Archive | March 2011

Questions of Faith


For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. ~ Ephesians 6:15

Life is never what we expect it to be. We float through life never realising the danger that lurked around the corner that we just missed, never thinking as we leave the house in the morning that we might never make it home again. Yet, so many leave their homes and never make it to where they were going let alone make it back home. A routine checkup turns into an indefinite hospital stay for others. Some sleep with clothes ironed and laid out for the next morning, to-do-lists and appointments set for the next day and then, with no forewarning whatsoever, just never wake up.

One of the sad realities of being separated from your family and those you love is the constant fear of that call you are about to answer being bad news. Without even realising just how tense you were, you breathe a hectic sigh of relief when you are greeted by a lively, warm voice on the other end that reassures you that everything is ok. Yes you trust in the Lord and you pray to Him to keep your loved ones safe but then sometimes you wonder if that is enough. Did that fragile young child who has just become an orphan because her parents got killed in a random act of violence just didn’t pray enough?  Did the twenty-two year old who’s just died of cancer, never experiencing the joy of independence and the fulfilment of a life well lived die because they did not believe in God’s promises? So many questions pop into mind and if you were to try answer them all you would surely get nowhere.

My life has been filled with so much sadness and tragedy lately leaving me pondering so many questions of faith. To be clear, I do not question my faith, my hope remains firmly implanted in the Lord. I do not ask, “where is God” but rather, “what have we done Lord? What have we done to make you so angry that You allow us to continue to live in this barren wasteland?” My heart breaks when I think of all the pain, the hatred and the sheer evil that seems to consuming this world one heart at a time. What makes a man molest a vulnerable little girl over and over and over again, in school no less? What gives people the heart and the courage to plot and kill church leaders? Why are so many walking amongst us declaring to be Christians, declaring to be godly and yet unleash hatred and cruelty at every chance they get? Is this the life we are destined to live?

In as much as we live in discouraging times  I do not believe it is time to lose hope in humanity and in life. If God, knowing all He knows about each and every one of us, knowing our hearts’ desires, the evil and sin that lurks in us still has faith in us and undying love for us, why should we despair? I believe the Bible when it says, “His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.” I believe in the promise that “those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Which is why I get almost furious with the things that happen in my life. I find myself asking Him, “how it is that I dwell in Your house and yet still I find myself uneasy, surrounded darkness and serpents?” This is where the questions just multiply and then, without warning yet almost always on que, the battle of scriptures ensues in my mind. First witness for the prosecution is Exodus 20:5 which reminds me of God’s stern warning that “(He) will lay the sins of the parents upon their children; entire family is affected, even children in the third and fourth generations.” To which, almost callously I ask, “wait a minute Lord, what happened to nothing can ever separate us from Christ’s love?” Then of course, in an effort to prove that I did not just make this up and to point it out to Him and say, “see, see, You did say it!”  I storm to fetch my Bible, flip to Romans 8:35 and as I read it I feel the rays of God’s smile on me. I feel Him laughing at me saying, “Gotcha!”

As much as I would like to believe that Paul put his pen down at that point and declared us inseparable from God’s love and thus never having to suffer anything(which admittedly is how I read it). There are still four and half verses left in the chapter. Seven chapters till the end of the book of Romans. Twenty-one books till the end of the Bible. So sheepishly I go on to read, “Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us!”

After allowing these words to simmer in my mind a while, the words of my favourite Psalms start coming into focus like a train appearing in the distance, just a flicker at first before full brightness and clarity. Psalm 42 is very dear to my heart because so many times I, like the psalmist, feel exiled to the land of the forgotten. The land where you have only your tears, heartache and longing for days gone past to keep you company. I too, feel like God has turned His face from me. As if refuses to look my way let alone smile His favour upon me. The psalmist puts so eloquently what I find myself grappling with far too many times; the longing to be with God and be in His presence instead of what feels like exile in a corrupt, rotten land, the heartbreak and tears that come with remembering the good times and most of all the enemy taunting you and adding to the feelings of abandonment.  I love this Psalm because even in the midst of all that depression, he says, “Yet I will praise Him, my Saviour and God.” This always gives me courage because it reminds me that because His mercies are new every morning, He will once again bring back the happiness I once knew.

It has taken me a while to learn that not all questions of faith mean you are questioning your faith. It has taken a lot of training to learn scriptures that will enable me to answer my questions when they do arise. I did not absorb from reading Ephesians 6:15 once just how much the Bible prepares you for. In as much as I get extremely frustrated that I cannot recall scriptures verbatim, I have come to realise what a blessing that is. It is because my memory fails me that I find myself constantly referring to my Bible and whenever I open it I never just read one verse, I find myself reading others as well which bring fresh and also renewed knowledge and understanding.

It is only now I realise and understand yes, Romans 8:35 is right. Trouble, hardship, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger and death cannot and should not separate us from the love of God. In these tough times, when everything seems sombre, we ask Him questions and to find answers we turn to His Word and there we find the truth and the peace that keeps us going because, “He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”

Advertisements

Unpaid Dues


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18

For the past few weeks I have been struggling to write, I have worked on two posts and abandoned them halfway because they just didn’t feel right or I just didn’t know what to say anymore. I have spent more time reflecting on my life these past two months than I have possibly in my entire life and it all boils down to me asking God, “Have I not paid my dues yet? I thought Edinburgh was about me getting a well deserved fresh start, one that is debt free?” For weeks I have gone back and forth with differing versions of these questions and I have not found a satisfactory answer. Well, until now that is.

