Monday, January 8, 2007

A very wise man once said this, "Just when you start to think that you're a very spiritual, godly person, you get married and realize that you're not spiritual, you're selfish and lazy and impatient. Then, just when you get used to being married and start to think you're very spiritual again, you have kids. I haven't felt spiritual since."

I kind of feel the same way about Africa. You live in the United States, and go to church and Bible study and prayer meetings. And you feel spiritual. So, you decide to be a missionary. And then you come to Africa. And you may never "feel spiritual" again. Am I exaggerating some? Maybe. I have no doubt that The Lord called me specifically to this place at this time. And I have no doubt that He is working in me by the day. But I'll tell you what...I don't feel very well behaved!

Zambia has this way of wearing on you. Your patience, that is. I think that I had previously been described as a patient person. Now, I'm liable to get angry at the post office, a restaurant, or the grocery store. My sheltered American mind cannot fathom why they can't just GIVE me the package. I can't understand why there would be five items on the menu if only one is available. And I will never get why there would be something on the shelf at the grocery store that is not priced or registered, so therefore cannot be bought. These things are funny for awhile. And then there not that funny anymore. Unfortunately, that's the exact point when they need to be laughed at. It seems to me that if you are going to do a job, it should be done efficiently and as quickly as possible. And if you are serving someone else, you should bend over backward to make sure that you are not inconveniencing them in any way. Guess what? That's not how it works here.

At home, it's a GOOD character trait to be able to do things quickly and efficiently. Here, it's rude to not spend the first 5 minutes of a conversation in greeting, no matter what you have on your mind. I have a feeling that I am not going to change the mindset of a people group on this matter. In fact, I have a feeling that I am the one that has to change. I can no longer attribute my "efficiency work ethic" to good character. In fact, it is just plain impatience. I don't expect or like to be inconvenienced. These people don't worry too much about convenience. They've never had it, so they don't expect it. I have a choice. I can spend the rest the time that I spend in Africa (this month, this year, this lifetime) being angry and inconvenienced. Or, I can give up the way that I have been raised and groomed to think, and just relax. In this way, I won't miss out on a million good conversations or a thousand oppurtunities to pray. I do believe in doing things well, and so hope that I can pass that on by example. But I will no longer assume that 5 wasted minutes is a national tragedy to every culture that I come across. It isn't. And I am certainly not going to continue to be the kind of person I don't want to be just to prove my point..."You should go FASTER!"

Because all of the missionaries here complain about this thing, it's easy for us to assume that "God would agree with us." Isn't that funny? Trying to blame God for our impatience? "Well," we say, "God wants us to do things with excellence. That means with efficiency. That means crossing off everything on our to-do lists." Actually. We are wrong. It says this in the Message version of the Bible, "Even if someone lived a thousand years--make it two thousand!--but didn't enjoy anything, what's the point?" Ecc. 6:6. I am tired of compromising my relationship with God because of impatience. Keep me accountable. Ask me how I spoke to the Post Office guy or how often I've stopped to dance with the kids today. Don't let me slide on this one. I'm no longer willing to be impatient. It just isn't worth it.

Dear Lord,
Help me to be more like you. You wait for me when it takes months, years for me to hear you. You waited for the Israelites for generations, and you're still waiting. Help me to love a people, and to laugh when I am inconvenienced. Help me to change, to be who YOU want me to be, and not who I think it is important to be. Bring the dross to the service, and don't let me hide behind good behavior. I am tired of good behavior, I want my heart to be changed. Help me to be more like you. Amen.

"For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." Psalm 90:4