Weeping, Onambuda, Humility…

 

Jesus wept.

 

Jesus weeps.

 

As I survey the state of the world this morning, I hear Him, I feel His heart.  It’s been a sobering week, for no reason in particular, except just perhaps where we live and work.  I returned yesterday from a trip three hours from Shangalala offroad, through this completely drought-ridden land, to the village Onambuda (one very, very small dot on a large world canvas that is helpless to change while facing pain and suffering much worse than peaceful death).  The cows are deathly thin, the landscape is barren, and there is no water and no vegetation anywhere (except for an abundance of thorn-ridden trees and shrubs).  It is interesting what thrives (in the natural and in the spiritual) when there is no water to give life.  We worked into the night doing consults and giving vaccinations.  The people were as thin and desperate as their cows.  They have no options.  There is no work in the cities and Luanda (the capital, with half the population of the country) is turning into a Calcutta with all of the people seeking refuge and work where none is to be found in this marxist-talking, corrupt and extremely oil-wealthy government.

 

Jesus weeps.  A tough cattle man, about my age, from the interior, was innocently looking after his starving cows at night, seeking to lead them to anything to eat, and an unknown small animal charged him from the shadows and bit him in the ankle.  He brushed it off and carried on.  The wound healed and two months later he was brought in today, raving mad, drooling, screaming through the night, severely dehydrated and lashing out at all who love him.  Rabies has no cure and I had nothing to offer him except sedation (we have few meds) and an attempt at some peace for him and his loved ones in his last days.

 

Jesus weeps.  As we close our eyes to the majority of people suffering in the world, what occupies our superficial passions breaks His heart (the same predominate the conversations, FB and passions of most church-goers).  From our relentless pursuit of more, to our meaningless professional/college sports and music worship, to our idyllic celebrity fascination, to the adolescent political talk shows and personal sparring, to our navel-gazing self-help seeking and our escapist movie and TV industry…  to the sobering pervasive reality of the radical, worldwide injustice (very few satiated haves and so many, hungry have-nots), from the rampant sex slave and pornographic industry to the darkness and bondage of the ubiquitous american drug/party culture…  Multiple enemy groups in the country to our north using rape of thousands of beautiful, God-created-with-so-much-love women as a tool of terror as the human-human acts of hate on an individual and global scale still predominate our world, no less so than in “more primitive” times of “civilization”.

 

The hideous, murderous times of the “christian” “muslim” Crusades of the 1200s still continue today in many countries/regions, with neither side showing anything close to loving or trusting their respective god or fellow man.  “Christians” filled with hate toward those who worship Allah and muslims having the same hate toward those worshipping any god but their own.  Churches’ inability to work and walk together to serve the broken and hurting, paralyzed by our differences rather than being characterized by the love of one another that Jesus said would characterize HIS church.

 

The sacrifice of our own life, passion and all we hold dear, which marked the One we follow, is virtually nowhere seen in His church (we give from our abundant surplus).  The church perhaps has never been more insecure that it is today, like a teenager wanting it all while doing nothing (Is anything more simplistic and immature than, “bigger” and “more” is better?) trying to find its identity while rebelling against God’s wisdom and truth (found in a Person, not a book).

 

Jesus weeps.  To know Him is not to know the bible, obey Him, pray, etc.  To know Him is to walk with Him… in relationship… exchanging hearts.  To know Him is not salvation, transformation, peace and joy.  To know Him is to know Him, and be known.

 

He is not only ruling King, all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator, Provider, Yahweh, Messiah, Lord, Savior…  He weeps.  He gets angry.  Do we KNOW the One we claim to follow?  He said to weep with those who weep, because HE DOES.  He never asks of us anything that doesn’t characterize Himself.  He embraces, He loves, He rescues, He heals, He leads, He encourages… and… He weeps.  I don’t think He is weeping at what HE has done, but for those He dearly loves and those who are dearly hurting, for so many reasons, “just” and “unjust”.

 

A woman came to see me in Onambuda, the drought-stricken village we recently visited, and broke down crying as she shared how six of her seven children have died, all from different causes, and she was frightened for this, her last, who was ill.  My eyes were dry.  My Father’s were not.  Another woman followed and described how all four of her children had died and she wanted to have more but had not for several years.  She was forty.  As I thought of my oh-so-precious four, the sadness I felt for her almost caused me to walk out of the clinic.  I just couldn’t wrap my heart or mind around what she had lived for so long in this barren, difficult land.

 

I drove to and from (at 20 km/hr) with a nurse who lost friends, relatives and siblings in this country’s 30+ year civil war.  I can’t even imagine, but He knows every one.  He knows her intense ongoing hurt and loss.

 

Jesus weeps…

 

With all my bible knowledge about God, I will never know the sacrificial love demonstrated by two sets of parents (mom AND dad) who entered our clinic hut, wrestling their severely deficient, completely dependent, slobbering and flailing, 12 and 16 year old children who demanded their attention every moment, in this culture without water, floors, walls…  They have cared for these children with NO personal reward for all those days AND lightless nights.  The kids bit their parents, spit at others… yet were relatively clean, relatively well fed and clothed…  I had nothing to offer them, but watched them walk away knowing that I know so little of tested love in difficulty and hardship…

 

Our Father knows… and weeps.

 

Jesus looked at Jerusalem and saw most of the people He dearly loved choose to reject Him and his Father.  He wept.  He didn’t fix it.  He didn’t heal them.  He didn’t “call” them again or issue an emotional altar call with background music.  He didn’t sovereignly change them to be what He wanted them to be because He can.  He didn’t demonstrate His wrath.  He didn’t blame them.  He didn’t build a seeker church or improve His worship band.  He didn’t throw money at them.  He didn’t go hang out with his friends or watch TV.  He didn’t ignore the problem or the people…  He wept.

