I have been watching Nathan as he learns to ride a 2 wheeler. Being the oldest kid on the station he was not to be outdone by the ‘girls’ who had recently acquired two wheelers and were whizzing around the houses. With determination, angst and legs full of bruises, Nathan finally got the hang of it. And what was an impossible possibility, that of being able to ride with the wind whipping in his hair with weightless wonder of legs flying around the pedals in hot pursuance of the phantom of his imagination,- Nathan succeeded. The smile on his face the magical sort as if he had just discovered a secret of monumental importance. And I too remember the blue bike with the banana seat and flying down the hilly sidewalk on Wildflower Lane.
As I sat day after day watching Nathan in the various stages of his success, I noticed that the first thing that kids want to do is to look at their feet. With their head straight down they want to plod on. They look down perhaps for guidance or reassurance, or to visualize the process of turning the pedals, but it seems the moment they take their eyes off their goal, the handlebars wobble, the wheels start to turn sideways and there lasts only a few seconds before the child is pitched off the bike into the dust. Tear stained face, with wonder at what possibly went wrong. I was doing all the things I was supposed to. I had my hands, my feet in the right places. I was pedalling madly. What went wrong? And yet, the eyes were not focused on the right thing.
How often I realize that my eyes are not focused on the right thing. And truly when I fix my gaze on anything but Jesus, it will be only a matter of time before the handlebars wobble.
I think a lot about Peter in the boat and Jesus on the Sea. I think of Peter’s faith, wanting to walk towards the Saviour, and Jesus call, “come”. Would I have followed? I love the ocean, but must admit that I am completely terrified by the Sea. I am the kind who only will venture in to the water if I am floating on a raft lest I touch a sea monster that lingers in the sandy bottom. I have repeated dreams of sinking dramatically to the bottom while sharks circle my body.
Most days I think life is lived peering over the edge of the boat wondering if I posses enough courage to step out into the water. I know I am supposed to but the safe uncomplicated haven of my little skiff seems to lure me into thinking that perhaps tomorrow or another time or another moment will ‘move me’ to take the plunge. Maybe I will go for it when the waves are calmer, when the water warmer, when the winds are perfect, when I am feeling more courage. And so I wait,- sitting, watching, praying, but all the time knowing that in order to truly follow Him I need to make a move. I sit debating, philosophizing, praising, waiting for the perfect mood, the perfect moment of inspiration. When I wait long enough, I realize that the mood is not necessarily going to strike. I am not going to suddenly become brave, in fact, the longer I wait, the more I am able to either talk myself out of the ridiculous notion of leaving the boat, persuade myself that I can obey while paddling instead, and consider that perhaps God is really not calling me out of the boat at all,- just testing to see if I am willing. And admittedly, I feel I am willing, for why else would I be in the boat? Of course I am willing, God doesn’t really expect me to get wet,- only wants to know ‘in theory’ that I would if it came down to it. He doesn’t give the option of theorizing the limits of our faith. He tests them.
And when I get out of the boat,- that is not the end of the decision- that is just the beginning. To walk in a place where there is no assurance of solid ground beneath, where there is no promise of calm waters or balmy days. in fact, I fear most of the times, the wind is upon us, the waves are fierce, the salty spray stirs up and it is difficult to look ahead. And if I should look down,- If my gaze should fall or falter or look for my boat, look any place beyond looking for Jesus,- I am afraid it is only mere moments before treading water begins. And perhaps that is the problem. We feel if we get out of the boat,- things should be calm. And then when they are not, we doubt what He has said, we are too quick to forget that He never did promise calm waters,- but He did promise His Presence.
Why is it so natural to look to ourselves? Whether we focus with confidence on our abilities or are discouraged by our insecurities, the trap is the same. Many good people I am afraid have come to a decision about Jesus, looking to everything but Him to rationalize and justify why He is not enough, not sincere, not authentic, not True. If they but fixed their eyes on Jesus,- He does not disappoint. Surely if anyone looks to me, or to the church or to “Christians” there is a rude awakening to discovering the humanness that exists within all. Even knowing these truths, I often tread water or skid off the bike far more often then I would like. I don’t doubt who He is, but I feel perhaps that my way should be easier. And when it is not, I look to my own strength to get through, instead of asking for His grace.
Recently I wrote that walking by Faith, seems less like walking and more like skydiving blind without a parachute. It is true of our “walk” or rather “dive” here. The days are long filed with need and burdens that weigh heavily on the heart and are difficult to bear. Nderesa recently lost her 14th child, 3 Samburu sent to hospital with bills far beyond our ability to cover, Jonah facing surgery he may not survive, patients sent to regional hospitals hours away only to come back without any tests completed, 4 Samburu killed during Turkana animal raids,- retaliation likely to follow… In being here, we are asked to bear these things,- but we must not lose sight, that we are not asked to bear them alone.
Ps 68:19 “Praise be to the Lord, to God, our Saviour who daily bears our burdens”.
