Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fasten your seat belts for Random thoughts: Nigeria, James and John Donne...:)

     Over the years we have learned so much from our international friends and one of the treasures of our lives is the many memories that we have acquired while we worked with young people from different nations.
      One memory came back to me in particular this morning as I was driving through rush hour traffic on a rain-sodden Tuesday morning.  One of our friends, a brilliant young woman from Nigeria, used to pray, "Thank you, Lord, that it was not our portion to wake up sick this morning or in the hospital or to wake up in poverty. Thank You, Lord, that we have gas for our cars and a roof over our heads and food for our tables.  May You go with us now, Lord, and cover us with the blood of your precious Son."
     It was a different way of praying for me and we all loved to hear her pray whenever we ended an evening together or started a new day with her.  While I don't think her family had ever known poverty, she had certainly seen a lot of it in her native land.  Also superstition and demon worship.  Also political and religious strife which has grown greater over time.
    One of the things that she said which has stayed with me throughout the years was actually a commentary on Americans in general.  She told us one evening that Americans were too casual about religion.  She went on to add that in her country, the supernatural was very real and no one doubted the existence of an invisible, spiritual world, a world with great power.
   Then she gave me examples of things she herself had seen.  For instance, if a woman had several miscarriages and she followed a tribal religion, she would eventually decide that evil spirits were causing her to lose the babies.  So the next time she had a miscarriage, she would mutilate the baby in some way - perhaps a burn mark on the baby's arm or a cut on the face.  Then, the next time she got pregnant, she would give birth to a healthy baby.. with the exact same markings on its body as the previous baby.  This baby would then be treated disdainfully, to show the evil spirits that the parents were not intimidated by them. And then the next child would be born healthy - no markings - and  treated well.
   When my friend and I discussed this, she had her Masters from Princeton and since has gone on to get her PhD from Penn State.   She was and is brilliant and has never been into tribal religions. But she had seen the example given above  and others like it.
   Basically what she was saying was this:  spiritual warfare is real.  People in her country know this - they see evidence of it all around them.  And as in any war, it's unwise to stand in the middle of the battle field because those people who are undecided or unconcerned will be among the first casualties.  She said most people in her country belonged to some religion and took it seriously because it was foolish not to.
   And this is exactly  what she did not see among the general populace here in the States.  Instead, she saw people ignoring the spiritual world entirely or dabbling in it, playing at church because it made them feel good or it was socially acceptable.
   I've been reading in James 1 and this verse has stayed with me over the past few days.  But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
   James goes on to say, If anyone thinks himself to be religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. (1:26)
   And at another point in the chapter, he says, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."  (1:17)
   I'm really not trying to preach to anyone; I'm totally not qualified and I know that. The fact is, as I've meditated on these passages and thought about my friend's practical yet strong faith, I have been extremely convicted. If I could, I would take back so many negative, gossipy things that I have said, especially at work down through the years.
  Thankful that I have the option of being serious about my faith.
  Thankful that God does allow do overs.
  Thankful for the book of James and for my dear friend from Nigeria.

[For my bookish friends :) this poem has also been on my mind!

"A Hymn to God the Father" by John Donne

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.]


    1 comment:

    1. how awful. another reason to spread God's word to all the nations