I know I’ve been rather facetious throughout these Kenya posts, telling you all of the funny and outrageous things that happened to us, but I do want to dedicate a post to the not so funny thing that happened on the trip.
Because while I know God was chuckling along with us, I know that He was surrounding us when things were thoroughly unfunny, which they sometimes were.
As any Christian worth his or her salt will tell you, when you’re trying to be about your Father’s business, you will most likely be attacked. You’re going to get tired. Hunger is going to strike. Your bones will start aching. Your muscles may spasm. No matter how many blankets you throw over yourself or how many layers you sleep in there may be mornings when you wake up chilled to the bone. You may have a perpetual headache.
Not only are we fighting against our humanity, but we’re battling against an enemy that would love nothing more than to see us fall and never get up. Sometimes he’ll crash into you like a ton of bricks, other times he’ll pick at you like a vulture. When you’re tired, hungry, and aching, he’ll bring a thought to mind. It may be a thought entirely unrelated to the task at hand, but the seed will plant, the roots will spring, and then you’ll have a tree of derision growing in your head.
He’s a personal enemy and he knows how to take you down.
Though my team had been preparing for spiritual warfare in the months leading up to our trip, I never thought that I would ever get attacked.
Famous last words, anyone?
It started very slowly. One morning I would wake up feeling cold and all day I wouldn’t be able to get warm. I wouldn’t sleep for two days. There would be no hot water when I went to take a shower. I would pick up a head cold. My anxiety would act up and I would spend the entire day in a state of perpetual fear. I would call home and no one would answer. The little things started to get to me. During the day I would make a conscious effort to be cheerful and encouraging, but while I laid awake in bed for the umpteenth night in a row, I would feel as though something were scratching at me. I would feel a continual gnawing, like I were a bone clamped in a dog’s mouth.
During our group devotionals, I would feel revived. I would feel fed and warm and I would know that all I had to do to shake the depression was to bring my worries to God.
Then the guilt would set in.
“You’re ruining the trip acting like this.”
“You’re so ungrateful. God brings you to this amazing place and all you can do is groan about hot water.”
“Could you be more selfish? Get over yourself!”
“A real Christian would never get upset about that.”
“How in the world did you think God called you to come here?”
And so instead of talking to God, I would put down my Bible and not say a word to him because I was sure he was disappointed in me.
The problem with that course of action was that I eventually hit a wall.
After two weeks of less than stellar sleep, I laid down in bed on our last night in Kenya and proceeded to cry hysterically.
I felt utterly hopeless as though there were absolutely no goodness in this wretched, wretched world. Tears enveloped my face, soaking into my pillow and hair, and I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything around me I was so blinded by grief. I felt homesick and heartsore. I felt abandoned. I felt like all the oxygen had been sucked from the room and I was slowly suffocating. For about ten minutes, I cried and cried while Tesia sat on the edge of my bed and prayed. When she left the room to get me some medicine, I stared at the ceiling and prayed my first honest prayer for the entire trip.
That was the only word that came to mind. That was the only word I could think of at that moment. That was the only word that seemed sincere. There are people who could have probably composed prayers that were more poetic, more loving, more devout than that one; however, “light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb.” I had been struck dumb by a heavy spirit. One word was all I had to give to my God. I honestly believe he was ok with that.
Maybe it’s some kind of coping mechanism or a side effect of the sleeping pill I had to take in order to get some rest that night, but I don’t have any other memories from after my prayer. When I awoke the next morning, I didn’t feel any lighter, there was no “alleluia” moment, but I didn’t feel the hopelessness I had been feeling for days. That alone was a blessing. Considering that Christianity is based in the idea of hope, despair, or the absence of hope, inflicts the greatest wound on the Christian spirit. We can live without food. We can get along without water. We can strive on without sleep, but deprive us of hope and we will break.
Some can continue on past their breaking points, but I’m not at all that type of person. I’m not very strong. When I break, I need God to put me back together again. I need him to take each piece and put it back into place. I need him to wrap me in bandages so I can heal. It usually takes a few days; a few days of talking about it together, a few moments where we sit together in silence, one or two instances when he says, “I was there once. I know what it feels like.”
When I’m back together and the wounds have finally healed, we compare scars.
His usually trump mine, but he doesn’t make a big deal about it.
If anything, he validates mine. He doesn’t deal in guilt. He doesn’t tell me to get over it, he takes my hand and leads me through it. My God is not the “go it alone” God. My God isn’t a crutch, he’s the legs I stand on. When I can’t fight anymore, when I’ve lost my battle, my God lays me down and lets me rest. He stills everything until I’ve found some peace. He unhooks my sword, takes off my helmet, removes my boots and tells me to be calm, because the war is won.