Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Consumed


Last weekend I made a quick trip to Zambia. Paula flew up from Lusaka and we met in a small town on the border of Zambia and Malawi. We hadn’t planned on this at the start. Originally we had decided that I would stay in Malawi for the whole month while taking my classes and Paula and I would see each other when I got back. Turns out though that my capacity for being apart from my wife is about equal to my capacity for pickled eggs. I think I’m starting to sort of understand what it means that the “two become one” because it seems that the one of us were never meant to be in two separate countries at the same time. I know this because when we are apart the whole cosmos seems to get disordered (starting with my underwear drawer and working its way outward in the general direction of the de-frocked former planet, Pluto).

And for you men reading this, I have to warn you: parts of this blog entry are very mushy. Maybe one day I’ll write a blog on “Deer stands, Tractors, Band Saws, and other Godly Things,” to make up for it.

But I was very aware of a couple of things this weekend. First, I was reminded how consumed I am with love for my wife and what a great thing it is to be consumed by a thing like love. Second, I also couldn’t help but notice how in the busy-ness of life how I often get consumed by a gazillion little things and become unconsumed with the few really important things. And finally, I was reminded of how much of the world is both consumed with things and being consumed by things.

The town of Chipata is a center of Muslim activity in Zambia and a place where several worlds collide. As I waited for Paula at the Chipata “airport” (which is just a tiny two room building on the outskirts of town), I watched a boy precariously perched atop an ox cart steering it with his reed whip along a dirt road next to the runway. It was as if in Malawi yesterday never noticed that today has come. As I walked into the outdoor “waiting yard” for arrivals and departures, I noticed that most of those who were waiting to fly out were Muslims. They were all dressed from head to toe in the clothing of their faith, the men in their galabias and some of the women draped in black from head to toe. Even the children wore donned in Islamic attire, with the girls wearing hijab head coverings. I was reminded of the calls to prayer we hear daily in Livingstone coming from the mosque down the street from our house. Every morning around five the imam’s chanting rings out across the city via loudspeaker. And it seems that those who practice Islam are consumed by their faith; some might say, devoured by it.


In the news in South Africa this week there was a story about sectarian violence. Residents of some of the shanty compounds around Johannesburg attacked many of the foreign residents in their community, many of whom had fled the desperation that has engulfed Zimbabwe. People who had left the nation they had lived in all their lives and had come to South Africa hoping for a new beginning found only a tragic ending. The attackers set people on fire and beat them with sticks and rocks. We hear about that kind of violence and we tend to wonder how people can be consumed with such hatred. And, we wonder, if it can happen in South Africa, is there in place on this continent that is immune from the consuming fires of animosity and racism.

I get consumed with a lot of things in the course of my life. Sometimes I get consumed with good things like Bible study or prayer, but probably not as often as I should. But a lot of times I get consumed with stupid stuff like my hair (hey - let him who is without hair gel cast the first stone) or with my tee shot or with what's going to happen to Jack Bauer.

And as I thought this week about what it was like to recapture the wonder of being consumed with love for my wife (and sort of shocked that it got away from me for a while), I am also reminded of my great need to over and over be recaptured, re-burdened and utterly consumed with a passion for those who don’t know Christ. It will never do for us as Christians to look at Muslims and mock the futility of their rigorous prayer life and to decry the outward appearance of a religion that offers not a glint of hope for the human ailment. Because while we are busy scoffing, Christ is busy weeping and praying that someone among us would have the courage to go and bring these people the Gospel.

All around the world this week the news seems to shout at us a reminder that people are being consumed in a thousand different ways. They’re being consumed in earthquakes, in genocide, in famines, wars and disease. And many, many of them are being consumed without ever having heard the name of Jesus. And just as I was reminded of how great it is to be consumed by something wonderful when Paula and I met in Chipata last weekend, I am also reminded of how essential it is to be consumed by something eternal.

Lord may it be said of us, as it was said of you, that “Zeal for our Father’s house would consume us!” (John 2:17).

3 comments:

Joy said...

Jerry,

I posted some of this blog on my facebook. It struck a cord with me (as many of your blogs do) about the burning passion that needs to exist in ALL of us... a passion for the lost to be found in Christ. You challenged me... and I hope this blog on my facebook will challenge others. (I gave you credit and posted your blog address on there too) :)

My prayers for you and Paula continue. Can't wait to see you both, and BABY, very soon!

In His Love,
Joy

Jerry and Paula Ireland said...

Joy - I so appreciate your comments. Good to know someone is reading these things! Thanks for the encouragement. We're looking forward to seeing you too! -Blessings, Jerry (and Paula!)

Joy said...

BTW, I know you're a tall man, Jerry. But geesh... you look like the jolly green giant in this picture! I mean, come on! Are all Africans that short?!?! :)