Hi friends! Today I am re-posting an entry I wrote almost exactly a year ago. It was so good for me to go back to this place and remember how God revealed Himself to me that day. I hope with all the tragedy flooding our news this week and whatever may be going on in your own life, that you will also be encouraged to trust in our sure and steadfast anchor.
Today I am wrecked. That’s really the best way to say it. A four-year-old girl died this morning. Her family lives in the farm workers’ compound next to us. These ladies have come to mean so much to me and I am becoming more and more passionate about seeing them live free in the Lord. It’s so hard. Cultural complexities, language barriers, race issues. Sometimes I wonder if they really believe how my heart loves them. Can they see past my skin? Do they know they are more than a “ministry project” to me?
This morning we received the news that this little girl, named Priscilla, had died. So we went to be with the family, love on them, and, yes, pray for a miracle. Here in Zambia it is tradition for the friends and family of the deceased to gather at the “funeral house”. They remove all the furniture from the main room and ladies sit on the floor, backs to the walls, all the way around the room, and mourn together. The men sit outside. I’ve been to funeral houses before, and it’s all seemed so foreign to me. I’ve always felt awkward walking into situations like that, mostly because I’m self-conscious about doing things wrong or offending people. I’ve been detached from their grief and I merely wondered at their solidarity. At the wailing that rises up from the soul of one and grows into a chorus of voices crying out in pain. I haven’t understood it.
As I think about it, deep down the awkwardness comes from the fact that I don’t understand this grief. I’ve never been there. I’ve never lost someone young, close to me. Here, it happens all the time. People die. Young people die. Children die. Babies die. One Zambian friend of ours actually told us that the reason they try to have so many children is because they expect to lose some! I have another friend who is the oldest of three remaining siblings out of seven. The other four had died along the way, along with their father. Death is very real here, but just because it is more common, does not mean it is easier to bear.
Though I have always struggled to relate, this time it was different for me. As I shuffled respectfully into the funeral house, I was crushed. I looked and saw the body of a beautiful child lying in the lap of a family friend. She looked like she was sleeping. I watched as the “Auntie” rubbed the little arms, gathered a cloth carefully around the body, and then covered her head. She knew exactly what she was doing. She’s done it before.
I looked into the eyes of all these ladies that have become so dear to me and my heart shattered. I went to my knees before them and wept. I was overwhelmed as I have never been before. The presence of God was so strong.
As the swell of wailing rose around me I began to understand it for the first time. It is raw and real. There is something so good and right about just crying out. And having those that love you cry out with you. No one told Priscilla’s mom to pull it together or maintain her dignity. They just cried out with her. One Auntie would gently squeeze her shoulder or touch her foot as she cried. I, too, put my hands on her feet and cried with her, and prayed for her asking the God of all comfort to hold her.
Then as the room quieted, a beautiful voice began to sing. And suddenly that small, concrete room was filled with the sound of harmonies lifted up to Jesus. It was one of the most exquisite things I’ve ever heard. God was there. That was when it rang in my ears again – this scripture that has been ever present in my mind and heart lately.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Hebrews 6:19 (NLT)
Jesus. In their pain, they sang to Jesus. He is our hope. Regardless of our skin color, nationality, economic status, or position, whether we have experienced great loss and suffering, or a life of relative ease, in Christ we have one anchor for our souls.
Being anchored we cannot be swept away.
When things are good and when troubles rise – no matter what comes in this life, this anchor of hope is sure and steadfast, strong and trustworthy. It will not break and it will not fail. I believe this with all that I am, and I live my entire life based on this fact.
Because Jesus has made a way for us to enter into the holy of holies, we can pass through the veil and right to the throne of the One who is Love and created us in love.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
Kneeling on that dirt floor I felt what it was like to come boldly before the throne. Really for the first time, my heart broke. And there it was put back together by the One who created it and has held it all along. There I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose. This is why I’m here. It’s not to make these ladies’ hardships go away. It’s not just to educate them and give them things. My purpose is to love them, to laugh with them, to grieve with them, to learn from them, and to share hope with them. To share Jesus. Jesus is our living hope. To reassure them that this is a strong and trustworthy anchor for their souls, even in the midst of lives of hardships I will never fully understand. Christ in them is all the hope they need.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27 (NIV)
We are called for such a time as this, dear friends. Will you join me in declaring your faith to those around you by walking out a life of hope?
Live Free. Live Loved.