I don’t think I have learnt more about myself in the past ’30 odd’ years of my life, than I did, in the last year and a half. I know this has a lot to do with my deep and growing connection with God as without that lens I would not have seen things in a different light or be able to manage the darts and pangs that have come my way. I am learning that nothing really happens to us, but that most things happen for us to gain perspective. We have to decide what we do with that which comes our way. So whenever I am tempted to think someone is doing something to me, I just change the narrative. I tell myself nothing is wasted, it is just an experience that God wants me to have so that I can know……..
- What I ought not to do in a similar future situation
- What to do to help someone else, as they traverse that valley or similar lane.
Our thoughts influence our feelings ………..Jon Ortberg describes this so superbly in his book, ‘The Me I want to Be’. Our feelings inform our actions…….pay attention.
I am God’s tool……Ephesians 2 v 10. Now this of course doesn’t mean we become passive actors in the whole process, we still have to be intentional about how we respond to our environment – not in our own wisdom and strength but with the full backing of the Holy Spirit. This has to be so because as we all know, when we act in our own strength, we invariably do more harm than good. I find it very weird thus, while quite appropriate, that it is in the land of abundance, waste and excess; that I am actually learning to become more grateful and compassionate. Yes, I believe now, that those two traits have to be cultivated………like so many others.
..so I suppose there is no better time than now, and nowhere better than where everything is in your face all the time, and where it is constantly reinforced that more is better and enough is never enough. How else can you wrestle with scarcity but to have its tentacles touch you? I have always said that until I attended university I didn’t know I was poor. Poverty was only a concept for me. Well, comparison was really only a concept for me until I got here. I now have to be very conscious of how this very real monster can seep into our bones and leave us feeling diminished and depraved even though we may well have over 30 pairs of shoes and too many clothes for the more than one closets.
The car is never new enough, the house never modern enough, never enough vacations, bank account never big enough, never enough brand name purses, …..oh my gosh, if you are not strong the tide pulls you in. And one more thing, it’s about knowing who you are and never about where you live…….of course I am not advocating for people to live in Raqqa or Aleppo. I have desires, who doesn’t? But I am learning to temper them and I find I ❤️ myself more when I do. In fact, when I spend impulsively or indiscriminately, I actually do not feel good. So many times I delay gratification- to feel better, or if I must, I buy something for someone. I must confess though that the latter is not always with with the right and purest of motives. The only thing I have no buyer’s remorse about buying, is ice-cream…………….nothing has changed in that regard.
Then I am learning a lot about how church works this side of the world…………….I provide a list below.
1. Church is, for the most part well attended each Sunday ……. but then I am hearing that weather conditions impact church attendance much the same way it does eating out at restaurants.
2. People at church volunteer and serve…..you are never short on that. This is something I really find inspiring. Wish I could do a photocopy of this spirit for church at home.
3. People can be hesitant to reach out and be welcoming and friendly, much the same way people are everywhere else. If you are not careful, or should I say depending on your mindset you may mistake this for aloofness or prejudice. It may be, but it may not be…..
4. Church attire is very casual…….almost like a nice day at the beach or the mall. Now in my mind church, beach and mall do not fit in the same sentence. But I have learnt to accept that it’s not your mode of dress that is acceptable to God, but the person of the heart. Personally, I resolve to dress up for church…….much more than I dress for work………..Why???? Because I believe the way I dress for church is directly correlated to where I place my emphasis. But that’s me and that’s the reason I dress for church…..I cast no stones here.
5. Church giving is very impressive…….that blesses my heart and motivates me on my giving. But I keep close to my heart the story of the Widow’s Mite……..and remember that my giving is not solely financial.
6. There is a lot of missions work….never a shortage of missionaries or missions trips. I hope to go on one in years to come………..although I was told that some people upon their return suffer from PTSD.
7. Most Christian kids go to church summer camp. I remember as a child we would have church summer camps too……it was so much fun………..although I hardly remember anything Scriptural that I was taught. I don’t know if these camps still happen, but they are very essential- that I know. Christian camping is very active here, the kids get so much spiritual depth from them…..and I have no doubt it’s a lot of fun too.
8. There are many active ministries………I am jealous for my church at home.
So whilst I am on church, as you might be able to tell, I am thinking about the church at home alot. It needs a spiritual awakening and a complete overhaul……as like any other organization without proper leadership it will fail, and it is failing. I think that is what has beset so many churches……. and not just those at home. For I know of Protestant churches here that are suffering the same fate……and those who pontificate on the reasons, tell you it started with a weak leader. Just look at the ones that are thriving and see the difference. The problem is, usually those who are the problem fail to see the problem, and most of the congregants are either too timid to speak or feel God will punish them for speaking up.
My church at home was given a revolutionary, courageous, competent leader for the past seven years but he was taken away recently to another district that needs him more- so the ‘powers that be’ have decided………..goes to show the magnitude of the problem. There just aren’t enough of these kinds. I firmly believe that church needs these leaders, because we see the results when this type of leadership is non-existent. In fact the Christian virtues …….patience, love, humility, self-control, kindness etc are not practiced by the fainthearted……these things require wisdom, strength of character and courage.
There is a leadership drought all around- and church is not immune. So how do we fix this? In my mind its as simple and as difficult as those who can, must volunteer, and be willing……so that those who can’t, will find their true north. We see this leadership deficit in so many other areas too……… partisan politics comes to mind. And it goes both ways………….. Those who can, believe its too corrupt and demanding so they stay back and watch, and those who cant take the opportunity to advance their self-interest. Then those who can complain and abstain and then those who can’t, continue to reign. The end result therefore is low ‘voter/congregation’ turnout, apathy and finger pointing. Well, we all know how finger pointing goes.
So it’s for this reason that I have decided I must become a less passive participant….and not in the realm of partisan politics. We have many other agencies and institutions in which we can serve…….there is the family, church, school, NGOs and not-for-profits, companies etc……..we must each find our place and do our part. The thing is, I feel that I need to do this at home………I wait for more clarity on this one.