December 14, 2015:
It’s been a tough time since coming back to Timu [where we lived in NE Uganda]. When we arrived, we found out our dog Fujo had been caught in a trap and now has a festering wound on his foreleg, with exposed bone and muscle – it is grotesque. I spent much of Saturday trying to figure out what to do, either treat him or kill him (but how? I say with a gun; the Ik, with no little scorn for my mercy, say by hanging). While trying to sort this out, three men showed up at our house right at lunchtime – how convenient….
We went to church yesterday; Amber too, because J is back from school, and he is the only person here we sense a degree of spiritual connection with. True to form, he delivered a powerful sermon…The service was three hours long, so we got home totally wiped out. For most of J’s sermon, there was a low-level buzz of inattentiveness and distraction. Then, at a certain moment, something uncanny happened: everyone in the building fell silent and dialed into what J was saying. It was an amazing thing to witness.
It was also interesting to reflect on the fact that God is at work here in Ikland quite apart from our direct or indirect involvement. What a change in perspective I now have. When we first came, I naively and arrogantly thought we would be at the center of any kind of Christian ministry happening here and maybe even be the ones initiating it (and taking credit for it)! How God has methodically and systematically disabused me of those pretenses! Not only have we not been at the center of what He’ doing but our very attempts to be so at various times have been routinely thwarted.
Some would say that’s bad, as surely it’s a work of the devil. But I don’t think so, unless indeed [indeed!], the ‘devil’ is a mere instrument of God in the world. A growing number of significant failures or ‘bad things’ in my life, which others interpret as lost spiritual battles, I see as very pivotal in directing the course of my life, which lends credence to my metaphysical theory that ‘evil’ is merely the leverage of ‘good’, and death the friction of life. Without the former, the latter could not advance. One cannot climb out of a well without pressing against the sides to gain leverage. One cannot sprint forward in a race without pushing down against some resistant surface.
The point is: our being ‘shut down’ in all the traditional types of missionary activities – while perhaps a direct effect of Satan (the ‘Adversary’) – has been precisely the stimulus needed to move us in new, creative directions: away from ‘professional Christian’ to ‘Christian professional’, away from ‘missions’ or ‘development work’ to something of a hybrid, etc. The Adversary has not defeated us. On the contrary: he’s undone our vain ambitions and unraveled our false identities. He has, in fact, served God’s purposes.