Categories
Beauty Choices Contempt Journey Motives Rejection

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

_________________________

For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Categories
Contempt Courage Despair Destiny Dreams Faithfulness Forgiveness

From The Pit To The Palace

Apologies for the inactive link in the last post! The link is now working!

Today I’m connecting with our podcast, Africa & Beyond, so you can enjoy this amazing message that Jamie has been sharing with our church in Blantyre, Malawi.

It may seem life has settled into a pit or a prison – but be encouraged, there’s a palace in the future!

You can hear the message by clicking the link below.

https://leakpeters.podbean.com/e/from-the-pit-to-the-palace-1517497315/

Categories
Easter Endurance Grief Missionary Missions Rejection Sorrow

Love Puts Us At Risk

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Why?

That’s the $64,000.00 question whose answer has evaded those asking it generation after generation. Everyone wants to know “why” something happened in order to escape the pain of the experience. If we could know why, perhaps we could avoid the suffering.

Ours is a world that goes to great lengths to avoid pain; no one likes to experience pain. Why experience it when it can be avoided?

Some of life’s greatest experiences put us in the direct path of pain. Who wants to experience the death of loved ones or the pain of loved ones moving far away? If we fear pain to the point of avoiding its very appearance, we rob ourselves of the joy that accompanies living.

Like you, I have had my fair shake of painful experiences. I wish that I could have avoided those times, but there are moments in life when one can’t avoid pain. When my mother passed away in 2008, I wasn’t able to get back from Africa in time to see her before she died. In our last conversation we had just 3 days before her passing, she said to me on the phone, “I’ll get through this.” The next day she slipped into a coma and was gone 2 days later. How I regretted not seeing her one more time before she left us. The pain of her passing was bad enough, the pain of not being with her to say goodbye was another ache I wish I could’ve avoided.

When my brother Matthew was near death 3 years ago, I remembered missing being by mom’s bedside – I promised myself to be with him every minute I possibly could. I have lived away from my family for so long as a missionary in Africa, I wondered if I would even be needed. As Matthew’s home going drew ever closer, he made it known to me he was glad I was around. The most precious memory I have of those horrible days in the hospital was when he asked me, “You’re not leaving, are you?” My reply was, “No, I’m right here.” As painful as that experience was, I don’t regret going through it. I chose to be there and I’m so glad I did.

When war erupted in Burundi, we chose not to leave. Would we have been wrong for leaving? I don’t think so, but we chose to stay with the church members who we had grown to love. It was a 9-year season of painful experiences, watching the nation we had grown to love suffer in great pain. At the end of that season, we chose to move on to start all over again and plant another church. Leaving was very hard; it would have been easier if we hadn’t grown to love the people so much.

Love puts us at risk.

Now imagine Jesus. He willingly took the risk of loving us when we were unlovable. He, our Elder Brother (Romans 8:29) could have chosen not to risk rejection, misunderstanding, and death at the hands of those He came to save. Willingly, He put Himself in the path of unimaginable pain and sorrow – but He did so because He considered the outcome to be worth it.

When I ponder the fact that He thinks of me as worth His death, I am overcome with wonder. Wonder over how I could have been worth everything He went through, but He reckons I am worth it. He risked it all for me because He loves me.

I’ve heard it said the measure of pain we feel at the loss of someone we love is the measure of the love we have for them. Jesus felt great pain; His was a greater loss than we can imagine for not only did He experience physical death (Matthew 27:50), He experienced the absence of His Father’s presence Who had never been apart from Him until the moment He was crucified (Matthew 27:46). He experienced total and complete abandonment and rejection, a spiritual death, so that we wouldn’t have to. Because of Him, we have the opportunity to receive the forgiveness and acceptance of a Father Whose love is boundless. Now it is up to us, what will we choose, to become a part of the family or remain estranged? The choice is ours for He wants us to become willing members of the family – not forced servants.

The pattern Jesus set for us in His sacrifice gives meaning to the pains we experience in life. Every pain, every scar, has it’s meaning. It may be that those reasons aren’t going to be revealed in our lifetime – but they certainly will be revealed in the lifetimes of those who will follow us. As a family, we have been reading the biography of Adoniram Judson (I highly recommend this book, click here to preview) and we have cried tears in reading of his lifelong journey. Who knew that his son, Edward Judson, would be the one to pen the following:

“Suffering and success go together, if you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered, if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.”

This is the wonder of the God we serve: He takes our pain and uses it as stepping-stones for those who come after us to succeed. How He does that is His miracle, but it is the pattern He set in place with His Son. His suffering has allowed us to experience the ultimate success: becoming part of His family.  His pain became our success and now, in turn, we can do the same.

 

_____________________________________

 

No Scar?

