.  I’m tired of waiting in one waiting room after another from the lawyer’s office (7 times) to the court (3 times) to the International Office of Migration (3 times) to Baylor Medical Children’s Hospital (2 times) to the U.S. Embassy (about 5 times it will be) to the Immigration facility (3 times) all by way of unbelievable traffic and sweaty car rides.  I’m so glad I love my baby girl and that I have a kind friend named Moses driving us around and the wonderful aunties at the babies home, because otherwise, this whole process of attaining legal guardianship on the way to adoption would never be worth it.

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8

I am full of grumbling and complaining because I am spending, as it seems from the perspective of others who aren’t here, an incredibly short time in a foreign country and foreign culture for the purpose of adopting a precious little 1 year old girl.  Jesus left HEAVEN, the company of the Father, and all the advantages and perfections of being part of the godhead, to become human and share in man’s humble nature.  I think holes in the ground and periods of time without power are a real burden, what must it have been like to come to the world of the created, to a community of fallen and corrupted and ignorant children, and then to serve and give life to all.  I don’t hardly have life for my own self (I keep getting sick here) and yet Jesus wasn’t focused on the inconveniences or discomforts of life as a creature rather than the Creator.  He loved and served and cared more about bringing life to those around Him than preserving His own.

He came to what, in comparison to the perfectly complete “home” He already had, was a foreign country and culture, to adopt His children once and for all.  He came to make me, to make all those who are His, His forever family.  He endured abuse, misunderstanding, scorn, confused looks, reprimands, begging from those who saw Him as a walking ATM on top of the heartbreak of encountering and touching the broken, the sick, the poverty ravaged, the filthy, the too easily abandoned orphans and the oppressed.  He witnessed and experienced the injustice of corrupt leaders (or traffic police) who used their position of power to extort money from civilians.  He lived with and entered into the suffering of those for whom He came to bring life.  And there is no record of Him complaining or criticizing based on His own flesh’s inconvenience.

I am not Jesus and cannot make the point of this processing to be more like Jesus and deny my own humanity.  But for starters, I want this present hardship, even if it is the hardship of the spoiled American, to help me better understand a small taste of what Jesus entered willingly and knowingly and then joyfully and peacefully on my behalf.  I honestly regret being so self-consumed that I really haven’t been outwardly focused, looking for ways to serve the people who live here and serve as unto the Lord in so many ways year after year.  I wish my heart weren’t so demanding of comfort and convenience.  My two natural choices are to despair of my condemnable state or to determine to be tougher and more sacrificial in the morning.  Instead, the person and work of Jesus offer me a third way:  to trust in the One who has completed this good work and will complete it in me.  It does not have to be complete on this trip to the Pearl of Africa.  Perhaps on our next visit, I will get to see progress made in this redeemed sinner’s heart.  Perhaps this visit gives me a starting measurement as well as a greater appreciation for the sacrifice of love made on my behalf.  I think my home is so satisfying with its washer and dryer, clean tap water and city sanitation services.  But what must that “home” be like in comparison with the one He has with the Father?  His Kingdom is far better, more glorious and more life-giving and I want to begin longing for it far more than any other.