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.