My entries have crossed about three months of travel time in africa, and they are drawing to a close. This entry, the ninth, is my last journal entry in continental africa, before returning to mainland America.
Well, this is probably gonna be the last post before I set off for the land of the brave. I'm gonna miss everything here - but I'll be back. There's something about the dusty air, the scattered beauty of the night sky, the warm afternoons, the exotic insects and colorful fauna, the close knit assembly and the kind locals, and the plight of those less fortunate in the midst of the rest, that acts to captivate, more so to imprison you in a world of wonder and adventure, hard working diligence and responsibility, and the knowledge that you are really living the christian walk. This draws me back so much so that even when I plan to leave so soon, I know that should I spend years in the states before I return, my mind will not often stray far from the memories of my time here. And not just in the croc hunts, snake attacks, wild animal sightings or mosquito adventures, nor the learning at Kalene Hospital or the fun at Sakeji school, or the excitement I've been able to share with other missionaries, both adults and bush kids.
No, the real adventure is knowing you are living the Christian walk. The way it's supposed to be lived. I mean, I'm not saying that God is calling everyone to go be a missionary, and anyone who doesn't go is not a christian. But the truth is, I know I live a lie at home. And many of my friends and colleagues do as well. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they acted the parts of the believer, and didn't really live the walk of a believer. They prayed when they had to pray, tithed when they had to tithe, did their responsibilities, attended their work at the temple, but their hearts were far from their religious activities.
I know I'm just as good as a Pharisee, or at least I have been at home. And I've been aware of that fact, but I can't seem to get out of that rut. Seems to me I can read the Bible like a Christian should be expected to do, attend a church service, just like a christian would, help in a youth group or a sunday school just like a christian would, and tithe just like a christian should, but that's all just what a Pharisee does. I've often wondered if I'm gonna be the voice at the gates of heaven pounding and crying "Lord, Lord..."
But there's not much I really do about it. I used to think about it every sunday before communion, how I would be genuinely sorry for everything I'd done that week, and for how fake and insincere I was in my Christian walk, and even as I partook, I tried to suppress the thought that I'd repeat everything I'd done wrong that week and be repenting of it again the next week. I knew that wasn't the behavior of a real christian, that a true Christian would turn around a hundred eighty, just like word repent means, and never go back, but all that brought me was despair - Was I really a true Christian? I could never know when I was begging God for forgiveness and for restoration and for the strength to stop being so, so Pharisaical, but I never knew if God was really gonna help me, cause if my 'sunday' faith was so weak that I didn't ever really genuinely repent of anything, was I really sincerely asking God for help? Or was I just saying the words? I didn't even know if I really meant it or if I was trying to convince myself and God that I was a true Christian, when I really wasn't. Even if my heart could decieve me into thinking I was genuine, I knew that God knew my heart better than I did.
I think it's easy to do live a fake christian life. Too easy, in fact. As a member of the church, I notice that we here in America tend to encourage each other from youth to fit in, be 'normal', or at least act like everyone else. And I know, I know, it doesn't seem like that happens anymore. I mean, we tell our kids and our friends that there's no such thing as 'normal', and 'be who you are' etc... but our words fall on deaf ears, because even our actions demonstrate the opposite of our words as we fall into the cycle of just doing what everyone else is doing. And it's not just schools. Children from homeschools or private schools encourage themselves to strive even harder for that sense of normalcy... and that leads to our downfall. We set a goal of being like others, the goal that even secular influences try to speak against, but the we as the church don't do enough to suppress this. No, we continue the cycle of just fitting in, and that destroys our christian life.
