Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
Jon and I got to go to Kampala this weekend (the capital city). We had some great experiences on our break, but there was one that had us laughing pretty hard, and it came back to me this morning.
Let’s talk about travelators. You may be asking ‘what on earth is a travelator’? A travelator is the horrendous hybrid of an escalator and a moving sidewalk. It is a moving sidewalk (like at the airport) except on a ramp to get up or down a level. We first encountered this monster at the Nakkumatt store. We were going to the lower level from the second floor. As I stepped on the travelator it suddenly threw me forward toward a pretty steep descent with no way to catch myself. Thank God, Jon caught me before I fell. We chuckled over it and I shuffled my feet toward the bottom. As we stepped off I suddenly felt my feet shift again and was falling, AGAIN. Jon caught me and we laughed pretty hard, especially when a distinguished Ugandan man gave me a shocked look as he stepped off the travelator. Now besides showing my clumsiness, what does this story have to do with anything?
As I studied this morning, God reminded me that life is a travelator not a sidewalk. I find within myself the temptation to feel like I have arrived. I will read my Bible every day, pray consistently, encourage someone in a hard way and I will feel the temptation to pat myself on the back and say to myself, ‘well done, you.’ Then I decide that I could use a day to sleep in instead of doing devotions, I mean, haven’t I earned that? And I will pray… some. And I find myself deciding to just ignore the needs around me because I already have done so much counseling in the Word this week.
Now I used to have the terrible habit of doing as I ought for about a week, and then falling into these complacent habits for months on end. Do you find that same struggle within yourself? I think we all do at one time or another. Well if you do, remember this, life is a travelator. You can’t do as you ought for a bit and take a break and assume you will stay where you were. We are on a constantly moving, shifting platform that is flowing speedily away from God’s heart. There is no standing still in the Christian life. Either we are drawing near to God, or we are backsliding. That’s it, those are the two options. Why? Because our heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and the old man wars against the spirit (Romans 7). It is because our flesh longs to flee from God and indulge itself rather than be sanctified.
So what does God say about complacency on our travelator? Proverbs 1:32 says, “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Is this because the readers of Hebrews couldn’t understand or grasp hard truths? No! It is because they were not diligent in learning the Word! In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul describes the Christian life as a race where “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I should myself become disqualified (vs. 27)”. But Paul couldn’t backslide right? He’s Paul! Wrong! We are all capable of backsliding. It often isn’t a willful disobedience at first, but a complacency about how we ought to be living. Romans 12 says to be transformed, Colossians 1 tells us to continue in the faith and not to be moved away, Peter warns us in 2 Peter 3 to be steadfast and not be led away. We are either running toward Jesus with our eyes fixed on Him or we are drifting away.
So we must be diligent! We must be feeding ourselves DAILY in His Word, talking to Him through prayer, and seeking to encourage one another. Just like I needed Jon to keep me from falling on my face, we need one another. Be in a church family where people ask the hard questions. Keep an eye on your brothers and sisters and encourage one another to run as we should. Don’t believe the whispers that say ‘I’ll get up early to study tomorrow; I’ll pray later; I deserve a break,’ they are LIES. If we aren’t careful we will find that the travelator has taken us back to the place we don’t want to be.
But the great news is that in James 4:8-10 we are told, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” We must stop treating our slackness as a joke, and be serious in seeking after God. He promises to draw near, He doesn’t move. All we need is to turn from our complacency and seek Him, then we find He was waiting in the same place the whole time. If we humble ourselves, He will lift us up. He doesn’t leave us to earn our way back to Him, we couldn’t. He gives us the strength to seek Him and draw near to Him. He welcomes us with open arms to come boldly as His beloved children. But if we allow ourselves to be caught in the drift of complacency we will soon find we are where we did not want to be. So remember, life is a travelator, and we must be diligent to pursue our relationship with God. Or we will fall on our face.
Some of you may know, most of you will not know, I’m writing a book. I didn’t tell many people when I started mostly because as I started out it was something that I didn’t particularly want to do and certainly didn’t, and still don’t, feel qualified to write. And yet, this idea is something that God put on my heart. It started this last Christmas as I was looking for a gift for a friend. What I wanted to find was a hardcore discipleship-style year-long devotional with devotional lessons that accompanied a full Bible in a year plan. Turns out at every Christian bookstore in town and every online bookstore (including Amazon) there is a hole in our Christian devotional materials. And so, here I sit in the heart of Africa doing my darnedest to write what ultimately amounts to far less than a commentary, but is my prayerful attempt at an exegetical, expositional, and most importantly literal daily reading guide through scripture. Now, I don’t know if this thing I’m writing will ever amount to anything; I can’t even say it would or could be published, but I tell you all this because I want you to think about what it looks like to DO.
I just recently finished studying through the book of Esther. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s only 10 short chapters and is such an awesome study. I want to share with you just a little bit about what God taught me as I walked through it. Esther and Mordecai had the kind of guts that make being a missionary look like a walk in the park. In Esther 4:14 we get this memorable word from Mordecai, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” What faith in God it takes to say something like that! Here is the heart of Mordecai’s question - God WILL protect, and God WILL provide for, and God WILL save His people, do you want a part in it or not?
