Thursday, February 12, 2015

rejected visas, a night in a township & a crying baby

I had just gotten out of my air-conditionless car, aggravated and stressed by the heat and pressure for time. I was in line at the post office - again - attempting to send off my second South African police clearance for my visa application.

The woman at the counter looked at me nonchalantly, completely disregarding any request I had with a few words that left me even more frustrated. "We're on strike. All over the country."

"For how long?" I asked. She shrugged her shoulders.

I headed back to my boiling hot car and I could feel the cool tears welling up in my eyes. In the past few years my heart had grown extremely fond of South Africa, and the thought of leaving my new home left me feeling overwhelmed.

Months later, and that same police clearance was still unapologetically late. I had no control over the situation, and I began to question what God wanted for the future. I started fighting between faith and fear, and my doubts left me with one main question that influenced everything.

"God, are You good?"

It was the first afternoon I had visited this specific township, and I ended up staying the night.

Just hours before we were singing and praying and asking that God would reveal Himself in truth to the people in the community. Praying that peoples lives would be changed radically in light of the Father's love and grace extended to them.

That night I found myself in and out of sleep, nervous about the possibilities the night could hold. There was a window right above the bed I laid on, and it felt like I could hear every noise in the neighbourhood. I was overwhelmed with the realities this community faced - poverty, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, broken marriages and families, rape, theft, unemployment, ancestral worship, witch doctors, and so on.

Normal, daily, reality.

I laid there, my head full of various thoughts and questions.

"God, are You truly good?"

How often do we determine God's goodness and love for us based on the circumstances around us? There is something about the human heart that attempts to evaluate God's goodness by what we see, experience and have. Our flesh grasps for understanding, but we use the wrong measure.

We cannot judge God, who is transcendent and other-worldly, by our human logic, emotion, or experience. He is who He says He is. He is God: holy, just, perfect, sovereign, good, loving and compassionate.

We desperately need to understand our circumstances in light of a loving and good Creator. God promises us to work all things together for our good and ultimately His glory. We need to remember that our lives are made to display His grace and mercy despite our circumstances. We are His beloved children. 

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

It was another normal Saturday in one of the townships: playing games, building relationships, singing songs and being called umlungu (white person) repeatedly. One of the younger girls brought her little sister along and at one point the baby just wouldn't stop crying. The leaders were a bit worried but weren't sure what to do - she was crying like she was in pain. We all tried to help. She went from one leader to the other, and when she put her arms out toward me I gladly held her.

She cried and cried and cried. All I knew to do was to hold her as close as possible and to rock and pat her into a soothing rhythm. I sang and bounced, and she grabbed onto me. She quieted, she calmed, and she finally slept.

In that moment, my heart swelled with love for the small child in my arms. That child was a stranger to me, foreign. Yet I – a broken, messed up human being – felt so much love for her. 

How much more does our perfect heavenly Father love us?

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

If nothing in this life goes as we plan and if we are burdened with suffering until our last day – He is still good and His grace is more than sufficient for us simply because He is God. 

Our lives will change radically and our hearts will be rooted in hope when we deeply understand that God is good and God is for us and that ultimately God is enough. 

He loves us. 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child that she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands, your walls are ever before Me. Isaiah 49:15 - 16