Monday, October 23, 2006

A Penny for Her Thoughts x 2

Renita Reed here. Bob keeps asking me to put my “two cents worth” into this publication, so here they are.

First Penny: Looking for Home
As many of you know, we sold our Grand Rapids home and the majority of our possessions when moving to Liberia.

After being here for fifteen months, and knowing that our ‘term’ is to be three-five years, it is inevitable that we begin to think about, “where next?” What will God have in store for us two years down the road? If we sense a call to stay here for five years, the question will be put off for another two years. But if not, how do we proceed? Bob and I occasionally will have conversations about this over our morning coffee on the porch. And we have come to the realization that no matter where we will end up, we may not have a place on this earth that will feel like home.

That anticipation of homelessness may surprise some, because after all, we have been here long enough to get adjusted, and we both come from deep roots in north central North America. Yet we cannot see being comfortable living in the US or Canada, nations of such great wealth when so many other live in staggering destitution. And we can’t seem to feel at home here, in a nation not our own, especially one with great needs that press in on every side. So, for right now, it is truly difficult to imagine a place on this earth that would feel like home.

We recall the Bible text that tells us this world is not our home, so maybe we are not supposed to feel at home anymore – our home is in the world to come.

Of course, we have no idea where God will lead us and what it will look like or feel like when we get there. We are open to His leading and in the meantime, trying not to think about it too much.

Another Penny, another Thought: The Bad News and the Good News
Those of you who know me know I’m a fairly driven person. I tend to have two predominant, repeating thoughts: “what do I need to do next” and “I’m not doing enough.” A major shift in this thinking happened in 1995, when I realized that I could never do enough to please God – I finally realized it was a free gift and the only thing that could reconcile me to Him was through the death and resurrection of His Son. So I stopped trying to earn my salvation and instead tried simply serving the Lord out of gratitude and love-- but still with the same two driving thoughts.

Now, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will always be in the company of the “What next?” question. But I really thought that coming to Liberia would take care of the “I’m not doing enough” mantra. Surely I would be doing enough if I immersed myself in the deep poverty and suffering of my Liberian neighbors. The bad news is that I discovered that in a world of overwhelming need, the feeling of not doing enough is actually multiplied. Imagine seeing teenage boys pleading with you to help them go to school, and having to tell them no because there’s just not enough money to help everyone. “Should we have given more?” Imagine saying no to mothers coming to you asking for help because they have no food, no bed, and poor shelter for their children. “Should we buy another mattress?” Imagine watching your next door neighbor and dear friend die from an illness treatable in the West. “Should we have tried harder to get him the help he needed?” I see more clearly that I can never do enough, and I feel it.

But that brings me to the good news. I have come to believe that it truly doesn’t matter where you live; there is kingdom work to be done. No matter where you go, you will find that there is more need than you are able to meet. People in need will be disappointed in you regardless of how selfless you may live your life, because it is not enough. That may not sound like good news, but it is. God is in charge here. He, for whatever reasons, allows the inequity, and the need, and the suffering. He allows me to know I cannot ever, ever do enough. That truth keeps me humble and keeps me going back to Him, reminding myself that He is in control – these are his children, and asking him to let me participate in His work as best I can, and then to rest in that.

I’m not too good at the resting part yet, but if I keep looking to him in the midst of “never enough,” I find myself able to join Him in a “spiritual breather” every now and then.

I’ll take that breather. It is better than the alternatives.
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1 comment:

Rain said...

Hi Renita (and crew),
I totally thought of you, and of this post in particular, when I was at a missionary personnel conference last month . . . they were talking about the decrease in long-term missionaries, and the fact that the "emerging" (ugh, I hate that word!) generation is not about the long-term planning . . . then one of the speakers said something that really struck me . . . about asking an African man "does Africa still need Westerners to come as missionaries?" The man replied, "yes, we still need missionaries. but we only need *one kind* of missionary." of course, the person asking was intrigued and said, "what kind is that?" to which the man replied, "The kind who will leave their bones here."

I thought of you and was in prayer for you and for your decision that whole day . . . of course, God can and will use you no matter WHERE you are, and who knows what He has next for you (although I'm totally convinced that Bob should write a book!), but something about that struck me . . .

of course, as someone who has lived in only two cities her entire life (and I am reluctant to ever move again because I don't LIKE having pieces of my heart in two different places), I'm probably not one to talk . . . but I am going to guess that it must mean "something" that you came to mind when the speaker said this . . . maybe it was that I had just recently read the post; maybe it was because I see you as people who have the potential to "leave your bones", or maybe it doesn't mean anything. I really am not all that worried about it, because I have seen your family take step after step of obedience, and I know that you will continue to obey WHATEVER He calls you to.

anyway, I just wanted to share that. Merry Christmas to you and your monkey . . .