I came to Edinburgh eager to learn, eager to gain valuable experience that would catapult my career when I eventually returned home. My stay here was supposed to be about building my relationship with God, serving Him and furthering His kingdom. Edinburgh was supposed to be the city where I finally found my happiness, where I was settled in my career, love life and finances. I didn’t care that I was forgoing a third of the salary I was worth at home. I didn’t care that I was giving up the title that I had earned after paying my dues through my five years of university, three years of training and two qualifying board exams to my name. I’d paid my dues and was ready for the next level. I’d worked hard to get to that point in my life and went through so much, had my decisions questioned by friends, colleagues and sadly family. Scotland was supposed to be the answer to my prayers, I was on the verge of my breakthrough. Life was about to get a whole lot better, easier and happier. So I thought.

It’s been three months, seven days and nine hours since I left the comfort of South African soil. It will be a month and ten days till I set foot on that soil again. I wonder though, do I have the strength and heart to get back on a plane and leave my home and come back here? Can I move on from the three months and particularly the last two? Will I able to see past the pain, the frustration, the self-doubt and the heartbreak that I have felt in the past two months? To be honest the answer to that question, which I ask myself more than twenty times in any given day, is probably not. Undoubtedly this  could be the answer to the question why I haven’t booked my flights home. Put simply, I still do not know with unwavering certainty whether I am buying a return or a one way ticket.

So what’s changed while I have been here? What is driving me away from the beauty of Edinburgh, with its picture-perfect old buildings, cobblestone streets, breathtaking views of the castle and city’s travel connectivity to Europe? It isn’t the strangeness of celebrating my birthday in the dead of winter when twenty-five of my past birthdays were in the glorious summer sun. It isn’t the bitter cold that had me wearing thermals, at least three layers of clothes, a scarf, thermal gloves and ear-muffs when I first arrived because in about a month that had been stripped down to just three layers when outside and two for indoors. It hasn’t been the loneliness and pain of being away from my family and my closest friends because firstly, I lived 1300km away from my family for five years and secondly thanks to BBM, Facebook, Skype and other technology, I speak to my at least two of my closest family members and friends every single day.  What has broken my spirit is this feeling that I am not supposed to be going through what I’m going through because I have already paid my dues.

Plans I made, expectations I had and visions of my life here, couldn’t be further from what I am experiencing now.  My heart really cannot understand why God, in all His mercy and love, would demand that I continue to pay a debt that I think I settled a long time ago. Surely after two major heart breaks and investing eight years in relationships that left me in devastation, I had earned more than the deafening silence that I come home to and the anguish of loneliness and longing for a companion? Surely with a total of eight years of training I had earned the right to not be made to feel like I don’t know what I am doing and not to be treated in a manner reminiscent of my second year of articles? It would certainly bother me less if I’d been put back a year, but two? Really? Does being part of one of approximately 26 000 professionals in South Africa with my title really buy me the ridiculous hours, the numerous nights crying out of sheer frustration of what I still needed to get through? Seeing as how hard I work for my money, how hard I worked in school and university so that I can get the scholarship to see me through university so that I can study and pass and become the professional I am today, do I now owe a debt to everyone else around me? Is it not enough that I am still paying off my debts incurred when I was still earning barely enough to get by? When will God look at me and say that I have paid my dues, I have endured enough it is time to lighten the load? I do not even ask that it be removed completely. I just ask for it to be a little lighter.

Today as I was entered my flat, it finally hit me….you can never say you have fully paid your dues and have earned the right to not go through a particular problem. Suffering in whatever way or form is part of the human experience and I don’t think it will end while we are on this earth. I am always in awe when I think of what Jesus was going through the last few hours before the crucifixion. What greater pain can there be than knowing you are about to die, a very painful and humiliating death? I cannot even start to comprehend what it must have taken for Him to finally say in Matthew 26:38, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…” What I find completely humbling and very admirable is that minutes later in Matthew 26:39 He says to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In as much as Jesus had the authority and ability to not go through the crucifixion and to be raised to heaven to be with His Father, He submitted Himself to His Father’s will and endured through and paid the ultimate debt for all of us.

I often have to remind myself that the Bible is not a multiple choice book, where you can pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe and more importantly what to obey and what not to obey.  Therefore I need to obey 2 Corinthians 4:17 and realise that not only are my problems light and momentary but they are doing the very important job of “achieving eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” I have often said in my posts that I would love to be like the two servants in the Parable of Talents in Matthew 25: 14-28 who pleased their master and used what they had been entrusted with wisely. To one day go home and have God say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” would be the ultimate eternal glory.

I now realise that I am very far from paying my dues and that I need to submit to God’s will as painful, hard and confusing as it might be at times. I never made the decision to come here alone. I consulted heavily with God and in my heart, when I wade past the confusion and frustration I still know that I am where He wants me to be. For that reason, though my vision may be blurred by tears and my heart riddled with many confusing emotions, I am going to focus my gaze on Him and being His good and faithful servant. That is a debt that is due, not to Him but to myself and will remain unpaid till the day I appear before Him to give an account of my life.