The electricity was off (of course), and the heat was oppressive. We had no water, so my husband had gone to another neighborhood to fill 15 20-liter jugs with water before leaving for 2 (or 3…or 4…you can never be sure) days for another funeral. Any one of these by itself is annoying and inconvenient, but all of them on the same weekend felt personal.
I am much older than Alia Joy was when, as she describes in chapter 6 of Glorious Weakness, she felt the constant rain in Hawaii was a personal attack against her. Also, I was in that situation because I – not my parents – had chosen “to serve God in unconventional ways.”
Still, I took it personally. I wasn’t even doing what I had come here to do! And neither was my husband. It must have been the fourth funeral in his family in as many weeks. All of them took several days. It seemed that all he did that month was go to a funeral, come home and sleep for a few days, then go to another funeral. All I did was take care of the kids and the house. And that sweltering weekend – without power or water – even those simple tasks were more than I could accomplish.
I grumbled to God that if we’d stayed in the US, I could do all the same things I was doing, and have some time and energy leftover to be a good mom, have a good attitude, and do something for other people, too. As if the personal attack was the circumstances around me and not the conditions inside my own heart.
Alia Joy describes wrestling with God intensely as a teenager. When she almost attempted suicide, God filled her with inexplicable peace. She cried out to him, and to her surprise, he answered. She says, “When we wrestle with God, our faith is etched on our bones. It erases death and offers new life. It becomes personal. We name our altars to remember. There is no secondhand God and there is no secondhand faith.”
Wrestling with God, with where and what he’s called me to, with my own attitudes, is personal but it’s not a personal attack. I would like to say that I no longer fall into grumbling, offended at the entire universe (and especially God) that my life isn’t easier. With discipline it is possible! (So I would say.)
I wrestle daily. But I find that, as the Holy Spirit sanctifies me, I have more victories in living faithfully. Alia Joy says it this way: “Every day we walk in obedience or we don’t.”
This life I’m called to is not the exotic, exciting life we learned about as children at Wednesday night church, praying for cross-cultural workers on their birthdays. It’s surprisingly ordinary, with extra inconveniences sprinkled in like hot chilies.
In chapter 7, we read, “For me, calling doesn’t look like mountains being moved or seas parted. Most days it looks like a seed buried, ever changing from day to day but unnoticeable to everyone above ground.”
For me, it looks like Mt Kilimanjaro being shifted one shovelful at a time. It’s going to take a long time, but it is moving.
Alia Joy says that she wanted to change the world, but “never imagined that would start with me.” Whether we have idealistic aspirations to be world changers or we are a little more realistic, I think we can all agree that we follow Jesus and live by faith because we believe that it makes a difference. The difference – the change – starts within us.
What truths are you holding onto after reading these chapters? How do you wrestle with your sense of calling? I didn’t touch on the title of chapter 7 (Where Home Is). What does that stir up in you?
Here’s our schedule for the rest of the book:
November 12: Chapter 8
November 19: Chapter 9
November 26: Chapters 10 & 11