[subtitled//Mundane: Not Enough]
mun·dane /mənˈdān/ of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one: “the boundaries of the mundane world.”
Africa is just a continent. I say that because I had originally started this whole mess of words with, “Africa changed my life.” But it didn’t. Really, what changed me was not 36 hours of travel to another continent. The change that happened was because of the life I got to experience with people–looking out a window to see poverty & walking through it, having conversations that let me in to just a little bit of the incredible life stories of some truly hopeful people, & yes, in some ways the location was a part of change–but seeing others live life a different way–it confronted me with that fact that their living differently would change the way I would continue to live once I was back in my time zone. I’ve realized many things, but I think most importantly I realized how I lived in the mundane & by the end of this trip, I realized that my thoughts & my heart had made a radical change. The scope of my vision was broken wide open & my life encountered the overwhelming love of Christ in the last place I expected it to–my expectations were shattered in the most different & amazing experience of my life thus far.
That’s it, in one paragraph, about how I now feel now. I’ve been back for over a month & I am just beginning to completely understand what transpired. It has taken lots of quietness to realize that I have been totally wrecked by going to Uganda, but in the best way possible. So I’ve kinda already put the ending at the beginning, so we will keep working backwards.
Not in a lifetime of years had I ever consciously thought that I would go to Africa. But on May 31, I had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa for 14 days. I started what I affectionately have called my “journey to Jinja” & today I think was the day it finally hit me in full. All the things I had previously thought Africa would be like have been replaced with the actual experience. & that itself is the crazy thing. I went to Africa. It has been gradual, the processing of each & every moment that I experienced & so the whole time back has been this roller coaster ride of emotions–sadness, happiness, & total love for a place that was so unfamiliar but felt so much like home. It was not only a life changing experience but a lifestyle changing experience. It was one of those life experiences that went straight through my eyes, to my mind to be remembered & then settled right in my heart, where until now, it has remained quiet & reflective. Jinja, Uganda isn’t just in my heart though. It’s dust is still on my sandals, it’s people are in my heart & in my messages as we continue to keep in touch, & I think most importantly for my own life & heart–Africa was a giant spotlight, a huge finger, a neon sign, a giant booming voice that made it very evident to me exactly where I fail to acknowledge how much I have, how much has been provided, & how extremely privileged I am, even when I physically give in to the way of thinking that I need more things to be happy & fulfilled. It gave me awareness of things I had never been conscious of in my life & in the life of others. I would characterize myself as a middle class, educated, independent, young, white woman. Never, never have I ever been so aware of my skin color, gender, affluence, & opportunity as I finally did while standing in red dirt surrounded by people, very few who had EVER experienced what it meant to have enough. I keep thinking of this word awareness & wondering how I ever lived 20 years without thinking of others in the way I do now? How was I able to waste 20 years in the wrong mindset, the one where I thought I was in the middle of my own solar system? I have to say, that all too often, I give in to the idea that I don’t have enough. Which is ridiculous because I’m so blessed with family, education, health, & a home. Simple things that I have a newfound joy in. I find myself all too often putting myself into the attitude of “not enough.” Was I ever broken & ashamed when I walked around in Uganda–with shoes on my feet, clothes on my body, clean hair that had been shampooed & conditioned, with contacts that a doctor had prescribed me, with vaccines against yellow fever & medicine to fight malaria, & with a place to sleep at night,–with so many everyday things that I take for granted because I’m too busy focusing on the idea that I don’t or won’t ever have enough. I was ashamed to realize what a selfish person I am. Thinking that I don’t have enough was a thought definitely put into perspective when the house next to where you are staying has no roof. I realized that what I thought was necessary, wasn’t actually a necessity because I saw people living without it. That made me so aware of how I needed to come back & reprioritize the way I think & do things. I realized these things about myself: I am selfish, spoiled, & demanding–often wrongly confusing my wants for needs. I am given so many luxuries, that had I been asked about a month ago, I would not have categorized as “luxuries.” There were so many things that I undervalued & I made a few lists to put things into perspective for myself, & while they might not encompass everything, it’s a start & it reminds me that my reality isn’t the only reality that people live in.
Things I don’t actually need to physically live another day, but I have:
constant media/social media involvement
a house with a roof
Things that better my life|Things I take for granted:
clean, running water
a place to sleep
Things I have & can do that I had not consciously appreciated before & need to daily:
I can express myself freely through wearing whatever I want (i.e. pants).
Variety in Food–choices to eat whatever I want & whatever I feel like.
I can, as a woman, go places by myself where I live, & not feel out of place or have to take a man.
