NOTE: Now I know, I often write light-hearted fun looks at our family life or travels. Those wonderful things are still very much a part of everyday life here. But so are difficult things. It’s just not true for me to only share the fun and easy. That’s not reality. So, if you would really rather read funny giraffe stories, just close this up right now and check back next week (I won’t take it personally). If you’re up for a picture of the other side of my reality, read away!
both the most wonderful
and the most difficult
place I have ever lived.
It’s a package deal.
There are very many wonderful things, but I have been at times overwhelmed by the severity of suffering and poverty and difficulty people face and wonder how I could ever ‘do enough’ to help. It is such a cliche of Africa. You have seen it many times before. Like many of you, I always want to do more than I really am able, and work to keep balance in our lives. There is still a gaping hole, an empty bucket thirsty with need. And I have only one drop to add.
My one drop is all I can give. I am finite. So I give my one drop with cheer and focus not on what seems lacking, the parched hole that remains, but on the drips. Drip, dripping their lovingcare into this immense desert of need. Drip. Drip. It is too heavy to walk carrying the constant burden of this empty bucket. Hopelessness takes you down. Thriving here means reveling in the drips, the droplets that together add up to something more. Hope. A rising water level. Their thirst will not last forever. It will be quenched.
These months here we have finally become acquainted with some of the families in our neighborhood community and 3 of those families have had a death to mourn in this new year. A young mother (my age, maybe not all that ‘young’ I’ll admit…) succumbed to tuberculosis, survived by 5 children. A beloved grandfather killed in a bad road accident. A father killed by a falling tree. The mourning process here is a 3-day community event. Close friends and family members sit with the bereaved day and night. African Traditional Religion says deceased ancestors are to be feared, and it is a heavy time for these families. The weight I carry is that somehow in my mind these deaths seem preventable, unjust.
So with these difficulties in the back of my mind, I was given music for Christmas that was just in time. There is a great temptation to see the empty bucket. To try with all we are and all we have to fill it up. Only to feel we have failed, give up and close our eyes.
Close your eyes.
Really it doesn’t exist.
And the lyrics of this song speak to that self-protective temptation to avoid heavy realities:
LIKE A LAKE by Sara Groves
Inspired by Lake Kivu and the people of Rwanda
so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril ’round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it
when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake.
standing at this water’s edge
looking in at God’s own heart
I’ve no idea where to begin
to swallow up the way things are
bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain ’til I am tried
when it’s over, bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the Grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can’t fake
wide open like a lake
I am fighting to stay open
open, wide open like a lake
Yes, these sufferings hurt.
But God’s Grace through Jesus Christ is deeper still.
There is incredible power in looking heavy realities in the face. Staring them down. Pouring grace on them. Heaping coals on their heads. Praise God heavy realities are not the end of the story. There is redemption. Drip. Drip. There is a peace that passes understanding – a peace that we can’t ‘fake’ – trusting in our God to sustain us, to guide us and our ‘one drop’, and trusting He will fill this empty bucket of need as only He can: perfectly. In the right way. At the right time. Drip.
On our trip last week we met 3 teenagers working hard under the noon sun to fix the potholes in their small-town country road. We asked them, “Why do you do this?” and they replied, “For our country.” Young people who care about their future, and are willing to work hard toward it? They were a huge encouragement to us. We are not the only ones with ‘one drop’ to give. Drip.
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:2-4
I’m one of those people who eats up music like food, savoring the best bits slowly and enjoying them over and over, especially with this artist, Sara Groves, who I had never heard before. There are many reasons I might enjoy her music. She writes it all herself, for one. Her lyrics really make me think for two, and she liberally uses the piano in her songs for three. She’s about my age, has two boys and a little girl, and campaigns for International Justice Mission‘s work in nearby Rwanda. If you want to listen to the above song, without buying the album (Fireflies & Songs), go here or here. Though, for the record, I highly recommend the album.