Now Thank We All Our God
There are no autumn leaves, no pumpkin spice lattes or pilgrim costumes.
There are lovely people and fresh seasonal fruits and a brilliant array of cheery capulanas.
There is Thanksgiving, here, in Mozambique.
When I look back at last year's Thanksgiving post, I am reminded of what a wide-eyed wonderer I was; suddenly immersed in a new culture, everything around me new and strange. Now, I still wonder, but at very different things. The jarring externals are mostly commonplace to me now, and I pass them by without a second glance.
I think that, this Thanksgiving, I have an understanding of those long-ago Pilgrim folk that I've never had before. Like them, I have put out tentative, tenacious little roots into a land new and strange. I have worried obsessively over befriending the people of a foreign culture. I have tried and failed, and tried again. My admiration for the Pilgrims' courage and determination rises as I experience a small portion of the struggles they faced. And, in the light of their greatness, the things that I allow to set me back look insignificant, indeed.
This has not been a particularly stellar year for me; especially the latter half. And that's nobody's fault but mine. I am not proud of the way that I have floundered, discouraged, aimless and questioning my purpose and God's calling. Or the way I've allowed depression to hang its heavy burdens on my soul. I am ashamed that I have sometimes given less than my all, or obeyed God's directives half-heartedly. But, despite all of those failings, this has also been a year of conquest and victory.
Beside me to guide me, my God with me joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight I was winning;
Thou, Lord, were at my side, all glory be Thine!
I listened to that lovely old hymn on Thanksgiving morning, closing my eyes, reflecting back over all of the memories that the music conjured in my mind's eye. And there were my victories, small and glowing, and the mercies that have been given me, all undeserved.
And so, I am thankful.
- I have put out roots, and yes, the process has been sometimes painful, frequently awkward, and often requiring more of me than I felt I was ready to give, but I have friends here. Real friends.
- My sense of accomplishment has been simultaneously bolstered - in slow-growing linguistic fluency, in becoming fairly adept at public transportation, in the quiet triumph of conjuring meals from near-empty refrigerators - and shattered, as I come into contact with people who've overcome more than I could ever imagine and accomplished things I would never even dream of.
- My vague sense of spiritual superiority has been ripped to shreds and left behind in a quivering heap somewhere back in 2014. Why am I the missionary, when most of my friends here are the ones teaching me? They're the ones who walk to church for 4 (or more) meetings a week, fast routinely and cheerfully, and get up in the middle of the night to pray for hours on end. The fruit of their dedication is plainly evident in their lives while I am, basically, a wimp.
- My friends and family back in the States have revealed just how wonderful they truly are by hunting me down mercilessly when I was too self-pitying or depressed or busy to correspond with them, and have listened to my moanings and occasional tears with surprising aplomb and responded with lots of prayer and good advice.
- My fellow missionaries have also given good advice and have laughed understandingly about all the ridiculous situations in which we've found ourselves.
- Even through desperate bouts of homesickness and longing for my family and the way things used to be, my eyes are continually re-opened to the beauty of this place. There is a sense of 'home' connected to a certain little apartment, perched atop an interminable flight of stairs.
- I have been more consistently challenged and encouraged by the churches I'm part of here than I have been at most other churches I've attended. Church services are frequently long, rarely boring, and I look forward to them with eagerness.
- Despite not being particularly fastidious about much of anything, I haven't fallen prey to any of the horrible tropical diseases that all Americans seem to hold in dread, and, though I have been quite sick, I've finally emerged from that season fairly unscathed.
- And, you know, the food's pretty tasty, too.
There is light and dark, conquest and defeat, and over all, there is Grace. It is, maybe, a year of stained glass; of light falling through the broken pieces to make a bright reflection on the floor. Someday, I will be far enough away to see the pattern. In the meantime, I pray for the grace to remain thankful. Thankful for what has been...and for what will be.