A country where I can travel freely wherever I want in all 50 states.
a clean kitchen with a refrigerator
walls that keep out insects, animals, & noise
I think there were so many things that I had never realized I had & took for granted. I knew I had food, but until I ate rice & beans for two solid weeks for lunch & dinner I never knew how thankful I should be for such variety. I never knew that water pressure makes your shower actually feel like it is making you clean. I never knew a lot of things & I let that make me demanding & selfish in my heart. Another thing I am very grateful for is family. Until I held orphans, not just little ones but ones my age, I wasn’t aware what I take for granted. I met many who were full of hope because even though they didn’t have earthly parents, their Abba Father was going to & had provided for them in miraculous ways. It wasn’t a partial trust in Him, it was an all in, everything, total attitude of– “I’m not going to make it to the next day, wouldn’t have made it until right now without You” faith in God. They live in the presence of God continually. They’re desperate for God. It was a lesson I could only completely learn when I fully understood & saw what it really meant to have God as the only one I could depend on & hope in. I needed to be taught that I rely on myself & too many people before I rely on God. I make it an afterthought while some live their life continually running after God because He is their past/present/future & their only hope. They put their faith in the Father because they KNOW that He is good & He is there & He provides. They run after God out of a place of brokenness because they know who it is that is going to make them whole. Instead, I’m guilty of trying to find other loves in my life that won’t fill that void–why do I insist on trying to be dependent on so many other things before running to God for what I know He will provide? I need that kind of dependence on my Creator. I needed that lesson. I needed the lesson that it can’t be a little bit of my heart or my life that I give to God. It’s an all or nothing kind of thing, & it’s so much more beautiful to be totally all in, no matter what.
I definitely feel guilty because of the freedoms I have had each & every day of my life. I have never had to experience the degree of religious persecution or live with the ramifications of a terrorizing & dictatorial government. I feel spoiled for having paved roads, because the overwhelming dust isn’t all over me & I don’t have to inhale it or feel it stuck to every exposed area of me. I feel extravagant to have clean water that doesn’t come from a bottle. For a million more little things, I feel so overwhelmed. I know there is no need to feel guilty, but still it’s there. By seeing those that didn’t have, it caused my heart to want to know why I thought I had to have more. Why does my heart want to live in that attitude of entitlement when I don’t deserve or give thanks for all that I do have? I definitely felt deep sorrow because where I have so much some have so little. So many sacrifice what I deem necessity just to make it to tomorrow & they are still faithful, hopeful, & thankful. But you know what the crazy thing is. I’ve talked about not enough, guilt, & sorrow–& the crazy thing is that the people I met, they don’t live their lives out of those places. I have so much & have to fight my own thoughts of not enough. But my African family, while they of course desire more, live out of a place of having enough & contentment. They are not weak, they help each other & they rely on Jesus. They worship Jesus, despite persecution that would’ve deterred lesser people from following Christ.They already live in a place where they believe God has & will provide, in His time & in His way. They are strong even though they should be weak. They don’t look at life with a grim outlook. They see the reality of what is around them & they fight to better it, but they also have this huge faith in the fact that God will provide. Such a foreign concept to America, in our instant gratification & fast paced way of life. We don’t wait. But I watched so many faithfully waiting, still waiting after years, on the provision of the Lord. Through it all they’ve learned something that took me being in another country & two more weeks to grasp–contentment & unabandoned belief in the provision of God. In a place surrounded with extreme poverty, outdated medical practices, & hopelessness, the incredible people I spent two weeks with poured into me. The church I was at fed me & the 28 others on my team & 200 pastors from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, & Kenya 2 times a day. They loved me, gave what they had, prayed for me, & poured into my life spending time with me & helping me understand them as I tried to explain myself. Each day I learned to appreciate a new thing. It might have seemed small to them, but what they did, said, & lived out spoke louder than many Western world experience I have had so far. They gave even when it probably hurt & they gave with joy. You hear so much about that, but I truly experienced it. It’s beautiful & life changing.
So welcome to my journey to Africa. There it was.
I had so many favorite moments on this trip that I’m gonna go ahead & categorize those 14 days as one huge God moment in my life that I never want to forget & I never want to slow fade back into the way I used to live my life. It’s been difficult, & I’d have to say I struggle everyday to keep the change going because I’m aware of what I used to do & what my old habits & attitutdes were. I fight against my old self. But I know I’m not going to give in and file this away as a good little trip I went on when I was 20. I’m making it an every day fight to realize that I can’t fall back & depend on things, but that I need to depend on One much greater than all the physical possessions I could ever own. I’m aware now. I’m glad to be home, I’m glad for a new experience that will make my life be full of better, bolder, God experiences. Because I firmly believe that sometimes we foolishly throw away the things God has for us & waste our time pursuing what the world offers, & as Frederick Buechner puts it, “we are fools if we do not live life as fully & bravely & beautifully as we can.” I wanna live a bold, brave, & beautiful life living out what God has for me.I don’t ever want to think again “This is not enough.” Because that’s a lie I allow myself to believe. What I want is the same desire to follow God when I don’t have enough, because I’m refusing to allow the mindset of my culture guide my heart. I don’t have my wants, but that’s ok, because I have what I need. The difference between wants & needs is clearer than ever now. I don’t want to slowly become used to my little piece of reality here in America, because my reality is much wider now & it involves many many people that I met in a small church on the edge of Lake Victoria, & I’m not forgetting what they taught me.
