Saturday, July 1, 2017

Stirring the Waters

This last Sunday and the Sunday previous Kristi and I worshiped at Christ Church in Westlands, Nairobi, a wonderful community of faith which is walking distance from the guesthouse where we are staying.  The theme for this last month has been "Celebrating our Differences," a theme bent particularly on lifting up persons with physical and emotional challenges.  Two Sundays ago the church invited an African Albino man to preach.  Albino persons in Africa are often marginalized due to pigmentation of their skin.  This last Sunday a blind woman read the scripture passage using Braille.  It took a long time to get through the passage, but she persevered and the congregation was patient.  Also on this last Sunday the guest preacher was wheelchair bound doe to a work related accident sustained twenty years ago.  Before his preaching, a member of the congregation gave testimony concerning the challenges she faces raising her son who is afflicted with both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia.

In all of these cases I am impressed by the Christ Church's willingness to highlight those we too often push to the margins.  The "differences" expressed by these children of God remind us all of our need to find meaning and help beyond ourselves.  The wheelchair bound preacher from last Sunday cited Paul's testimony regarding the thorn in his flesh.  Three times Paul petitions to Lord to remove the thorn, yet the Lord's gentle response to Paul is, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12: 9a).  The preacher gave testimony that had he not had the accident he probably would be arrogant.  He shared how God often likes to "stir the waters of our lives," shaking things up so that we recognize our dependence on Him.  The preacher also described how meat is only flavorful and juicy when it is cooked.  The fire or flame of the stove brings forth these juices.  The unspoken implication is that the fires of sorrow and suffering in our lives add new dimensions of growth and provide space for God's creative work to happen.

Two nights ago Kristi and I watched the movie "Joni" which chronicles the true life story of Joni Eareckson Tada who was paralyzed at the age of seventeen from a diving accident.  The film masterfully shows the horrific struggles she faced during the early years after the accident, but how faith in Jesus Christ took hold of her and she then blossomed in ways unimaginable.  In one poignant scene, she shares with a disabled Vietnam veteran how she would rather be in a wheelchair with Jesus in her life than be able bodied without Him.  I was moved by her words which affirm how our weaknesses and suffering humble us and force us to recognize our need for love and help outside of ourselves.  Our setbacks, our sorrows and our sufferings drive us to the One who can heal all of our inner wounds and pain and give our lives true meaning and purpose.

Joni Eareckson Tada has lived a life of faithfulness!
(Image borrowed from this website)

These last five weeks have been weeks of struggle for Kristi and I as I was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr Virus.  It feels like God is stirring the waters in our lives.  The Lord has permitted me to fall victim to this Virus which has greatly weakened my body and caused severe achiness.  Kristi and I have been forced to radically adjust and change our plans.  The Lord has given us a forced season of rest.  We have been obliged to stop and take a good look at our lives and to surrender all to the Lord - our health, our hopes and desires, our plans, our sense of call, our reputation and even our mortal lives.  Our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has upset our well contrived and manufactured plans.  The Lord Jesus has reminded us of our need, our utter dependency upon Him alone.  We can do nothing without the leadership and enabling of God's Presence and Spirit.

And so I pray,

Father, thank you for stirring the waters in our lives.  It has not been fun and it certainly was not expected, but I have now come to recognize this season of being set aside as necessary for the larger and greater work you seek to do in both Kristi and I, and for that I am profoundly grateful.  I bless your Holy Name.  Thank you for sending me this unexpected visitor called Epstein-Barr.  I love you Lord - keep me humble and needy!  Hidden in You, Bobby.  

I am grateful that my body now seems to be on the upswing.  With my doctor's blessing, we plan to return to Juba, South Sudan, on Monday.  For that we are profoundly thankful.  Yet, we are also grateful for being set aside and more fully prepared for all that lies ahead in our new call.  May God be glorified in our lives - particularly in those places of challenge and pain.

** This blog post is an amended entry from Bob's personal journal which he has been writing in quite frequently lately!  :)    


1 comment:

Luke Schurter said...

I hear ya... I love to charge ahead on a mission and often see any illness, barrier or unexpected detour as a major setback. It can bring about a depression or frustration that itself becomes a distraction from the mission!! We have grieved this "setback" with you, have been inspired by your focus on God, and the work He has done and is continuing to do in your lives!!!