“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.
Of late, I have been contemplating the question of how much is enough. In a place where there are few resources, and few people here to assist the vast and overwhelming need. I face the question of how much do I give, do I “do” to help the people here. This month, with the kids off school, it has not been a problem to treat the 5 or more patients that come randomly to the door for needs (on top of clinic and outreach) But how can I sustain such effort. Do I turn people away? Do I live with the disruptions to the kids schooling? Who do I chose to help? These thoughts confound me, and leave me with an insecurity that I am not able, will never be able to do enough. A few people in a place so big, how can a difference be made? As I ponder these questions, I realize that in my mind lies a parallel of thought. There is “a difference” that I want to make for others (in the provision of medicine, education and help) and there is that desire to ‘make a difference”, -which I’m afraid comes from rather selfish motives.
I always thought it is a rather funny paradox that the greatest lesson you learn in Academia is not how much you know, but how much you have yet to learn. As we progress in this life, I think the hardest lesson to learn is that of our own insignificance. Even if we may believe it, we certainly don’t want to face it. We strive for, we long for, we sacrifice for that sense that we matter, that we have made a difference. That our theories, our innovations, our ideas, our contributions, our beauty, our participation, our philosophies, our publications, our energy, our talents, our creations are something that the world and others could not live without. We search for that sense that we are apart of something that will last, that will be recognized, that we are important.
We look to be esteemed by our colleagues, loved by our families, and in the most transparent parts of our own hearts, when we are able to suppress the looming fears of insignificance, we convince ourselves that we are not as insecure as we feel. And just to be sure we are that, we gather degrees, build our resumes, perfect our homes and our Facebook pages, all to portray what we so desparately desire others to see and ourselves to believe. That our life matters.
And it does.
But, I realize that the part that matters the most or matters at all, has little to do with my efforts. And take heart this is not a depressing thought but a freeing one. My value is not related to how many titles I have, or papers I’ve published, or pagers I carry. It is not related to whether I have been recognized for my actions, ideas or efforts… or whether my boss or spouse or children or parents are happy with me.
I matter because I am beloved of the Father. And this is the great equalizer. This is how everyone matters. There is no hierarchy, CEO, or president of this club. Our sin levels us, His grace covers us. When I start thinking of it,- I think it is a cruel universe to give some all the opportunities that could be imagined, and then others, barely the chance to survive. I live amongst the juxtaposition of these two realities and can not seem to be able to create a resolution for the things I see.
But as God’s beloved we are all the same. The validation that we so long for from others, comes freely from Him. He loves us all, equally, unconditionally, passionately. Whether we are far from Him or near to Him.
Our life matters, but our mattering doesn’t matter,- because we already matter to the One who loves us and nothing we can do now, or in the future or what we have done in the past, can make us matter more than we already do to the One who matters most.
There is freedom in knowing that Jesus loves me. I do not have to placate the gods, or perfect my performance for life’s audience. I simply can live with the knowledge that I am His and He is mine.
As for the question of who to help and how to know who to help, and how much to do, I realize that I do not have the answers, but I do have a promise that God has prepared in advance the good works that He has for me to do. My job is not to impress others, myself or work endlessly while sacrificing the sanity of all those around me, but my job is to trust in His love, rest in His worth, and to have open eyes to see what I am able to do in this place, and then walk in those good works as he gives me the strength and wisdom to do.
As I am writing this I am watching the mouse crawl up the thatch roof and wonder if I should track it with my flashlight or pretend i didn’t see it….Days here take on a life of their own sometimes. Jay took the LandRover an hour away to pick up the youth boys who were left at a camp stranded as their transport (took their money) but didn’t return to pick them up. Some of the boys had already walked 14 hours to be able to attend the camp, and we felt that it would be an injustice to let them walk another 14 hours back to Kurungu. So,- with Jay away, the day begins to unwind or unravel…. nothing too uncommon to family dynamics of four children with the exception of having to scold Nathan to please not dissect the possibly poisonous (dead) snake with a knife and fork that we will likely have to use at supper time. Tonight there was a somber supper as behaviour charts the kids were working on (to earn back some screen time) indicated that it would be another month of making an effort to improve “attitude, obedience and cooperation” before any screens would be restored. The wails could be heard for miles. One would think I started to beat the children. But in fact, it was much worse, Mario and lego star wars are in time out. While the renting of clothes continued a knock at the door from Mzee Rudolph, who on better days is a bright and animated character, but generally is under the influence of some substance or another, interrupts the din.
In shadows of twilight he spins a story about a garden, charcoal, problems with diarrhea and how his good friend Jay treated him to suppa- getti one time. Seeing no end to the conversation and trying to accommodate the 18 month old climbing up my leg,-I have to remind Mzee Rudolph that a good visiting time is at chai time tomorrow….after about 10 more minutes of failure to convince Mzee Rudolph that tomorrow suits better, our guard Range escorts Rudolph out. I always feel quite safe at night, knowing that our night guards, Range and Isaya are keeping watch. Both men are elders in the church, and both trained as home guards. We have one of those famous photographer’s coffee table book on the Samburu, which funnily enough, was photographed in Kurungu area and we flip open to pages of pictures of our night guards as warriors in their younger days. All this rambling to say,- thanks for your prayers. We always are in need of them! Pray for the kids as they adjust to their non-electronic month ahead (and us) as we perservere with trying to balance kids and community and ministry which on some days competes for the attention, time and compassion available. I spent a few hours this morning painting 1 Thes 5:16 on the wall.
Be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances
May these words encourage me (us) to be joyful, prayerful and thankful in the days ahead.