My heart breaks all the time. I see horrible things happen to people in Nigeria. Things that make you want to turn away and forget. Things that make me wonder why I am there. What little I am able to do to help people pales in comparison to all there is that needs help in Nigeria.
Since coming home on furlough, I have had time to sit and contemplate why I live in Nigeria. Why I have willingly walked into the suffering that is going on in Jos, Nigeria.
Have you ever been very upset or depressed. So lost in your own hurt that nothing anyone says can help you? You don’t want anyone’s advice. You don’t want to hear their favorite verse. And you certainly don’t want to hear what they did in a similar situation. But, you don’t want to be alone either. Then when someone who really loves you comes and sits down next to you quietly to share in your sorrow, you feel better. Not cured, but strong enough to believe tomorrow will be better.
Well, I decided that is why we have moved to Nigeria. We try to help where we can help, but somedays, all we can do is be there. Sometimes, as Christians, our mere presence in the midst of trial bring encouragement to the one going through the trial and gives them the strength to believe tomorrow will be better. I am convinced that it blesses us too.
As I have been opening up to people and telling them stories about what I have seen or experienced in Nigeria, I often start to cry. In Nigeria, I rarely cry. I guess I have put up emotional walls to protect myself, but here in the US, those walls have been coming down and I often find myself crying. When this happens, I often have people telling me that I should go for counseling. Now I am not bashing counseling, but I have been thinking a lot about this suggestion. I have wondered if all that I have seen and experienced has scarred me. I have been wondering if I need some repairs. I have been wondering if I would be a better person/missionary without scars.
So, I turned to the bible and I have been spending some time in prayer about all of this. Through this, I have come to the conclusion, that I am scarred. I am a different person than I was when I left for Nigeria. I do not yet bear physical scars, but I carry them inside me. I don’t think I want to “fix” them though. Each sorrow I carry is memory of a time I chose to walk into suffering rather than hide my face and run. Or it is a memory of a time when horrible things happened in front of me and my eyes were opened to the suffering going on around me. It is often a memory of a time I took on someone else’s suffering as though it was my own. Many of these memories have happier endings, but more of them have sad endings then happy endings.
In scripture, I see Paul bragging of his scars for Christ and I read that Jesus had His scars after His resurrection when He was in His perfect body. Scripture has led me to believe scars for the sake of the gospel are beautiful to our heavenly father.
In Nigeria, people mark their faces with scars to represent what tribe they are from. I believe our scars often identify us as followers of Christ and are therefore beautiful to Him. This has been so impressed upon my heart that I have decided that we should all be seeking scars. In our American culture we are always seeking band-aids and running from anything uncomfortable, but this is not scriptural. Mathew 16:24 tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Him. We are told in Romans to rejoice in our sufferings. There are some sufferings we bring on ourselves, and those reap us no rewards. But when suffering comes our way and we decide that instead of running away, we are going to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14), and we respond to suffering with the attitude that we do it all for Christ, He is pleased. And if that suffering causes scars, consider them beauty marks! Character is built in the rough times. And when the scars are invisible to man, consider them your private act of worship to God who sees all.
Not only do my scars make me more beautiful to God, but they make God more beautiful to me. Each time I don’t turn away, but walk into suffering, I feel God reveals Himself to me in new ways. Ways that are hard to explain. I have discovered that God’s ears are turned towards those who suffer. His heart longs for the lost to come to know Him. When I walk into a brothel and speak to women that God loves about His gospel which is His message of love, I feel Him speak through me and to me. The more I learn to love what He loves and hate what He hates, the more I learn about Him. The more I allow the things that break His heart, break my heart, the more I feel His heart. I feel that I have come to know and understand God in a way that I would not have know without suffering.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18