Moving to Africa has definitely brought out the control freak in me. I like to think I give off that happy, go lucky, easy going vibe to most people, but the people that know me best have, of course, seen me at my worst. My mom would describe me as a perfectionist, and she has a point. This may have come from the hours I would spend on school projects to make sure they were the best and the satisfaction when report cards came out A, A, A, God forbid a B??!
Though I would again like to think I chilled out a bit in college, especially when I discovered the importance of catching up with my now husband over the phone for at least an hour each night was much more important than finishing my senior thesis. I mean, priorities!
But coming here has challenged my what-I-thought-was-chilled-out-perfectionist-need-for-control and brought out a whole new monster. It began with not being able to get a job within the first 5 minutes I landed in the country, continued with the feeling of being trapped in meaningless traffic, a sudden electricity crisis that happened in a moment and may last for years to come, and finally a broken fridge that is just not a priority for our landlord this month. Can you say rant? You may have your list of things that justify your need for control as well. As a human, I believe I am highly skilled in the art of justifying the nasty ways that I feel. But is that the point? Has my complaining and desire for control really gotten me anywhere?
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
I highly dislike this four-letter word, W-A-I-T, but it is so good. When we first got here, I attended a women’s Bible study and this was the theme with the story of Hannah in mind as she waited for God to give her a child like He did for her husband’s other wife. (Samuel) Waiting has absolutely nothing to do with control. Africa has taught me, though not by my own will, to wait.
We must wait for the power to come back on, for immigration to approve my work permit, for the adoption agency to find that paperwork my friends filed months ago. Many Africans have waiting down to a beautiful art, but I am still learning.
Just like we must sow, plant, water and wait for life to come out of the dust, so God is teaching us to be more like Himself as we wait and we seek and we finally find that the only answer is Him.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14
Waiting is a way to give up control and to choose the narrow way that God has called us to, but in many ways God has also been teaching me through experiencing lack in things that make me comfortable (electricity to run the fan when it’s 90 degrees outside) or things I feel entitled to (a refrigerator to store and keep my food), there is a narrow way to something more, or something better rather.
As we prepare to go back to the US this week and walk into the grocery store with so many different choices of our favorite things, will we feel like we have arrived? Will this wide gate of choices and possibilities compared to what we are used to be satisfying, or will we be praying a different prayer?
As follower of Christ, we are all called to the narrow way. It sounds so nice and selective, but it’s also counter-intuitive. Choosing the narrow way could in fact look like something very unattractive in a world that seeks options that are endless and open ideas about everything which may result to nothing in the end.
Moving to Zambia has forced my husband and I into a narrow way of sorts. God has used it to strip us away from our culture of people who understand and think similarly to us. Here we are keenly away that we aren’t entitled to a job, electricity, and the control that is so easy for me to worship.
The wide way for me looks like the days that I struggle through each moment wishing each obstacle away, determined to have what I want when I want it throughout my day. It looks like me picturing myself coming home early and preparing that recipe I found on the Pioneer woman recipe. But I am forced into the narrow way of a surprise evening where the power is out for 12 hours instead of 8 and we are forced to have tacos again for dinner.
Certainly there are much worse things to be forced into. But after being forced into a narrow way of sorts, I am challenged to become more intentional about it. Beyond what is taken from me that is out of my control, where in my life is God also calling me to intentionally scale back?
When I am frustrated by my sin, determined by my desire to control it and get rid of it myself, God has called me to turn to Him. Choosing the narrow way here looks like turning to God and asking Him to heal me rather than brainstorming ways to heal myself. I am so good at dreaming up an ideal situation for myself when the options are wide and anything is possible. But maybe I am called to sit and be right where I am. I must ask God to narrow the options, to show me His way instead of trying to control my own.
What does your narrow way look like? Where is God asking you to strip away some options in order to find the one true option? How are you called to lose control, and surrender to the One who controls it all anyways?
May we find peace in the narrow way this week.