All throughout this book, Esther and Mordecai both did things that should not have been possible for them to do, and yet, they were nothing more than people. How can this be? How can it be possible for man to do more than man can do? ...GOD. We believe that God gives the increase in His kingdom and in our lives (1 Cor 3:6), but what exactly is He going to do in you if you can’t muster the courage to get off the couch? Nothing! And what was the reward to Mordecai for all of the courage that it took to do the things he did? Mordecai is forever remembered in God’s Word. Esther 10:3 “for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.” Shouldn’t we all long for this to be our legacy both in this world and in God’s kingdom? And so, the question must be asked, “SO WHAT?”
Here’s the “so what” - Do you wish you could love you husband or wife more than you do now? There’s nothing they will do to make it easier, it’s not their job, it’s yours. DO IT NOW! Do you want to serve more in your church? No one can make that happen but you. DO IT NOW! Do you want to break that addiction you are a slave to? No one else will do it for you. DO IT NOW! Do you desire to be in God’s word more, but you just “don't have the time”? No one is going to make the time for you except you. DO IT NOW! Do you want to “seek the welfare of others”? Don’t wait until tomorrow. DO IT NOW! AND PRAY, because it not you who gives the increase, it is God alone. Pray, pray, pray, and pray more because God has something big for you. Get off the couch and make room in your life for God to give the increase and it only comes through relationship with Him which comes through pray and His word (talking and listening, like any relationship). DO IT NOW!!!
I wanted to end this thought with something my pastor recently said in a sermon, “The catalyst for God’s will in you life is your will.”Make the choice today to have God’s will done in your life. “Father, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Since Jon and I began selling stuff to prepare to move to Uganda, one question has been pressing the back of my mind, ‘what if we fail?’. Life is full of successes and failures, right? But, we have people giving to us, counting on us, rooting for us. Here, we will have people relying on us; we may even end up having lives depending on us. And knowing all of that, I’m constantly pressed with the question: what if we fail? The last blog post I wrote was about resting in Jesus with regards to our salvation and justification. But this time I want to talk about resting in Jesus in regards to identity.
If I had just met you or been introduced, what is the first question we’d likely ask each other? ‘What do you do?’ Or if I were giving an introduction I would tell you something like, ‘I’m Kristin, I’m a nurse, I’m married to Jon, etc…’ Even over here, I tell people a lot that I am a nurse. Take a second and just think about how you identify or define yourself. (Go ahead, we’ll wait).
Now some of you probably tried to avoid using your job or career and went with something like wife, father, friend, deacon, teacher, daughter etc. (Hopefully not all of those at once). So here is my next question: what happens if all of those things go away or change?
I have begun, unintentionally, identifying\defining myself as a missionary. So what if we fail at that? What if, like many, I suddenly have health problems which require us to leave the field? What if Jon suddenly felt we are called back to the States? What if any number of things arises that would cause us to be tossed into the category of having failed? I’d have no identity. How many of us have ever felt that way; like we suddenly have no idea who we are? That is a horrible feeling that can drive us to desperation to keep whatever defines us. The mother who refuses to be there for her kids because her career demands her attention, the workaholic who can’t let the job be there so he brings it home, the teenager who MUST have a boyfriend/girlfriend, the parent in crisis because they’re suddenly an empty nester, the wife who must be always put together and appear flawless, the missionary who has a checklist of how many salvations and such they need… But I want an identity that I can’t lose based on circumstances. Is there such a thing? I can think of only one. His.
I AM a child, daughter, friend, beloved of God. He is my Father. Try to think of our circumstances that can change that. I can’t think of one, and neither could Paul. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But Paul, what about when I lose my job, or my family is in crisis, or we are fighting or, or, or… NO. NOTHING can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If my confidence and identity is found in Christ a few different things will happen.
First, my relationship with Him WILL become my priority. We pour ourselves out for the things we let identify us. If my identity is in my job, where do I spend my time? But if my identity is in jesus, I will be like Mary desiring to be at His feet. (Luke 10:38-42).
Second, it gives me freedom. My identity is not found in how successful I am. That means I am not afraid to step into the impossibilities of cross-cultural ministry by His leading. Not only do I believe He will bring His will to pass, but it also won’t rock my world WHEN hard circumstances come, or WHEN I fail. I can fail and succeed with surety of step. There is so much freedom in that. Because I am GOING to fail at times; that’s just how it is. But if those failings don’t change who I am (and WHOSE I am) then I can repent and carry on and learn.
So, imagine now that the only identity that mattered to you was son/daughter of God. What would change in your life? Would any of those changes be bad? No! So why not live it out?? Be free. Dig into the Word, pray fervently for God to show you your identity rooted and grounded in Him ALONE. If you haven’t started a relationship with Jesus, why wait? Jesus came to reconcile us to our Father, all we have to do is have faith. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” This is what is offered. Freedom!
Do not submit yourself again, brothers and sisters, to the yolk of slavery of false identities. Be free to be a wife or husband rooted in Christ, a friend who loves with Christ’s love, an employee who works as unto the Lord, a minister of the gospel of peace who speaks the truth without fear, a son or daughter who honors their father and mother. The beauty of losing our identity for Christ is that He then gives it back to us as it should be. So what if I fail? What if you fail? Well, I am still beloved of God, so I can pick myself up and continue to seek His glory.