Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting for Rain

For two wonderful days and nights, we have been blessed with rain. Real rain. Not just a shower. Real down pour. It has cooled off 98+ degree temps and humidity. It has filled our wells and soaked the parched earth. I feel better. I am not dripping sweat and I don’t sink. Hallelujah!

The day before the rains started, I was really having it out with the Lord. I was standing on the side of the road waiting for a chappa and absolutely dripping with sweat. I could feel the part in my hair (which was already tender) burning even more. And, it was not the first day of such sweltering heat. It was like the tenth. And I was over it. It’s the rainy season! So, in my mind, as I waited with a friend, I had this mental conversation with Jesus:

“You know, Lord, you made this day. You could have made it a little bit cooler – like even five degrees cooler would be helpful! You can do that. You could make the day cooler right now.”

Jesus, whose reprimands are ever so gentle but straight to the heart, said, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

Ever so stubborn me: “It’s too hot to rejoice in this day. I want rain. We need rain! The crops are dried up, people are going to starve this year because of the drought! You can make the rain. You could make it rain right now. Why won’t you send the rain?”

And honestly, I didn’t hear much after that. I was too angry and to stubborn to hear anything that He had to say. I was angry about the unending heat. I was angry about the lack of rain. I was angry about the many situations that I find myself in right now.

Rain seemed like such a simple thing for the God of the universe and so even in my anger I continued to pray for rain and cooler temps. I asked my friends to pray for rain and on Monday night big, stormy, full-of-rain clouds rolled in and it rained all night. It rained off and on all day Tuesday and it rained Tuesday night. It’s still raining. I’m so thankful! Yet, I have so many questions about God’s sovereignty. This year’s rice and maize crop are decimated. Food will have to be imported from the north where they’ve had rain or from other countries. The price of the food will go way up. People won’t be able to afford it. People who sell those crops for a living will have nothing. Families – children – will go hungry and be less able to fight disease.

He knew this, yet He withheld the rain. Why? Why did He choose a drought for these people who have so little? We, in the states, could handle a drought so much better. Food prices might go up, but we’d still be able to eat. We’d still be able to fight sickness. Droughts are stressful, but not life threatening.

And, I still don’t have the answers. The Rain-Maker could have sent the rain and saved the crops. He could have prevented another reason that people would go hungry and sick. For that matter He could have eliminated sickness altogether. But He doesn’t. And that’s so hard to accept.

However, I’m finding, even in my own life, in the rubble of the mess around me, that He doesn’t owe me any answers. He has the right to build, and destroy in the way that He knows is best. He has the right to prune the parts of my heart that I want Him to leave alone. He has the right to send and withhold rain. It’s His universe. It’s the heart He created beating inside my chest.

I want to come to a place where I don’t fight so hard against His choices. I want to just fully trust Him. Yet, my humanity rages against His sovereignty. I know that He knows best and I know that He will use these moments of my doubt to build something beautiful in the wreckage of these situations. I know that He loves the people who will starve during this drought year. He loves them! I’m not quite sure how to reconcile His love and His sovereignty some days. However, my misunderstanding doesn’t take away His goodness.

He is good.

Period. End of the sentence. There is no “but” or “however.” It’s a statement.

My Savior – the one who brought me half way around the world – is still real and good. He isn’t oblivious to my needs or the needs of the millions of people in this city. He didn’t forget to send the rain or water the seeds of my heart. But, like Paul, some things He chooses are for us to learn more about His character. The third time that Paul asked for Him to take away his “thorn” Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I’m sure Paul didn’t like that very much. At the moment, the absence of the thorn seemed like a much better prize than His grace. But, I’m pretty sure when it was all said and done Paul wouldn’t have traded the thorn because what He’d received was so much more worthy.

So, I hold my thorns and my questions, and I wait for the downpour of grace. It will come. The rains always come.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stuck in Grace

This has not been an easy week. In fact, it’s been the kind of difficult that leaves you feeling wrung out and hung up to dry. It has to do with a lot of things, really.

Two staff members are leaving – one because she was only supposed to be here for 3 months and the other because she feels just as stifled as all of us here do and feels that God is moving her elsewhere.

The boys – well they are quite sure they know better than I do – or anybody else does. They are refusing to come home after school (many of them have school at night), refusing to help with chores around home, and refusing to talk to us. Where we live is quite dangerous and there have been children killed right here in this city and their body parts sold. We’ve told the boys this. They laugh at us and walk away.

I live in a very male dominated culture. My very independent American girl spirit doesn’t like that so much. But, I knew that when I came here. So, I just have to accept it. I have to try to do what God called me to do in spite of it. I have to pray about it. But, I’m also realizing without the support of a strong male, I’m never going to accomplish anything with the boys’ behavior. They just don’t take any of the female staff seriously – even staff that has been here for over a year. That's so disheartening. My "female-ness" gets in the way of my love for the boys. That makes me mad!

So, I feel stuck. I feel stuck in between wanting so much for the boys and wondering why I should stay at this particular place if so little can be accomplished. I feel stuck between my very stubborn nature which says, “Stick it out because you said you would” and my more logical nature that says, “Just go to Lichinga because there is a strong staff there and so much work to do with street children.” I feel stuck because I can’t really get away from the pressure of all that’s going on. I live with the boys. I’m in a foreign country and it’s really expensive to fly anywhere. I don’t speak enough of the language, so I can’t even go out for the day alone – and it wouldn’t even be safe anyway.

I don’t necessarily want easy. I just want not so hard. I want to know what to do – how to move or when to be still. I want the boys to see that I am trying to help shape godly character in their lives. I want male staff that is supportive of the decisions that we make for the boys. I want to be better at speaking the language already. I want to feel like there is a way out.

As I was praying the other day, I just sort of shouted at the Lord, “I feel stuck!” And in his very calm, loving nature I heard him whisper back, “Then be stuck in grace.”

Sigh…..that doesn’t really help a whole lot, honestly. I still feel stuck. I still don’t know what to do. But, of this I am sure, if there’s a place to be stuck – I’ll take grace. I am in a really hard, uncomfortable, unwanted place – a place where God has to show up.

I hate waiting for him. I’m not sure I’ll ever like it. But over the years I’ve learned that when he shows up everything changes. The hard months or years lose some of there sting. The painful memories dull just a bit. The longing is replaced by contentment. The wound is covered with salve.

I don’t know how long I will be in this place waiting for him to show up and do his thing. It may be just around the corner. It may be months – or years away. I can’t see far enough into the darkness to know what’s around the corner. But, I do know there are worse places to be than waiting for the King of the Universe to show up.

I can trust the maker of the mountain. I can trust the one who breathes life to the storm and calms it with just a word. I can be certain that he will show up and bind my wounds and dry my tears. I know that the darkest part of the night is just before dawn breaks through. I know that if I can just hold on I will be amazed at what he can do.

Here’s a poem from my daily devotional about waiting:

I the bitter waves of woe,
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors that faith has cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast,
To the things that cannot fail.

And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that truth and right
Have the universe on their side;
And that sometimes beyond the stars
Is a love better than fate.
When the night unlocks her bars
I will see Him – and I will wait.

-          Washington Gladden

So, here I am holding fast to the things that cannot fail and I am waiting. I’ll shout that from the top of my lungs till faith buoys up under my tired wings. I’ll shout it till I believe it and until he shows up. Because He won’t fail and because He always shows up.