What do I mean by this? Instead of the true christian walk, with the mentality of faith and attitude of love, we do the little pharisee dance when everyone else does, taking communion and bowing our heads and wearing our polished shoes to church, and then we sit when they sit, and study when they study, and dance when they dance... then the next day, we wake when they wake, eat when they eat, go to school when they go to school, look away from the man on the street with the cardboard sign when they look away, pass the salvation army santa when they pass the salvation army santa, greet one another with a fake "How are you? I'm fine! Just same old same old..." just like they do, complain about our boss behind his back, just like they do, try and distance ourselves from people who actually talk about problems and need help, just like they do, and instead of a life of faith, it's a game of copycat, where on sunday we all play the part of christians and on wednesday we play the part of secular Americans. Jesus says that you know you are a true Christian when you abide in HIM, but we don't spend our lives mimicking Jesus, we spend it mimicking our next door neighbor, or the guy at church that sits three rows over. Jesus says that the fruit, the evidence, is in our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control... but we don't show that in our lives. The fruit of a tree shows the value of the tree, eh? No point in having a tree that has less than a full, healthy crop of fruit, and ours are all rotten. You can't claim that you always possess so much love joy and peace that it's evident whenever anyone looks at you, because I know you... and you don't. I don't know one person who does. What's more, Jesus says that this is how the world knows we are his followers, if we love one another -
That's a big problem, the problem with our church, and our small group here, that we don't love. We don't love our families like we should, we don't love God like we should, and we especially don't love strangers like we should. God tells us to love our neighbors, and when asked who our neighbors are, he tells a parable where the neighbor we are supposed to love is the poor helpless outcast of society, laying forgotten and rejected at the side of the street. How many of us even know any christian who has ever acted out the love of the good samaritan on a poor oucast on the street, bringing him to safety, and paying for his shelter and sustenance? That's the love Jesus was talking about, when he said love your neighbor, (meaning, always, not just once) and of course we all disobey him, proving that we don't love God himself. We're all too young to help, and we only have a little ourselves, so we don't need to worry about offering what we have. It wouldn't do any real good anyway, right?
What would the feeding of the five thousand have sounded like, if the boy who had brought his lunch had used the same excuse? I'm to young to help, and I only have a little myself, so I don't need to worry about offering what I have. It wouldn't do any good anyway, right? What a catastrophe! God can use even the smallest of gifts for huge works of salvation and love, but people like you and me don't really care, cause we don't love God enough to obey him, and we don't love our neighbor enough to care about whether he's beaten or crippled or stranded on the side of the road, outcast from the world and alone. We don't care! We should care, though. Shouldn't we? I mean, I know you guys are all thinking, wow, we should... and then twenty four hours from now you're gonna be thinking Dude, lets watch a movie... or whatever - cause we're so wrapped up in doing what everyone else does we ignore what being a christian means, and we'll completely forget. Cause that's what we do. We learn about our mistakes as a form of entertainment! In church, after a very good message, we are convicted of our sin, and then afterwards, we laugh it off and completely forget it, ensuring that we never grow from it. We continue to live in our sin, all the while knowing the consequences of sin, and ignoring them. We enjoy people telling us what we're doing wrong, but its a sign of how much we don't love God, that we enjoy hearing about our mistakes and yet never do anything to change them. We have to WAKE UP! I mean seriously folks! How many times have you gone to church, seen an area in your life where you've done wrong, and gone home determined to fix it, and just forgot about it? Hopefully not everytime, but probably most times! Cause I do it all the time.
But we can't love the bum on the streets, cause we don't know how to love. We don't love anybody. What does loving someone as ourselves really mean? We wake up on our birthday, get presents and birthday money, go out to buy a video game... and drop by our neighbors house to give it to their boy. Say what? Well, if you loved him, like you love yourself, you would want him to have it as much as you want it yourself, right? Or say you're hungry, and you bake a tray of brownies, and you wait for it to cool, and you cover it with a napkin and drive it over to the family you babysat for last week. Right? Cause you love and care for them as much as you love and care for yourself, right? Or you're driving and you see a suspicious character with his thumb up on the side of the road and you're alone, so of course, because you love him as much as you love yourself, you pull over, let him in, and when you've gone the second mile (like you would want someone would go for you) you buy him a bicycle, and give him some cash, like you would want if you were in his shoes. But we don't! Because we're scared about stories and strangers, we ignore that God tells us to love them. I mean, love believes all things, hopes all things... but we don't. We're so tied up in being just like everyone else that we don't know how to love somebody anymore!
