Saturday, June 22, 2013

Choosing Adversity

“Besides food and buildings, what do you miss most about home?”

That's what our counselor, Sam, asked me a couple weeks ago during the long drive to Kampala.

Without having to think about it, I told him that significantly more than either of those things, what I have the hardest time leaving behind is security; good healthcare, ambulances, police that I can put my trust in. 

After I explained this, he thought for a moment and responded,

“Why would you ever give that up?”

Good question, Sam.

The simple answer is that God asked me to and I learned a long time ago not to argue.

There are reasons besides that, of course, that made me want to come back…the kids, friends, the sense of purpose; let’s be honest, without those things I never would have had the courage to return. Why? This place is a pressure cooker; it brings out the best and the worst in all of us. The best parts of me, the parts the Holy Spirit has permeated, are there…but the worst…God help me, the worst…

Self-righteous judgement, arrogance and an inflated sense of my own superiority when I don’t agree with another organization or a person’s motives for being here; bitterness, anger and cynicism when I’m weary of the corruption and insecurity…these things come swiftly and easily in this place…ask anyone. Sometimes I have felt like it’d be easier to be home simply so I don’t have to deal with my own wicked heart and the way I respond to the tougher parts of my life here.      

But all this is a familiar story; one that if I remember correctly, I have told before…but I have since come to a different conclusion: 

Choosing to live in a place that brings out the worst in me…a blessing?

In a most visual and disgusting way, let me give an illustration…if you have an abscess, it is heat that draws the pus to the surface and only then can it be extracted…

I recently had a situation where my pride was particularly highlighted and I sat there disgusted with myself, full of criticism and shame, until I felt God’s hand on my shoulder and a whisper…dear one, how will I ever cure the infection if I don’t first draw it out? I know it’s painful, but would you rather carry on never knowing you were ill and never understanding the source of your weariness?

I have begun to understand something more fully. Recognizing my sin and allowing it because it provides some sort of satisfaction or recognizing my sin and then simply feeling guilty about it, is exhausting. Recognizing my sin, choosing to not be satisfied with it, appreciating my inability to change my own heart, asking God for help and seeing the evidence of that change is nothing short of rejuvenating.

Although this concept isn’t exactly new to me, what’s new is that I am beginning to appreciate the hard situations that lead to the opportunity for these changes to take place. What’s more, I am beginning to recognize the maturity it takes to not allow myself those sins that facilitate a sense of superiority and not let the recognition of my sin deflate me.

So, Sam, why would I give it all up? Because God asked me to…yes…because this has become my home and I have a family here too…yes…because there is a purpose for me being here…yes…because I want to be in a place where I am tested, where the darkest parts of my heart are exposed and where I am brought to my knees, horrified by my own sin and depravity?…surprisingly…yes.