Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Learning (to be) Still

It's been a while since I've posted.  And quite frankly, I'm not sure where the time has gone!  It's hard to believe that October has come and gone and November is already upon us.  I can only imagine the beauty of Pennsylvania's Autumn as I continue to brave Niger's heat (but really, it hasn't been too bad).  November 1st marks three months of living in Niger!

And I'm still learning.

I thought I would have it down by now.  I was hoping I'd know more of the language, be a better teacher, settle into a routine.  I thought I'd miss home less and confidently invest more, and maybe even enjoy grocery shopping...

I had high expectations.  As if I had to "graduate" from transitioning to life in Niger.  As if I could ever reach a point in which I wouldn't need God anymore.  Of course I needed the Lord when I first got here - moving to Africa is a big change requiring a lot of grace!  But now?!  Why do I still feel so inadequate?  I tell myself that I shouldn't need God as much now...I'm more experienced and time says that I should be more independent, right?

Unmet self-proposed standards leave me feeling that I am not only disappointing myself, but God.  I get frustrated and disappointed and harden my heart; making it callous and numb to God's Words.
Yet, how can I respond to the Word of God, but by honoring it?  It is not enough to just read it or hear it.  I must put it into action.  And so I struggle daily.  I remember that God is my "daily Bread"  (Matthew 6:11, Proverbs 30:8).  Just as the Israelites were to gather enough manna off the ground for only that day, I am given just what I need one day at a time (Exodus 16:4).

And it is hard to remember that.  To be so completely and fully present that my mind is not preoccupied with the worries of what has happened and the concerns of what might happen, of what I didn't do yet and what I still have yet to do.  To put all of my weight in the now-moments.  To put God first in my heart through gratitude and relationship.  Letting go of time and energy by surrendering it to God in the form of a quick conversation with a co-worker, or a late night chat with a friend.

If God is really the most important relationship, shouldn't I act in obedience to His Word first and foremost?  Perhaps to others it looks like I am shirking my responsibilities, but only God knows what passes through one's heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

And here is the catch:  you must actually believe what you say.  This requires "preaching to your heart," a constant remembering, constant checking of motives, being conscientious of attitude, building an awareness of the Lord's presence and inviting Him into each moment.

And it is tiring - continually preaching the same truths to your heart, again and again.  But I'm learning that the Gospel never gets old.  And no matter how many times I have to learn and relearn a lesson, my dependence on God is the same.

Although I have lived in Niamey for 3 months now, it does not mean that I have suddenly learned and mastered all that God has been teaching me!  Quite the opposite.  I have been tested and failed.  And so here I am again.  Learning that God is ALL that I need (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Not fearing lack, because God is sufficient (Psalm 23:1).  Being filled by God, not for me, but for others (Mark 12:31, Philippians 2:3).  Prioritizing relationship over task (Mark 10:45).  Praying because I believe it is powerful (James 5:16). Continually checking my heart and my attitude again and again.

I'm learning that it's not about "doing devotions."  I can spend 3 hours every morning in God's Word, but in order to HONOR the Word of God, I must obey.  It is one's daily actions and thoughts that test faith.  I often measure my spiritual healthiness on the amount of time "I do my devotions."  And yet, shouldn't my entire day be a "devotion" to the Lord?  Shouldn't our lives be devoted to God ALL day, and not just for 20 minutes every morning?  Absolute surrender means every second, every thought, every decision.  God wants all of it.

God is first.  He must be enough.  My heart is content.

"You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you."  -Saint Augustine

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