“All I require for life, God has given me, I know who I am,
I know who God says I am, What He says I am, Where He says I’m at, I know who I am. I live a life of favor because I know who I am. Take a look at me, I’m a wonder,
It doesn’t matter what you see now, Can you see His glory? Because I know who I am”
Imagine a group of people, Americans, Ugandans, Rwandans, Kenyans, and Burundians singing this song. I can’t explain adequately how beautiful it was to experience the revelation of so many people, some who have nothing, sing about how God sees them. Because in life, no one sees them as important. No one sees them as worthy. No one takes the time to love them with a Father’s love. I can’t explain what all Africa meant to me, but I’ll tell you this, I got to see beyond the physical–beyond clothes, beyond skin, beyond physical lack & see the body of Jesus worship like it was made to. Imagine looking & seeing what God sees. That’s what I want to see now. Because I know who I am, & who I am isn’t defined by my gender, my color of skin, my education, my abilities, or my failures. Because who I am is a beloved child of the greatest Father there is. & I’m so blessed to have the greatest, most beautiful people from half way across the world who taught me what it means to be fully abandoned in my walk with the Lord. It’s scary, it’s intimidating, it shakes you to the core, it changes the way you live. It’s sadness, illness, death, poverty, real life issues, & it may mean hardships beyond what you can imagine but that doesn’t outweigh the faithfulness of God. HOW CRAZY IS THAT? God’s faithfulness to them isn’t optional or just one day a week to them, it’s reality & it’s life, & they live in the presence of God, with only themselves to offer, & it’s such a picture of Heaven. It doesn’t change Him, circumstances have never changed Him, but it changes you. It changed me.
It was the best kind of different [to steal a phrase from my mother] to experience the more than enough, the beyond mundane of Jesus, & that’s what happened in Jinja, Uganda on the edge of Lake Victoria, in a simply built church with genuine people, I experienced the overwhelming love of God that wasn’t based on me or what I had to offer, because what I have or any of us have doesn’t matter to Him. It wasn’t in my comfort zone. It wasn’t even in my hemisphere, my time zone, or my country. It wasn’t about what I had or where I was. Where I was or where I’m at isn’t ever a boundary that has to be overcome. It was in God’s timing in God’s place. I experienced Jesus with my family, biological & spiritual, in Africa & it clicked for me. It’s not about right now. It’s not what I have. It’s not about me. It’s about stepping forward & saying “I think I need to go to Africa” & then letting God encounter you in the most awesome experiences of your whole life. I’m broken. & you know what? That’s ok–because I needed fixing & still do. I’m awestruck by the love of God, because it’s not just for me. It’s for everyone, regardless of age, regardless of who they have followed before, regardless of what they’ve put in their lives other than Jesus, or what they long for, or the worldly things they run after. Because I saw Muslims turning their lives over to Jesus even though it would mean being thrown out by their family, I saw God supernaturally provide for windows & their children when they had nothing & nowhere to go, I saw Him become the Father of orphans, release prisoners from their physical & spiritual captivity, I saw Jesus break down barriers & plant seeds & I saw love fix the brokenness of people, of me, & of this world. I needed that. I’m thankful for that. & I’m desperate for that. I was taught so much when I meant to be the one teaching. & it truly was an experience where I went to give & I feel like I received abundantly more. I prayed for people, & it made me aware of my heart issues. I held children & realized that I was so loved. I was friends with people for 14 days & it felt like family. I entered in as a stranger & left as a sister & daughter. I am not even capable of writing it all here, but believe me, it was good. It was a God thing, from beginning to end & beyond the end.
May I never stop being a lover of His presence & may I never fall back into that feeling of not enough–because I have more than enough in the One who is more than I will ever need. The God of Africa & America & of all the world has changed my life with His people & His love–what more could I hope to long for than a better & deeper understanding of Him? This is a journey that has just begun. I hope & pray that one day, God leads me back to Africa, because I gained a new part of myself there. It was a lost part that I needed, & a part that showed me it wasn’t about how much I could do, but how much God has already done & how much He is still gonna do. I’m so thankful. & I know God’s not done yet, because I wasn’t even fully aware of His beginning as He slowly pushed me to go on a trip I hadn’t even planned on going on.
Africa was only the beginning of a whole new God moment in my life, in my family’s life, & in the rest of our lives as we come back to our normal that seems not so normal anymore. I am again experiencing the everyday mundane that seems so different now & I’m trying to keep what I experienced 7,000 miles away not only in my heart & head but out in my day to day life, words, & actions. I’m living like I’m in Africa, because it broke me & changed my life. I’ve never been so happy to be so broken. I’m glad for Africa & for gaining a dear new friends & family. I’m thankful God provided for me & let my path cross with so many exceptional people who love Him with incredible passion & faith that leads them to the unknown, where all they have is Jesus. I’m grateful for the mundane things that highlight the heavenly things & thrust me into an unknown & new life as I consider what I am going do & where I am to go. I hope that one day I’ll go back, but for now my heart is forever impressed with the life moments I had in Jinja, Uganda & my life is never ever going to be the same, ever.
The mundane is no longer enough.