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Suffering Then Glory, in all Creation (and parts of the Globe)

Oh to be back at my computer, in my own home, in my familiar country…its always the little things that makes us smile biggest, isn’t it? I’ve missed writing, missed processing all the huge (and small) things I’ve experienced in the past month and a half, missed engaging the Gospel in my days, and missed order and familiarity. I don’t know what our new routines will look like, when I will have consistent time here at this screen, how I will ultimately transition from pre-Martha life to Ugandan life and back into a new normal that merges them all. There are freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S. that are connected to resources and convenience and there are freedoms enjoyed in Uganda connected to simplicity and the priority of survival. Clothes are worn, by many in Uganda, simply to cover the body’s nakedness. This is why you see one person in a t-shirt and old sweats standing with another in what looks like a cocktail dress all walking dirt roads with babies and chickens and wildly driven taxi vans. The contrast isn’t depicting wealthy and impoverished because both might be in the same family. The style has no bearing at all, just like blue and pink clothing in the orphanage aren’t reserved for only boys or girls. They are simply dressed in clothes each day, the frivolity of image or “statement” not remotely brought into consideration. The result, then, is that as visitors to the country we immediately stopped thinking much about how we looked but were just glad to find clothes to wear each day that smelled a little less nasty than others. There was a gift to us in the poverty and lack of washing machines or dryers…a freedom to view clothes as covering and not image creators. However, there is a very welcome gift to us in our own home with a washer and dryer which allow us to not only feel and smell clean, but do so in a matter of hours. Both gifts come at a price. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luke 24:26 On this side of the final and total redemption of all things, the order of events is suffering and then glory. Not as I would once have understood, however, “work hard and then you get your reward” as if it were all a clean and tidy formula. Suffering isn’t just about grit and self-discipline. Suffering goes bone deep, penetrating the heart not just the will. And because it is always a heart issue for heart transformation, it looks as varied as the individuals being redeemed. What breaks me down or makes me weary will look very different from what breaks you down and makes your heart weary. But both are doing their job in bringing about the righteousness that was only ever lived and worked out by the person of Jesus. Suffering pries open my clinched fists, forcing me to drop those things I thought I needed. In their place, my hands are left open and free as I cling to Him or simply find myself at rest. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 On this side of the process of redemption, sin will always be crouching at my door. If living in the gift of poverty, the simplicity of a life focused on survival will carry with it a discontent and envy of convenience and comfort, choking out the clarity of life’s value and enjoyment of the moment. When living in the gift of greater comfort, a tendency toward pride, selfishness and greed for more will threaten to choke out the gratitude and contentment anticipated from the side of poverty. For these reasons, returning from a third world experience or taking knowledge of affluent lifestyles to the third world and simply extolling moralisms from one to the other misses the heart and therefore the person and work of Jesus in each setting. He offers us tastes of the glory to come in the midst of present suffering. The suffering performing the process necessary to ultimately get us to our glorified state and the foretastes to remind our hearts that it is so worth it. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17-18 As I transition from a physically impoverished society which strips the individual of comforts and conveniences to a society that has grocery stores stocked with endless varieties of fresh foods, reliable power and flowing water in our homes and clean and tidy traffic on our roads, will I see God at work as clearly as I did when I was so helpless and stripped? Is He less active on this side of the globe? Can I enjoy life one day at a time here as I was only given the option to do there, rather than giving into the demand that I fill my calendar three months into the future and not really enjoying any of it? Can I possibly see my life as available to wander up to the babies home and spend limitless time holding little ones in need of touch and affection, however that translates here, or will I be mad that five minutes was stolen by an unexpected drop-in? These are all questions that could become a list of new laws or goals for each day. However, they are views and attitudes that flow from my heart and will only be changed by the Spirit through the person and work of Jesus. I’ve been given a small taste of what God’s redemption in the area of my view of “time ownership” that I may hope to see it worked out increasingly this side of glory. He is living and active, here no less than there. He will complete the good work that He has begun. He is faithful and He will do it. And that work will not be accomplished as I nap at a spa (though that would be welcome) but as I share in His suffering, I will share in His completion.

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