I returned from a two-week trip to Zambia, Africa last Thursday. Entry back to life here is always a struggle and this time has been no different. It’s extremely hard to respond to the question, “So, how was your trip?” There is simply no way to answer it in a word or two. Words that come to mind, but are still insufficient: full, hard, alive, heartbreaking, stunning, prayerful. The best words I have found are not mine, but easily could have been, I nearly gasped when I read them:
Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.
Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, at 1-2.
I have written four or five red exclamation points next to this paragraph, multiple stars, and underlines. Nothing could be more true and it is not just the first time one visits, as Dowden says, it is every time. What I experienced in Zambia was the intensity of the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Each is present in every single moment, which is why the moments are too full to take in all at once. It’s almost like you have to turn away, take a breath, and return to the moment. God is in every moment and you know it with certainty.
This week what I desire most is that I don’t slide back into the wasteful wealth and time-pressed life that I left, but that I remember and embrace the essentials of existence, so:
I’m asking God to remind me of the essentials. Light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Life is not life without any one of these.
I’m bathing my life in Scripture. I haven’t reached a full understanding of this yet, but something about recognizing these essentials of existence is critical to living out God’s Word. Interaction with widows and orphans sparks this connection. James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) These always seemed like separate thoughts: 1) take care of orphans and widows; and 2) keep oneself from being polluted by the world. But, I’m beginning to see they are one thought. Each enables the other. It is no wonder James also wrote: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) I am dedicating more time to reflecting on and living Scripture.
What does your week look like?
How could you bathe your life in Scripture?