Thursday, September 08, 2005

Perspectives of Pain

We breezed through the last village of the day, making many drops and liquidating most of our VCD inventory. As we circled around the back side of the village to rejoin the main road, Steve led us off the beaten trail into another bamboo forest, much like the one we had seen earlier.

I wondered where we were going, but before I could say anything, Steve stopped and began taking off his shoes. Worried that his feet would blister, he decided now was as good a time as any to take a break and doctor his tired toes. My feet felt fine at least as far as blisters go, so I let my pack fall to the ground and laid back, using it as a pillow while I waited for Steve.

The stalks in this forest were tall and thick. A cool breeze whispered through the tree tops, producing one of the most relaxing sounds I had ever heard in nature. When Steve hopped up to leave, I wanted to lie there and sleep. The rustling leaves, the faint creak of the stalks as they swayed in the wind, the sunlight dancing through the openings in the leafy canopy above meshed together to create the perfect environment for napping.

But Jesus said that we'd better not be caught sleeping when he returns, and there was yet work to be done, so I reluctantly arose from my shady spot and we ventured back onto the trail.

As I dragged my feet over the rocky path, they began to ache, and I began to question my ability to endure next four to five miles we had to walk back into the city. At college, I would run or play basketball once or twice a week, but those short spurts of endurance activity had not prepared me to walk 15 miles per day with a 30-pound pack weighing me down.

When I had chosen Route 4, I knew the road would be long and tough, but I also knew my heart had just the right balance of determination and dependence on God's strength. When my legs began to fail me, he held me up. After all, I was answering his call, and when he calls us to something, he inevitably provides the resources to complete the task.

Does this mean the pain in my legs and back was instantly taken away? No, quite the opposite actually. It may sound masochistic at first, but He actually gave me a heart that was focused on the suffering. He gave me his heart, helping me endure this little portion of suffering willingly in hopes that my efforts might reap eternal fruit.

Every time I complained, he lifted my eyes to the cross--to a new perspective unclouded by the fears of the world, untainted by the me-centered, God-wants-my-life-to-be-easier mentality we so often hear proclaimed from pulpits in the U.S. My load is light compared to the the Roman cross and the heap of sin that he carried up the hill called Golgotha. My feet may have been sore, but they had not been impaled by a nail. My heart was heavy, but the spiritual weight of his task forced the Son of God to his knees in anguish in Gethesemene.

Thanks Lord, I thought, for the privilege of walking down the road of sacrifice, however menial the sacrifice may be, for your sake. Forgive me for even thinking about comparing my pain to yours. Your power is made perfect in this weakness. Have your way in me and in these people. I am your ambassador. The one being sent cannot be greater than the Sender.