Friday, December 12, 2008

Journeys

Well, its official. We’re moving again. Over the last month or so Paula and I have been praying and exploring the idea of relocating to Lusaka due to a sense that God was leading us to make the move. In the last few days, one by one the doors have opened for us to do just that and today we found a house in Lusaka. Between now and January 1st we will pack up all our things, say goodbye to Livingstone and relocate once again.

It seems that following the call of God is all about mobility.

I was speaking in church the other day and made the comment that as Christians we shouldn’t focus too much on the journey, but rather on the One who calls us, sends us and leads us. If we focus on Jesus, I said, the journey will take care of itself. It was a very churchy thing to say and I could tell everyone thought so because they all said “amen” just like I had hoped they would.

But as I was walking back to my seat, it occurred to me that that is so not true! At least not entirely.

Now I know that Jesus said, “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Which we take to mean that if we’ve been really good, everything on our list will show up under the tree on Christmas morning. When in fact, Jesus is talking about how unnecessary worry leads to unnecessary pursuits. Worry too much about clothes, and you will end up getting a third job just so you can afford a $200 pair of jeans that will never look as good on you as they do on the half-starved teenager who was hired to advertise them. Worry too much about your weight, and you’ll turn into Richard Simmons.

Frightening isn’t it?

But, to the best of my knowledge, Jesus never said, “Pay no attention to the journey.” He did tell the disciples what not to take on their journeys and later, what to take. But if we consider the record of men and women of faith in the Bible, we notice that often their journeys were as important as their destinations. Consider Israel. Forty years wandering in the desert after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Why? Perhaps because arriving in the promised land was as much an internal thing as it was an external thing.

What I mean by that is that as I reflect on our journey, our ever changing, often challenging journey I am constantly brought face to face with who I really am, and often it ain’t too pretty. I am daily confronted with my own apathy, my own limited compassion, my own lack of grace. And I am starting to think our journey of faith, our efforts at being followers of Jesus, are meant to lead us to discover our own broken selves as much as anything else. Because if that never happens, the truth is we may travel far but we will never really go anywhere. A journey that doesn’t change us, that doesn’t lead us to wholeness, is ultimately a journey destined to be repeated.

Of course the journey is about a destination. When Jesus told the disciples to follow him, he was going somewhere! But the journey is also about transformation. Its about what happens to us as we go. Its about our failures and frailties, our frustrations and tears because those things more than anything bring us out of where we’ve been, and out of who we were. We leave Egypt not on foot, but on our knees. It is there that our hearts are poured out and set on the potters wheel where we can be plied into something useful.

Today was a hard day in Zambia. This afternoon we took a young lady named Prisca (pronounced Priska) to the clinic after her boyfriend had beaten her until she collapsed in the middle of the road. He then started kicking her in the head and ribs until someone finally pulled him away.

Prisca became a follower of Christ just a few days ago, led to the Lord by some missionary friends here in Zambia. The reason her boyfriend attacked her was because after she became a Christian, she told him she couldn’t see him anymore, that she wasn’t going to live the way they had been any longer. As Paula was comforting her, helping to hold an ice pack on her swollen, bruised face she spoke about her new found faith. She said, “I’ve made my decision. I’m not turning back now.”

Each of our journeys are hard in their own way I suppose. But it often takes someone like Prisca, who is welcomed into her Christian faith with a brutal beating, to bring a little perspective to our own journeys. Then we realize that there are some among us who are on t inconceivably difficult journeys, who know suffering and loss to a degree that is beyond the comprehension of the well–cushioned Christian lives that most of us live.

And though I’m tempted to complain about having to pack up our stuff, and though I really want to cry out to God asking, “Why do we have to go through this whole moving thing again?”, I tend to think now that the better thing is to follow Prisca’s lead and to say simply, “I’ve made my decision. I’m not turning back now.”

3 comments:

Lee Willis said...

God has given you have such a depth of vision and understanding, coupled with an uncanny ability to express your thoughts with clarity and refreshing honesty. I love reading your blog. It is so easy to feel a part of your ministry there.
We continue to hold the two of you in prayer. What a privilege.

Joy said...

I have tears in my eyes thinking of Prisca... she'll be in my prayers.

Jerry and Paula Ireland said...

Thanks Joy. she needs prayer for protection as the guy has threatened to kill her.