 

Hast thou no scar’

No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand’

I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,

I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,

———-

Hast thou no scar’

Hast thou no wound’

Yet I was wounded by the archers, spend,

Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent

By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:

———-

Hast thou no wound’

No wound, no scar’

Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,

And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;

But thine are whole: can he have followed far

Who has no wounds nor scar’

———-

Amy Carmichael, Missionary to India

 

 

Categories
Change Faith Hope

Marked by the Unremarkable

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I have been spending time lately thinking about our lives here in Africa. Maybe it’s my age; I find myself being increasingly introspective. Most of my adult life has now been spent here serving the people of this continent. What we have experienced, what we have felt, those we have met and grown to love, have all changed our understanding of how our lives were meant to be spent.

When we began our journey, we were young, full of energy and vision (we’re not as young but still have energy and vision) for the future. We knew we would “make a mark” on the world for our wonderful Lord! What we didn’t understand that this work would first make its mark on us.

Africa is a continent of great contradiction. Some of the most amazing sights in the world can be found here: from the pyramids of Egypt in North Africa, to Eastern Africa where one can see a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and then all the way to Table Mountain in South Africa. I’ve had the great blessing to see 2 of 3 – one day I will see the pyramids of Egypt. There are great riches here: from diamond mines in the DRC to amazing wildlife in Kenya. Then, there is the other side of this beautiful place, the contradictory side where immeasurable pain and poverty hold most of the population. Here in Malawi where I now live, recently listed as the world’s poorest nation[1], most of the population lives on an equivalent of about .62 cents per day. Infant mortality due to malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases eclipses anything experienced in the developed world[2]. What possible effect could we have in the face of a tsunami of hopelessness?

If money were the solution to Africa’s problems then after many generations of social work and donor grants all over the continent, things should be well on the way to being resolved. From our perspective of having worked at length with relief efforts here, we understand that the challenges we face here are much deeper than what can be seen in the desperate eyes of the hungry child or in the empty eyes of the child soldier. The heart of Africa has been attacked and has ravaged generations of people – how can a person who was raised to steal in order to eat be expected to hope for better things for the next generation? The challenge for them remains the same: when and where will be their next meal?

Children have borne the greater part of this unimaginable burden and all the while we wonder why things continue the way they have here. It’s no secret; if you want to cripple a nation, cripple her children with poverty, lack of education, lack of proper medical care, and the basic necessities of life such as security and running water. Most children here face hunger, little or no education, difficulty in obtaining basic medical care, access to potable water, and are insecure, they are often the object of child trafficking being sold into slavery often by friends or family members.

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Bujumbura, Burundi

Another contradiction in Africa is the inner and outer beauty of her people in the face of such pain. Some years ago when we served in the DRC (formerly Zaire), we would spend almost every Sunday speaking at different churches. The settings were rarely comfortable and easily accessed. I remember one Sunday in particular when we went to a church that was situated on a high hill that was accessible only by foot. We left the car a good distance from the church and made our way to the dilapidated building where we were given a warm welcome of hugs, smiles, and the best seats the place had to offer. There were hours (yes, hours) of different choir numbers followed by several speakers, the last one being my husband who preached his heart out. All the while, I struggled with a toddler on my lap and agonized over the fact that I forgot to bring water. When the very long meetings were over, we were ushered into a simple room in a mud brick house where a table was set and we were fed a meal along the lines of what those preparing the meal would eat only very occasionally. This scenario has been repeated many times over in the 30 some years I’ve lived here and it always amazes me – out of their deep poverty, they always find something beautiful to offer me.

Now, sitting here in my living room after a long workday, I am confronted once again with the thought, “What do you possibly have to offer that can help here?” Daily I see firsthand much of what I’ve described in the paragraphs above. I’ve battled with these thoughts often through the years – but I have to believe that the same God whose first disciples “turned the world upside down” still has the power to do the same (see Acts 17:6). He can still turn the world on its ear if He can find someone that He can work through (see Ezekiel 22:30) so here I am. I don’t have what great organizations have to offer, but they don’t have what I have. I carry within me the One who can bring true hope to an apparently hopeless situation.

Many years ago I committed to serving, to doing what I could with my husband here and we have been through wonderful, difficult, joyous, and excruciating times. We have seen churches born, children fed, clothed, and educated and we have seen many times when finances were so tight that our ability to help was extremely limited. We have lived through civil war and then experienced the hope when peace treaties were signed. The common denominator throughout all of those times, good and not so good, was the fact that God’s grace carried us through.

And here we are. Older, I don’t know how much wiser, but still hoping against hope for miracles together with those who dare to believe with us that God can and will work again. Knowing how impossible our situation is, that we have nothing, gives me courage for God takes nothing and makes miracles from it. So, we have decided to give Him our nothing and watch Him work.

I’ve been marked, you see, by what initially seems unremarkable. Africa, with all of her pain and suffering, has marked me and made me believe that miracles do come when we have the courage just to believe.

Take courage, if it seems as if you have nothing, then you are in the perfect place where God can work. Once we have nothing else to turn to, it seems we remember Him and He, in His love and grace, turns toward us and makes something from nothing.

[1] http://gazettereview.com/2016/06/top-10-poorest-countries-world/

[2] http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/malawi-life-expectancy http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/epidemiology/profiles/neonatal_child/mwi.pdf