I don’t remember not knowing how to swim. My parents had me in the pool swimming before I could even crawl, much less walk. I’ve been lifeguarding for eleven years and teaching swimming for nearly five years.
But this month, I feel like I’m drowning.
Rainy season in Dar is over (thankfully!), but the storms have been pouring down. The moment I think I’ve managed to surface, another wave comes crashing down on my head and I’m being tossed in the surf, desperately praying for oxygen. Desperately praying for faith.
Its been a whirlwind few days. I moved (not settled, but moved) and now Amini is missing. I don’t know how to live life here without my dog…God, help me find my puppy.
God. You know I’m fighting to believe that You hear me. That You care about Amini. That I’m not alone in this. I know Your Word is true. I know You are good. I know You hear my prayers. But it just doesn’t feel like it…God, You alone know where my dog is…please bring her back to me alive. And soon. I can’t do this much longer.
She’s gone. Amini’s gone.
The pain’s intensity is already being dulled by time–and exhaustion. Lord, help me to learn to thank You even when I don’t understand, when life doesn’t make sense, when it seems like You don’t care and the worst possible thing has happened.
Eleven years ago, when my first dog, a black Labrador named Maggie, was hit by a car and killed, I had just finished memorizing Psalm 119 and I clung to verse 64 (“You are good and do good”) like a lifeline. At fifteen, my theology wasn’t great, but I knew one thing: that God was always good and always did good. And I knew He was in control. Interestingly enough, on a recent application, when asked to list three events that helped to shape me as the person I am today, this was one of the first things that came to mind. Its like a “standing stone” (A Life Overseas recently wrote about these in “Stones of Remembrance”).
Several years later, I was climbing Pike’s Peak in Colorado with a 103°F fever (one of the stupider things I’ve done). Until my recent experiences with malaria, dengue fever, and tropical bacterial infections, that was probably the sickest I had ever been–and I decided to climb a 14,000 foot mountain. Two things kept me going: (1) my brother Nathan, and (2) Psalms 121:1-2 and Isaiah 40:28-31. I don’t even remember having memorized those verses before the climb, but somehow they came to mind and I said them over and over and over again on the way up the mountain. “I lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help is from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…The Lord, the everlasting God, who does not faint or grow weary…those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles, will run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.” Over and over and over. They became the rhythm for my faltering steps. Another standing stone.
The cool thing about God is that He doesn’t change.
Now, in 2015, God is still good. He still does good. And He is still in charge.
And once again, He prepared me. For the last few months, I’ve been (very slowly) memorizing Romans 8. Towards the end of the chapter, Paul starts talking about hope, a word that’s been tattooed on my mind since January. Romans 8:24-25 explains that as Christians, we hope–not for what is seen, because that wouldn’t be hope at all, but for what is not seen. And so I prayed desperately for hope. And I remembered…”God you are good.” “I lift my eyes to the hills…my help is from the Lord.” “I’m so weary, but Lord you do not grow weary and You give strength.”
Last week, Pastor Jimmy spoke about storms in the life of the Christian. The message resonated with my storm-beaten soul, but when he made the statement that everyone was either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or going into the storm, I felt confident enough that I had regained my ability to tread water to say that I was coming out of the storm.
And then the next wave hit.
Mom and Dad aren’t coming. Not tomorrow. Maybe not at all. I’ve been looking forward to their visit for so long. Why? Lord, give grace.
Its not that I haven’t seen them relatively recently (Christmas), or won’t be home in ten days anyway, but I was looking forward to their visit sooooo much that the disappointment was enormous. There is still a chance they can come (prayers that Mom can get an emergency travel passport today so they can fly out Tuesday morning!!!), but again, I am fighting to hope for something that isn’t seen. And I’m not very patient. I keep checking my phone for news…though hesitantly, because what if its bad news again? Yet I know that even in this, God is good and God is in control. And this time, Job came to mind: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Its not easy to say. I want my parents to see this beautiful country where I live and work. I want to share life here with them. I want them to be able to enjoy a safari and to come to church with me and to visit the orphanage. But even if none of that can happen…God is still good.
The waves just keep crashing in and dragging me underwater. But each time, there is a lifeline. Each time, new standing stones are thrown to the bottom for me to stand on through the next wave. If this trend keeps on, I’ll have my own island pretty soon!