Guatemalans smile a lot. They are
polite, hospitable, friendly and patient with most attempts at Spanish.
Pastor Domingo bent down on eye level and greeted the old woman, whom we
learned was named Maria. As we began
hearing more about Maria’s story we discovered that she was the widowed
mother of eleven.
As most of the men in the family were either missing or dead, the
family’s income was almost completely resigned to the crocheting of
hacky-sacks (which were purchased by a man in town and taken across Lake
Atitlan to sell to tourists).
As I began to assess the severity of the situation, Maria looked us in
the eye without a care in the world and professed her belief that God
would provide – he always had.
I began to reflect on my own life. As a white, middle-class American
child, I grew up wanting for nothing. I never missed a meal (and enjoyed
many of them), I had clean clothes that fit, a family that loved me,
friends to play with and entertainment outlets virtually anytime I
wanted them. In short, I needed nothing. Fast forward twenty years and
see a similar life of a young, attractive college graduate embarking on a
career trek where the sky is the limit. An attractive girlfriend, new
car, prestigious social circle and the like are but scratching the
surface of all that life holds for a fortunate young man.
Yet, if I am honest my faith doesn’t hold a candle to Maria. I’ve never
been in need. I’ve never been desperate. There has never been a time in
my life when a safety net didn’t exist. On a deeper level – there’s also
never been a time I can say I’ve truly been in complete desperation of
the presence of God. Consider the statement: He who has everything needs
nothing. The simplicity and apparent redundancy of this statement
should not be discarded before pragmatic application is sought. The
easiest times, the most comfortable, rob us of desperation for the
presence of God. How often do we go about our lives, eating our meals,
driving our cars, swiping the credit card for anything that meets our
fancy only to have rushed, obligatory, mediocre times spent with our
Creator (assuming we remember to in the first place)? Yet, the absence
of basic needs, being in difficult relationships, or surviving in
environments that are spiritually oppressed are all times of suffering
that invoke within us a desperation for the presence of God.
How clear God’s voice in the storm. How close is His touch in the
battle. Discovering desperation in comfort is a battle few realize they
are fighting. Those extravagantly blessed often pity those in need. Yet,
the faith of those suffering, the faith I gain when forced to run to
the arms of my father, shames any substitute the world has to offer.
Trusting God is terrifying, but it’s more peaceful than any secure tower
I’ve constructed for myself. It’s not dependence that’s hard, it’s the
leap of faith to dependence that’s the challenge. The leap back is easy.
It’s living with the smiling reassurance that “God will provide” that
is difficult. If anything, I’ve learned this: I do not enjoy suffering,
but I like who I become when I am in the midst of it.