For the First Time
Renewed. What does that actually mean? It’s not just refreshed, or rebuilt, or replenished, or reordered, or redone. They’re all great, but renewed. To become new again. It sounds simple, but it’s actually impossible. Or is it? A couple who’s been married for seventeen years and signing the divorce papers because the husband is narcissistic and the wife is tired and unforgiving. Is there a chance they can love each other newly? A child who’s been discarded by his parents and sees adults as targets for rebellion. Is there a chance he can see adults through new eyes? A mother whose child has turned away from her love and throws it back in her face again and again and again. Can the mother hold fast to a new hope? Growing up in the same small town, driving down the same street with one stoplight, passing the same farm on the corner, seeing the same people at church, and feeling like the best thing in life is getting out of that town forever. Can the teenager wake up the next morning and smile newly at the blessings of an intimate one-stoplight town?
Renewed. I boarded the shuttlebus from Johannesburg in route to Swaziland, just as I had done countless times. This time I had new music from my brother on my friend’s iPhone and a set of Wisconsin Badger headphones from another friend. It was the same, long, five-hour ride. The same stop halfway through the trip at a “petrol port,” a gas station with some shops for eating. I bought my last muffin at Mug and Bean and a mocha frappe, knowing it will be awhile before having that again. It was the same, long, winding road… but those mountains… WOW! The scenery, WOW! I couldn’t stop smiling. I was dreary with jetlag but I couldn’t keep my eyes closed. My eyes enjoyed the seemingly newness of what was around me. Those mountains touching the clouds, the shadowed valleys, the houses on the hills, the huts, the potholes. I loved it all. Like I was seeing it for the first time.
When our car pulled around the corner, turning onto the dirt road that marked the girls home, my heart raced with anticipation. I felt as if I had been gone an entire year, when I had only been on leave for a month. I heard the screams up the hill before I saw anyone appear. Then Bongekile led the charge, sprinting down that dirt road in her bare feet, and then a crew of the girls to follow, with Benji bringing up the rear. Oh what joy! Oh what reunion!
It wasn’t long before I shared with the girls during devotion one night about how I felt so empty and how my dad told me, “You can’t fill empty cups from an empty jug.” And how while being home I was filled and overflowing with the love of Jesus and how I wanted desperately to pour into the girls again. I apologized for being so dry. For, I really did see how my own emptiness had taken its toll on them.
Throughout that first week, I realized that joy was a real battle. I thought joy was just a feeling that comes and goes, but no… if you want joy, you gotta fight for it! I was so committed to being joyful that it completely renewed my vision of the girls, the house, the cock-roach inhabited room, etc. I was careful with my words and how I said things when the girls annoyed me or asked me a million questions at once. I saw the way they responded to my newfound attitude and it gave me an even deeper joy.
I am basking in the goodness of God. I surrendered my dreams, my will, my attitude, and he gave me in return gifts of inner peace and satisfaction that nothing and no one in this world can offer.
My friend, Rachael, sent me this message concerning developments in our ministry on the field: “God asked you to give up everything you knew and trust Him only to give it back to you pressed down, shaken together, and running over. He is always good.”
“He fills your days with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” –Ps 103:5