I was talking to a fellow teacher here, and I told her that I thought there were two kinds of missionaries in this world. There’s the kind that is born with the intrinsic nature to follow Christ and spread the good news of his gospel far and wide, wherever they are led. And then there’s the second kind, which includes me. This is the kind of person that God looks at and says, “Yikes. I’m gonna have to ship this one off to a different country if I ever want them to learn anything.”
So whatever the reason, here we are back in Honduras. And it’s wonderful. It was so, so good to see friends and family over Christmas, and we’re missing them especially hard right now, but it’s also refreshing to be back at it. To see the students again, to visit Celaque again, to see our new friends here again (which aren’t so new anymore), to realize that maybe our Spanish is just a notch better than it was a few months ago, and to watch in amazement as our children grow and learn and play in an entirely different culture than we’re used to.
One of the new ways Sam loves to play is to take old food containers of various kinds (ketchup bottles, juice cartons) and fill them up with water from the hose… unfiltered water. Sometimes he likes to add some soap to the mixture and leave them sitting around. Yes, this is foreshadowing.
The other day, there was a juice carton sitting out on the kitchen counter. I lifted it up and felt something in it. Wondering how long it had been sitting out, I decided it would probably be fine to put it back in the fridge. Later that night, I had some chips and spicy salsa for a snack, but I had neglected to pour myself a drink. Needing something fast, I grabbed the juice carton out of the fridge and dumped a bunch of it into my mouth. I swallowed half of it immediately before noticing that something was amiss. This tasted less like juice than it did like soapy water. What to do? In another brilliant decision, I swallowed the other half. So far, no adverse effects, but I guess we’ll see.
Our expectations often let us down. When our expectations of relatively superficial things in the world get confused, we drink soapy bacteria water. When our expectations of other-worldly, eternal things get confused, the consequences can be devastating. It is absolutely critical in this life that we are aware of exactly where we put our faith and what expectations that sets for both this life and the next.
If you’ve been let down by your government or your leaders, it’s because you have some level of hope, trust, expectation, or faith in them. If you’ve been let down by a parent or a sibling or a child or a boss or a coworker or a mentor, the same is true. But if you feel as though you’ve been let down by God, that’s ok, but it’s different in this case… it’s just that he has something more to teach you.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this past week has shown that God has more to teach us all, regardless of what country we find ourselves in. The thoughtless words of the American president are disappointing and deplorable, to say the least, and the political situation in Honduras remains tense, with indications of continued unrest. If I were God, this certainly isn’t the way I would do things. But I drink soapy bacteria water, so I guess it’s a good thing I’m not God. Something tells me his plans are far better than any that I could put together myself.
And I’ve seen signs already that this is true. The initial political unrest in Honduras gave us an excellent setting in the classroom in which to discuss our need NOT to put our ultimate hope and faith in worldly leaders. The American president’s comments have again highlighted that and given me opportunities to have very transparent conversations with students… mutually beneficial conversations we may not have had otherwise. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Certainly not right now, but we are in the middle of an eternal story which is long from over. God is doing something we do not understand. He is using the negative of the world to build a path to redemption. We just have to acknowledge it and give in… in faith.
God doesn’t work like us. This isn’t just a way to try to explain the things of God that we don’t understand. It’s a real and defining characteristic of his divine nature. If we had to believe in him, there would be no room for faith. If he worked exactly the way we expected him to, there would be no room for awe. If he didn’t have to go on a long and arduous journey to seek us out, there would be no room for joy when we find each other.
Furthermore, the Christian life is a proactive one, not a reactive one. Constantly responding to all the negative inputs of the world is no way to live. It’s like only making decisions when a salesman comes to your door. When they present to you a problem you didn’t know you had so you’ll buy their product you didn’t know you needed, you’re being reactive. You’re missing all the beautiful and real moments in life when some outside force isn’t telling us about some new imaginary problem. There’s a better way. It’s allowing yourself to be informed by the goodness of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day. Then, when disappointing news comes along, it can’t gain a foothold in your life, because there’s no room for sadness to take over when your soul is filled with the peace and joy of Jesus.
So where do you put your ultimate faith? Do you put it in the words of your political leaders? Don’t. Do you put it in the actions of your fellow countrymen? Sooner or later, they will let you down. Do you put it in a guy who drinks soapy bacteria water? I sure hope not.
It’s ok to hope and expect and pray for your government, your countrymen, and your brothers and sisters, but it’s critical that we don’t put our ultimate faith in them. That must be reserved for Christ. That must be reserved for the one who laid down his life for us and would do it again, but doesn’t need to! It must be reserved for the one who loves us with his entire eternal being, who created us in this world just so we could share in his joy. Our faith must be poured out to the one who cradled us in his arms before we were even a thought in our mothers’ minds. Our heavenly father is there to give us his peace and joy in the face of anything and everything going on in our lives. He not only walked in our flesh and promises to be with us always, but he also experiences our difficulties with us, through the loving and powerful presence of his Holy Spirit.
There is no other God like him. Praise his holy name. May your ultimate faith rest in him alone.