 

Then He lived with and among them and gave His life, all of it…  Where are His followers today who weep at pain and injustice outside of their own lives?  Where are the forsaken, abandoned lives living among them to join them and embrace them in their pain?  Where are my tears?

 

I fear that so many of us that claim to follow, obey, serve, worship, and love God, don’t know Him at all.  We worship a god of our own making, with our preferred characteristics chosen selectively from the bible, and we don’t know Him.

 

He is weeping today.  Do we have ears to hear?

 

After a very nice time around a fire with my sons, I went for a walk last night amongst the building-sized boulders and ancient baobab trees, under the millions of stars that have hung in their place for longer than I can imagine, and marveled at the beauty of a night sky without light interference.  The absolute majesty.  This world is so very, very beautiful and so very, very ugly.  I can’t wrap my understanding around it.  I can’t even try.  But I can weep…

 

I asked you to pray for my restless legs several months ago.  It is a condition that sounds rather benign, but could drive someone to consider suicide.  Soon after, my Mom just “happened” to talk to a friend who had the condition with similar severity and improved greatly while abstaining from gluten.  With a “Why not?” attitude, I gave it a try.  After several weeks, my struggle with restless legs during the day severely diminished.  I still need medication to calm the tremor for sleep, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to sit in a chair and have a conversation without pacing during the day (or to write this post at 5:00p – while sitting in a chair).  I even watched a movie with my family for the first time in years, in the evening.  It’s been now several months, and the change appears to be sticking.  It has been a long struggle…  A gluten-free, vegetarian diet has its challenges, but…

 

This causes me to consider the humility of God.  After Jesus healed, He often said, “Tell no one.”  Gluten?  A message through a woman to my Mom to me?  We often speak of God seeking glory, but I think it is just the opposite.  Jesus sure sought no glory, and He was the exact likeness of his Father.  He has glory and has no need to seek more.  His miracles are so common that we no longer even notice most of them (if WE don’t call for them OUR way).  He does most of His work in a hidden manner and in ways that no one or others receive credit and glory.  Are we like the One we claim to follow?

 

When He is glorified in OUR eyes, then OUR heart is in order, but He humbly avoids attention-seeking measures (as Jesus did), and in no way needs our attention or praise (worship and praise are for OUR health, not His!).  He actually prefers the background, the unseen, “hidden” from view.  I have experienced radical healing several times in my life (heart disease through stents and angioplasty, almost intolerable knee pain for years through total knee replacement, severe social anxiety disorder, restless leg syndrome, etc) and many of you have, as well.  Almost every time it was done in a manner in which the true Healer stayed hidden, except through eyes of faith.

 

The “healing” ministries of today have their emphasis completely backwards (their lifestyles and manner of ministry reveal their gods).  They say they are trying to bring God to center stage, but He doesn’t want to be there.  His heart is to use and build up someone else while He does His healing and helping, not to be “glorified”.  Most of His work today in the healing ministries is done by those who actually reject even His existence.  What humility!  Yet He uses them daily to do such beautiful work.  So much of God’s work (ALL good things come from Him) done in the world today, amidst all of the pain and suffering, (in governments, public health, aid programs, neighbor helping neighbor, etc) is done by people who often don’t know the Author of all that is good, because He remains unseen and hidden as a matter of preference.

 

Our God was not only radically humble when He came to earth through an ordinary, out of wedlock, morally corrupt teen birth in a feeding trough in a cave, and died a naked criminal, hung in public shame (even His resurrection was “hidden” to most), He remains radically humble today.  One day we will see His “glory” and majesty more clearly, but I will bet that, even then, He will remain far more humble than we imagine and will continually seek to serve, encourage and build up everyone else, even as every knee bows…

 

The humility of God.  We talk in the U.S. of christians being Jesus-like as evidence of our relationship with God.  Come to rural Angola and see humility and Jesus likeness, perhaps for the first time.

 

The local “preacher” gets up to give a message before the clinic day at Onambuda (to a completely illiterate and captive audience) and says the kingdom is about knowing and obeying the commandments of God.  Jesus weeps.

 

Which Jesus do you follow?  One calling you to abandonment of all else but Him, or one, comfortable idol, among many?  Is He still the same as when He walked the earth?  Where was His home, His church building, His second mule, his financial security plan, his political party, his golf game, his flat-screen, his favorite vacation spots (to rest)?   Where is your Jesus leading you?  To abandonment of your life or to more comfort, a better earthly life, a bigger ministry, a bigger name?

 

Or is your Jesus still weeping as He looks at a “Jerusalem” (world) unchanged after 2000 years of “christendom”?

 

4 comments

  1. Twapandula. I cried reading your post. We will be in Luanda 6/27 – 7/17 if you need anything from the states pleased email me. Blessings to your family.

  2. Tim

    Thanks for your insightful and challenging post. Love the details about life in Angola, although it is difficult for us to imagine. Your gift of writing brings us right there with you.

    We’ll be visitng Josh and Brin in July and August at PQQ, and feel so privileged to have been able to meet you and your family and many other people there who have broadened our understanding of the world and how we ought to live in it as followers of Jesus. They still speak highly of you, and we appreciate your keeping up with them as you are able.

    Tom

  3. As always, thank you brother.

    Here’s the North American alternative encapsulated in a quote from John Piper’s short biography of Charles Simeon, entitled “Brothers, we must not mind a little suffering.” In it Piper says, “One of the pervasive marks of our time is emotional fragility. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. Our committment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.”

    We have a lot to learn from our brothers in southern Angola.

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