I Can’t

In my last post, I shared the story of the old Bendix washing machine by John Claypool.  His message to us was about learning to take the road of gratitude out of our sorrows.  Not to repress our sorrows, but to help us work through them in a healthy, God-honoring way.  And I must say that as we have returned to Indonesia, leaving behind our aging parents, newly born twin nephews, nieces and other nephews, brothers and sisters and dear friends, I have had opportunity to practice the road of gratitude.  I hope you have been able to practice it too.

As we arrived in Jakarta, the large concrete labyrinth that is Indonesia’s capital city, I was overcome by many emotions.  We pushed our baggage through the glass doors to exit the international terminal and were greeted by the thick blanket of humidity and the ripe, unpleasant odor of sewer.  That week Jakarta had been hit with severe flooding, probably giving rise to the sewer smell, we reasoned.  People began to stare at us.  Children shyly smiled, and then ducked away.  I had the sudden desire to be in an American Wal-Mart where I fit in and could covertly go about my own existence without being stared at.

We were reacquainted with the sight of Indonesians wearing the garb of Islam.  I once again noticed the prayer rooms tucked away by the public bathrooms in the airport.  I noticed a lady cutting in line, and frustration welled up within me.  “Lord, I don’t really like that part of this culture!” I confessed silently.  I sighed.  Yes, we were back.  Leaving all the comforts of America to live in a developing country once again. 

It was difficult without our phones activated to contact the hotel shuttle, but Dave managed to borrow someone’s phone and arranged for a pick-up.  It was after midnight in Jakarta, and because the flight to Papua leaves right before midnight we had to wait until the next day.  So, we tossed all our bags into the shuttle when it arrived, then hopped in and landed at the hotel within ten minutes.  We then proceeded to crash in the comfortable beds after our 25-hour travel experience.  I must say that there is something remarkably comforting about being able to lay down after sitting upright in an airplane seat for that many hours.

We slept in, and then arose to an overcast Sunday morning.  We wandered downstairs to eat breakfast at the hotel, then came back to our rooms and enjoyed a shower.  It felt very refreshing to be clean once again!

We decided to look for a video message we could watch in lieu of being at church and settled on a Turning Point message from Dr. David Jeremiah.  It was for the new year, about Psalm 1.  We watched Dr. Jeremiah preach from the behind the same pulpit where we had seen him in person for many weeks at Shadow Mountain Community Church.  It felt different to watch him on video rather than being in the large, comfortable sanctuary that had been so beautifully decorated for Christmas. We were far away from that now.

 He began to unpack Psalm 1, which speaks of the blessings on the one who avoids taking advice from the wicked, or participating in sinful behavior, but instead delights in the law of the Lord.  His message boiled down to the fact that none of us can live that kind of righteous life outside of Christ.

I was immediately relieved.  I realized that I was already struggling to love the people of this country (as evidenced by my rising frustration at the woman who had cut in line), and I was wondering how in the world I was going to muster up the strength to love them like I should.  But the sharp reality came crisply into focus that I can’t love the people of this country, but Christ in me can.  It’s not about somehow arousing my own love, but rather abiding in His.

Another wave of relief flooded over me as this truth settled in.  I didn’t have to do it in my own strength!  I couldn’t do it in my own strength.

Thank you, Lord, that we don’t have to live this life on our own.  Teach us to abide fully in Christ each day and allow Him to be strong in us.  Amen.

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