Sunday, March 05, 2006

Growing Old


“Seeing and not believing, hearing and not listening…”

Age has its benefits to be sure. I finally feel as though I am old enough to be taken seriously; although I have been serious my entire life. People approach me as though I actually might know something and have a few of life’s mysteries figured out.

But along with the bonuses of growing old gracefully, come the drawbacks of gravity. Your body doesn’t just snap back to place, there are noticeable changes all over the place, wrinkles, failing eyesight, loss of hearing, oh the list depresses me and adds a few more grey hairs!

Sunday was our Sabbath. The team decided to rest, reflect, and you may have guessed – sleep in. After nine hours of a very quiet night (no distant drum beats or faulty circuitry) I woke feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready for whatever this day, that the Lord had made, would bring.

I grabbed my Bible, my current reading book (Don Miller’s Searching for God knows What) my journal AND my magnifying glasses. Without them, it would be an exercise in frustration trying to adjust the distance to accommodate my failing vision.

I went out to the second story sun porch and sat. There is a comfortable breeze early in the morning and the sun has yet to bear down its relentless and debilitating heat; the humidity just enough to curl my hair.

I listened to the morning. The wind stroking the leaves of the fan palms, the rooster roused and ready to work better than the best alarm clock, the neighbor’s baby crying from hunger or who knows. The wind chimes distinct and unique daily melody, and the variety of birds, cooing and chirping. In other words, I heard the morning.

Back in the city, I am sure each “a.m.” carries a distinctive set of sounds. But I am not listening. I am busy hearing my internal list of things I need to get done, things I should get done, things I can’t get done, and things I just will not get done! It takes 22,000 miles to focus my listening. And in listening, back home I hear lots of arguments opposed to foreign missions. “We have poor here in America”: There are “lost” in our own backyard”: why do you have to spend thousands on airfare, when you could just send the money.”

All good reasoning aside, when I am at home, am I really “seeing” those problems? Do I really pay attention to my neighbor who is a Christian Scientist? And while I may be somewhat award of my own sins and short comings, are the folks making a case against my overseas focus doing anything about those backyard issues? Or do the arguments cancel out the need for action?

At the start of my performance, before a sea of a thousand black faces, I tell the children what I am about to share with them will make their eyes pop wide open. I take my hands and open my eyes extra wide (which they imitate). I say “Oh what you are about to see will make your mouth go like this” and I drop my lower jaw as low as it will go and stand with my mouth agape while they let loose peals of laughter. And last but not least, I tell the children their hands will go like this – as I clap wildly and dance around my makeshift stage.

Being removed from one’s spiritual and emotional comfort zone does make your eyes jump wide open. You see the “real” world. The way most people struggle, live, cope, earn a day’s wage, and have enough or not. There is the dust, the dirt, the tattered and torn clothes, no shoes, women washing dishes in filthy water, children squatting to relive themselves on a school yard, flies, lizards, and nakedness.

Your ears take in the noise. The sounds of nature, the cry of humanity, the despair of poverty, “madam, please something for my baby.” “Madam, please, please.”

To be sure there are sights and sounds and smells all around wherever we find ourselves. But somehow, God works to reveal Himself better; when we are far away from the ways we insolate our hearts; where the world is raw and its brokenness evident. He is able to show Himself working. He is here, He is alive and well. We have seen and heard Him in Ghana and He is happy we have joined Him here!

“And all the trees clapped their hands in praise.”