First, just a quick travel update and a big answered prayer: Thanks so much for praying for my Zimbabwean staff colleague Kelly Londoni. Kelly finally received his travel visa at the very last minute after being told “no” many times by the visa officials. Thank the Lord! Therefore, as we had planned, Kelly traveled with us to Addis Ababa to help lead another 2 day training seminar for staff and church leaders there. It was incredibly valuable for an African to lead Africans in learning new skills and strategies. Kelly did a great job.
Well, every trip has some adventure to it, doesn’t it? In the process of flying from Zimbabwe to Ethiopia, I lost my luggage for about 24 hours. I got it back – no harm done. But my bag did more traveling than I did on that leg of the journey: After arriving at the airport in Ethiopia, I questioned airline officials as to the whereabouts of my checked luggage – which had not arrived on the conveyor belts after about half an hour. Oddly enough, my bag had arrived, yet instead of coming through the conveyor belt it was mistakenly transferred on to another flight to Kenya!
So to make a long story short, I had wait quite a while before the airline officials could definitely confirm to me where the bag was (I still wasn’t convinced anyone knew exactly). My best bet was to call it a day and return the next morning to “work the system” with the airline to get my bag returned from Kenya. Yes, it was late in the evening when I had arrived in Ethiopia and, after waiting/searching for my bag, it was after midnight. Good thing I had packed a few extra clothes and toothbrush in my carry on. The next morning, by His grace I had no problem getting a ride back to the airport. And, further grace: my bag was waiting for me in plain view in the luggage area! They had flown it back from Kenya.
Among other things, I was very happy to be reunited with my 41 year old Charlie Brown hairbrush. (See Photo Above) Ok,the hairbrush is a sentimental attachment I have from my childhood – I’ve used the same hairbrush since I was about 3. Weird, huh?
On the surface, my “adventure” with the bag seems like just another travel story – just one more thing to laugh at or chalk up to the foggy confusion of crossing international borders late at night. All in all, it was a trivial inconvenience losing my bag for a short period of time. Yet here is the deeper lesson I am learning: Here is how the Lord is shaping my soul through this. Are you ready?
After becoming pretty tired waiting for the bag late at night – not knowing clearly where it was and sensing that the airline reps had varying degrees of certainty of its whereabouts – I began to resign myself to the possibility that I would never see it again. Big deal, right? I mean, I had enough clothes (barely) and I could probably get some reimbursement for my losses. And I can always follow God’s Word and give thanks in all circumstances. …Right? …Well, I soon sensed otherwise inside me.
Enter the Charlie Brown hairbrush. The more I sensed that Charlie could be gone forever, I felt just a twinge of fear that a part of me wasn’t safe. Or perhaps that I was losing a part of me that I could not recreate. Maybe what I was feeling was that my sense of “home” had been taken away.
So, I began to ask myself a ton of “what if,” worrisome type questions. Questions that end up in a downward spriral: What if my bag is gone for good? What if I have to go through a huge amount of hassle to get reimbursed? What if I don’t get the answers I need from the airline to know what to do? What if I don’t get any sleep tonight cause I’m standing here waiting on some luggage handler to dig through another hopper of suitcases to confirm it’s not here?
Those were the back-of-the-mind questions I asked myself many times. Yet, even further than that, here are the depth-of-the-heart type questions that were formulating inside me:
Why me, Lord?
Has God forgotten about me?
Does He truly love me and care about me?
Will He really provide clothes and things I need while I am so far from home?
Can I trust Him?
Am I safe even if my bag never returns?
When it’s late at night, you’re tired, finding yourself in a different country where English is not the first language and you only have your back-up toothbrush, a two day supply of toothpaste and no Charlie Brown, you start wrestling with these questions. I think I even dreamed about them. Yet, waking up the next morning, two verses were bouncing around in my head:
Colossians 3:3 – My life is “hidden with Christ in God.” Meaning: I am safe with God. My inner being is safe and my external needs are fulfilled in Him.
Galations 2:20 – “…the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” My Identity is defined not by possessions, circumstances nor my own self righteousness and self sufficiency. My identity is defined by Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
I’m still in process on believing these things consistently. But the good news is that my inconsistency does not overshadow His faithfulness.
How about you? What things have you lost either temporarily or permanently which drive you towards security and a deeper identity found only in Him?
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