As I write this it’s 10 p.m. I’m in Lusaka, Zambia, sitting outside with John at our hotel trying to take in the day. There’s a small alligator in the hotel pond next to us and a gigantic cock roach who keeps coming around our feet, but we’re trying to ignore them and pay attention to other things.
Paying attention is a big deal any day of the week for me, but even more so on these trips. And so, as a group we’re trying to do a version of the Examen each evening, looking for the places we’ve failed to cooperate with God in His goodness, and the places we’ve been present to Him, partnering with Him in His work.
Frankly, it’s darn easy to be present to…me. My comfort, my will, my convenience, my agenda…But pay attention to Jesus? Not so much.
And then you add in a team of folks you’re just getting to know and visits everyday with desperately poor but faithful people in another culture? It’s kind of like playing one of those video games where you’re a race car driver and on the screen you see all these lights and images rushing at you as you try to steer the vehicle.
Life and Death.
Blessings and Curses.
Where did we see Jesus? Where did we miss Him?
It takes time and concentration to pay attention, but we’re trying.
Glimpses of Life began this morning as I was praying about what I was going to preach on with John, and God whispered, “Don’t worry about how you’re going to do, just focus on loving the people you’re speaking to. Just love them well. Let Me love them through you.”
At church, rich African voices were raised in harmony and praise to God, bodies packed into a small concrete block space, stretched at the seams by their joy. More Life.
I had the gift of reminding the Body that, like Hagar, we follow a God who sees us. Hears us. And wants to hear from us. It was a holy privilege to be able to encourage and tell these folks they inspire us. More Life.
The time of prayer, with every voice speaking simultaneously, passionately, and in languages we didn’t understand, was both an inspiration and a nudge from God to pay attention. We prayed for them. They prayed for us. Brothers and sisters, divided by a continent, but united in common hopes and fears and Jesus.
After church, laughter and squeals of delight filled the dusty yard as kids saw pictures of themselves, some for the first time. Hands were shaken, babies held, names shared shyly.
The pastor’s wife led me by the hand a few steps to her humble house, proudly exclaiming “This is my kitchen!” as if it was the gourmet one with granite countertops I saw in the Southern Living magazine I looked at on the plane. A grateful heart in the midst of lack. “Pay attention” I heard the Lord whisper.
And then, the most pointed “miss”. My friend Meg named it at dinner tonight. After church we piled into the land rover and did what was instinct. We reached for Purel to sanitize our hands.
Hands that held and received and blessed and were blessed in return. And yes, we were dirty, and yes, it’s a practical thing to stay healthy. But for at least a time we needed to not. We needed to sit with our dirty, blessed hands and just receive the gift. In our American-ness we were in too much of a hurry to clean up and move on.
We needed to just sit with dirty hands. To pay attention to the Holy. To God in our midst.