I've been dreading this entry; dreading what this post will mean, what I would be feeling when it would be written. My body aches as I am still recovering from a seven timezone jet-lag. My heart aches as a part of it has been broken off and left two hemispheres away, yet there is joy that I cannot describe. There is new found connection with brothers and sisters in Christ across this sphere that previously did not exist. I struggle to recall the spices in the South African and Swaziland air that are not present in the central part of this nation. My dreams are filled with small faces and red soil kicked up by arid winds and on those winds a song; "The Lord will bless someone today..." This is the painful process of re-entry and frankly, it hurts.
Last night I made my first venture out since my bride picked me up from the church where our team arrived home to meet their families on Sunday. The surreal process of simply going to Walmart to pick up supplies for my daughter's birthday party was alien. I felt like a man out of time as we walked through the store. Walking behind my family down aisles stacked and laden with every conceivable good and product that we don't need, listening to my youngest children plead for every treat and confection that we came across, I felt disconnected while simultaneously feeling tremendous thanksgiving and love for the blessing that they are to me.
Listening to them pine for candy, flavored yogurts, sweetened drinks, and candied cereals, the temptation was present to contrast them against the small ones I had just held just days previous on another continent. I quickly dismissed this as it was a useless path to follow and I realized I was now present in another world with only pieces of the previous world residing in me. Yet I now realize I am broken for this world, this American existence. I cannot continue forward in this life on the path I have previously known and this bears analysis and explanation.
Guilt is not present. There is no "children across the world don't have...." complex. I will not impose this on my own family either. This comparative is fruitless. It is the comparative that we, as Americans, have hardened ourselves against when we turn the channel during the commercials pleading for our $1 a day donation to feed children in foreign lands.
What is present is the knowledge of what it means to lay down your life for another. I now have some reckoning of the meaning of Jesus' words "If you want to gain your life, you must first lose it". I have seen it in action to the fullest. I have felt the joy of it. There is no more rich life than the life laid down for His service, for serving others, for saving others. This is our sum-total purpose on this sphere and it brings a rich joy that cannot be reproduced in a family vacation or purchased goods, or entertainments. It is the infusion of worth from yourself to another, a gift that somehow reciprocates to the giver as well as to the recipient. It is life-to-life, love-to-love. It is simply following Jesus' command found in John 15:12-13:
"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
Catch that? It's not a suggestion. It's not a good idea. It's not even a next step to a more fulfilled life. It's a command for every one of us; "the same way I have loved you". Jesus laid down everything of himself for every single one of us. He gave of himself for us. He sacrificed himself, put himself down, lost his life for each of us. He looks to us to follow. But the life we gain so far exceeds what we are laying down, the contrast is often difficult to describe. Those who have experienced this transformation often find themselves speaking to polite smiles and pleasant head nodding as they attempt to share the fire that now burns within.
This is the wreckage of realization that most people in our society, even within our churches simply acknowledge Jesus' words as good ideas without acknowledging Him as the Lord who is commanding obedience to follow His example. His love, grace and mercy are abundantly present as His spirit continues to plead with us to know Him, to follow Him, to lay ourselves down for Him. Our greatest potential and fulfillment is in Him, we were created by Him and for Him and only in Him will we ever know the fullness of joy and purpose. Yet somehow this idea doesn't translate to most and those who do capture it are at odds with a sin laden world.
I was speaking to one of my Swaziland team-mates and we were discussing how we were ever going to be able to tell the story of Ludlati and we came to the realization that we were never going to be able to fully tell it. That in the visiting of the care point, the holding of children, the greeting of the bomake, the rolling in the dirt with the small ones and the tears of seeing a mother next to her son's deathbed, we had within us a possession that could not be fully shared. We each possessed it, but we could not fully give it, no matter how much we desire to. This possession has changed us, wrecked our hearts for life. The encouragement in all of this is that ultimately, this is God's story. Because of the obedience to Jesus' command by others, I was able to witness and partake and God is breathing life into desolation.
But here is the great thing. Jesus' command does not require a visit to far off nations. I have the great gift of being able to walk out his command daily, right here in my home, in my work, in my day-to-day routine because my "routine" can be divinely appointed by God. We saw this time and time again as God continually had us crossing paths with people to whom we were able to witness to and tell about our Known To Me and Ludlati communities and the Word. Each of these were divine appointments whether they were the woman I sat next to on the flight who was coming back from AIDS assistance in the Bahamas or the man we stood next to in customs who was, likewise, on a mission trip to South Africa and with whom we rejoiced in God's work. God doesn't do "routine" and if we'll open ourselves to Jesus' command, He'll provide the opportunities for us to fulfill our destinies in Him. We'll know the richest, most joyful life imaginable.
Today I return to the "routine". Thankfully it promises to be anything but as I am so grateful for re-entry with a wrecked heart.