Even the people we should love the most, we don't care for half as much as we should. Siblings, k, we should love them, but we don't. But mothers and fathers, we should love, right? More'n anyone else, moms and dads should get the most love we can give. It makes sense, right? I mean, if we can't care for the people we depend on, how can we care for anyone else? But the last time you picked up a neat outfit at the store, or ordered something online for yourself, did you care enough about your parents to get them something too? No... cause you didn't care for them like you cared for yourself. Maybe on Fathers day you got him a tie, or a cute card... but that was cause everyone else was doing it too... didn't mean you loved him.
We need to learn how to love people. Jesus said that people know we're Christians, if we love one another. The fruit of the spirit - which fruit is first? Love... He said the greatest commandment is love God... and following that, love one another... God's great commission itself depends on love. We don't make disciples because we don't form real relationships with people... because we don't love people like we should! If only there was a way that we could learn how to love. I mean, we know that we're supposed to love, but we're so bad at it! If only there was a place in scripture that said outright, to love someone means to do this for them, and to be this to them... if only God had defined love in scripture for us, so that we could plainly see what loving somebody meant, so that we could learn how to love someone. If only God had put a passage in scripture that told us Love is...
Love does not envy or boast,
Love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way
Love is not irritable or resentful;
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
Love believes all things,
Love hopes all things,
Love endures all things.
Love never ends. Prophecies and teachings will pass away. Languages and their cultures will end, and eventually even knowledge will fade away, cause we know a little now, but when we see everything, the little we think we know will dissappear. When we were younger, we had ideas about the world that faded as we grew up, cause what we think we know will fade as we learn the truth. So the only things that last forever are faith hope and love, but greater than the faith in God, or the hope in salvation, is the love that God loves us with, the love he calls us to love each other with. That's the whole point of the Gospel, indeed the whole point of scripture, not just faith, not just hope, but Love. That's what we need then. We have the definition now, we have the perfect mentor to imitate, now we have no excuse. To not love somebody, whether it's our brother or the bully down the street or the bum under the bridge, is now complete rebellion against God, because we know what he's asking us to do.
That's why this place in Africa draws to me so much. Being here, I have no chance to fit in with anybody. I'm patently abnormal. So, I can't help but show my true colors, and I think I can feel God's working in me to produce something that actually approaches true christianity. The missionaries all are patently different - and they spend their lives in love, for each other, for the church, for the hospital, for the locals... love for their neighbors. And it's genuine love, too. They don't just go to church on sunday like everyone else, go to work on monday like everyone else, complain at lunch on tuesday like everyone else, see a movie wednesday night like everyone else, etc... they stay close to home so that anyone can run up with the plea for help, so they can rush to their aid, whether it's a patient needing to be airlifted (to call a plane from the nearest hangar) or a snake or rabid dog (to get the gun) or a shortage of water (to fix the pump) or a suprise visitor (to fix a meal and arrange for housing)... but whatever it is, it's FOR their neighbor, not LIKE their neighbor. God calls us to be in the world, helping show his love, but not OF the world. We're just like the pagans God hated in the old testament, who added worship of God to the worship of all the other Idols they had. We add worship of God to all the other things we do in our free time... when we should be devoting our lives completely to him.
This is why I'm gonna probably come back. I don't know how soon - may be next year, may be ten years... but until I get the self control to be sincere in my walk as a christian, instead of being just another copycat pharisee, I'm gonna need all the help and mentoring I can get, especially from a place so patently different that I can't help but be sincere.
I'd better go now, I'm preparing a meal for the poidevans when they return from Angola tomorrow, and (instead of the 'love' at the end of the letter, which never really means 'I love you' but is just something people write cause everyone else does it, I'll put) I love you guys so much, I miss you all so much, but I'm gonna miss this place too,