And so, please pray that as we venture ahead, that our eyes would be fixed on Him, and not on ourselves. That we dare not look to our feet, to the water below or the pedals pumping hard. We pray that people would not see a sinking ship or a wobbly bike but would see servants of God who are full of faults and inadequacies, yet who look ahead to Jesus. Looking only to the One who gives strength to the weak and grace to the humble.
Three ringed circus (last Sunday)
The rings circled around us today and I swear in the background if I listened closely enough I could hear the faint echo of the Barnum and Bailey theme song. Not sure whether it was just the collision of events that took place at the end of the day. The same events that are likely to take place with any ‘regular’ family during that witching hour where your children morph from good kids into the restless and ridiculous sort who seem to not be able to understand even the simplest of parental command to ‘settle down’. Cooking spaghetti (easy enough) so to ensure Jay can get supper before he leaves for South Horr to show the Jesus film. We are pretty excited that he was asked by the community to show the film. South Horr is a larg(ish) town, maybe a few thousand or so live in and around the town. We are hopeful that many will come to the show! The spaghetti bag breaks open spilling the contents of dry linguine on the floor. Following our motto of “be a missionary” which means lengthening the 5 second rule at least by a factor of 2, and overlooking any number of culinary accidents or incidents invovlviing insects invading your dish, plate or cup, I scoop the pasta off the floor, dust it off and place it in the pot, walking and slipping on broken noodles covering the kitchen. Jesse emerges from the hall, thankfully wearing a diaper, I overlook the potty seat that is on his head affixed like a halo. Focus! Get supper on. Start the sauce, in cutting the onion I slice through my thumb taking the tip off with it. Bloody onions won’t do,- look for a bandaid, call in Jay as back up. Jay is wandering around packing for his drive- in Lily is on the couch stating that she needs urgent investigation of her tummy ache that has overtaken her since the request to set the table was issued. Screaming emerges from the back of the house and Nathan rushes forth to find us. Starting his sentence with,” I didn’t mean to but”… is always a dangerous combination of words, especially for Luke, who often ends up with some sort of injury. Sure enough, there was an appendage which made contact with Luke’s eye. We are not sure exactly how…. boys separated, Nothing requiring surgery or removal of a foreign body thank goodness. Jaunt back to the kitchen. There is an old man at the door, who is re-enacting a women in labour. I hear the Samburu words, young child, sugar, 2 wives, and a whole lot that I do not understand. The man spits on me (which in general is a gesture of thankfulness) but in the moment I can not seem to take in the blessing with full appreciation. Request for the man to wait for the night guard who might be able to help me with figuring out the urgent need he has. Back to the kitchen to find the cat feasting on the ground beef on the counter. I don’t think the “be a missionary” rule includes overlooking animals of this caliber. We are all of course, afraid of getting the black plague which comes from the mice in the roof which our cat eats on regular occasions. Of course, this is Nathan’s warning of caution.
Here is a hint to all the husbands out there,– If your wife kills a snake, say, “good job honey” not, “Ahh,- the stripey ones are the good snakes! Why did you kill it?”
The shoe fell with unexpected fury when from my accounts of the snake incident, I was describing an act of heroism far beyond that of wonder women, and Jay was computing only of nature conservation. Given that a few days before I had narrowly missed stepping on the “death stalker” scorpion, I wasn’t feeling to kindly towards wildlife. With Jay gone for the day, I seemed to take on a ‘defender of the fort’ kind of mentality. Moments before the snake appeared the children were running wildly in the house stating that the monitor lizard is back. Jay who usually takes pictures of this visitor was not at hand, so I grabbed rocks instead to scare it away. The little geckos I will spare,- but there is something entirely unnatural about lizards larger than your cat.
So, as I was raking the backyard with Jesse following behind,- I look up to see a 3 ft snake peek up from the pile of leaves. Quick calls for back up while keeping my eyes on the snake. Mzee Abaya and I are able to kill it, while the children wait a distance away, holding onto Jesse who is eagerly repeating ‘nake, nake” . So, it was a sand snake and nothing poisonous. I still hold my ground that I am not about to get the magnifying glass and field guide to snakes in East Africa before I strike.
It seems that whenever Jay is about to go out to take the Jesus Film to the Mynyatta something happens. Last week it was rather minor with interruptions at the door, a bloody finger and spoiled supper. This week 3 trees in our front yard decided quite unexpectedly to fall over. We heard the crack and then the slow swaying of trees which are locked by their branches above as their roots emerged from underneath them. We are still not sure. Presently our front steps are covered by tree. We are very thankful that the tree happened to fall away from the house.
The one tree trunk only about 2 feet away from where we were eating supper, which would have course spoiled our chicken dinner, but would also have wreaked havoc with our thatch roof in the height of rainy season! Jay now off showing the film at Mzee Abayas mynyatta. Mzee Abaya is one of our day guards and weekend guard. Jay has also given him work a few days a week to water plants. I have met his wife and daughters a few times. His eldest daughter has epilepsy, and two weeks ago his youngest daughter had cerebral malaria, for which we were up in the night trying to assist with medicine. He is a believer and always has a bounce to his step. We pray that many would have the opportunity to see the film tonight. Praying the rains hold off a few more hours!