“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
– John 11:40
Yet another year has passed and I have wondered what this birthday would feel like not spending it in the land that I love. I look at this last year of my life as the months draw on and my life moves from being in less of a transition phase to this is my new normal. If you would have asked me a year ago where I would be standing today, what I would have imagined is nothing like how my life looks now: working part-time at Banana Republic, volunteering part-time for a mission organization, and living in my childhood bedroom isn’t quite where I thought God would lead. I would be lying to you if I said I did not feel like I have failed in many ways, and by the world’s standards I largely have.
But I look back at my heart before I stepped on that plane in 2018 (which seems like a lifetime ago), I look at it when I stepped off that plane last July, and I look at it now as I sit on my bed typing this and I realize how much my heart has changed over these last two years. The world seems so much dimmer now and the things that used to matter (a decent paying job, my own apartment, even a family) don’t really have the same appeal they once did. All my heart seems to long for these days is the love and light of the Lord and the continent I love.
I think back to my birthday last year. I knew I would be leaving Uganda in June and I prayed to God asking Him where He would send me next. His answer was simple, “Stay with me.” I still had no answer to that question when I came home last July and again I kept pleading, “Where will we go, Lord?” Still He softly whispered, “Do you trust me?”
I had no plans to put down roots here. I only expected to be here a month or two. I had already fully counted the costs of what it would mean to leave again and I prayed night after night “Lord I will leave everything behind again for you…Send me!” Instead He gently said, “You are with me and you trust me…now you must surrender your heart to me.” I have tried to control almost every aspect of my life since coming home. At times I have had my hands so tight on the wheel my knuckles were white. But that is the thing about God, He is God and we are not. He will do what He will do; we cannot force His hand. I have had to surrender all of my pride and most of my independence in these last eight months. And I have been reminded each and every day of how much I so desperately need the Lord.
He has not given me many answers in this season. He has shut more doors than He has opened. The only thing He has made clear for now is: I must stay. I assumed because I was so willing He would send me, but sadly He isn’t calling me to go. I have been so willing to lay the things it would cost to leave at the cross, but not once have I wanted to surrender what it would cost to stay here for now: setting foot back on the continent of Africa, fighting for justice for women, the job or career I think I should have. You see, I thought I was owed all of these things because I packed up my life and left everything behind to move to Acholiland, and then left the land that had become a part of my soul in obedience to God. But as the Lord has continued to transform my heart and surrender it to His will, He has brought me to the humble realization that none of this is about me.
Lying at the foot of the cross is hard and painful some days. It costs us everything. But this is how we are called to live. And as I have slowly surrendered to Him, while my circumstances have not changed, my heart sure has. Those things that I thought I was owed, that I so desperately longed for no longer seem fulfilling. The things I thought would be emptying in these months have given nothing but life and light. But that is the paradox of the Gospel. Life in Uganda and during re-entry has been hard, exhausting, and heartbreaking some days. But as I have died to self and lived for the Lord and others, fullness, joy, light, and peace have overflowed. Even in the pain. Even in the exhaustion. Even in the heartbreak.
People here often ask if I miss Uganda. Not a day goes by where I do not miss Acholiland and the ones I love. The way God’s glory manifested itself at that time, in that work, with those people will never appear again in that same way as long as I walk this earth. Which has left a deep longing in my soul. But the beauty of it is: my life there and the fullness I experienced was just a glimpse of what will be and is to come. One day we will all stand in the full glory of God, eyes wide open, looking at His very face. This longing deep within my soul is a present reminder that our time on this earth isn’t ultimately what we were made for. And one day that longing will be fulfilled, I will stand in God’s glory with the ones I love and it will be perfect and beautiful and we all will be complete. I cannot wait for that day.
I am often reminded of the mornings with our staff where we sat singing praises and worshipping God. We sang for the Lord and we sang for each other. You could see God’s glory everywhere you looked in that room. One song we sang has stuck with me in these months. It lyrics are simple, yet powerful: an abino ite yatariya ni, ila malo wek alubi (I come under your cross, lift me up so I can follow you). Words I want to live by. My heart in these moments only wants to go, but I will, regardless of my desires, come under the cross and will follow Him always…even if it means for now I must surrender and stay.
So what is next you may be wondering? I still really don’t know. But I do know I will stay where I am for now and wait and see what the Lord will weave into the fabric of my story. Whatever it may be, will be just as beautiful as Acholiland, and one day God willing my feet will again touch the red dust of the continent I love. But until that day comes, I will chose to glory in the Lord, and will cling to His unending light and love because they are the only things in this life that truly matter.
Kuc Obed Kedi!