I have never thought of myself as a prideful person, but over the last few days God has revealed many places in my life where I hold a sense of ‘entitlement’ subconsciously, or perhaps I was never put in the space where certain things were an issue. I knew that this journey would reveal so much about myself and about the character of God, but He certainly didn’t want to spare one moment and instead jumped right into the first lesson.
I know that I have lived a rather privileged life, and that my parents worked very hard to provide my siblings and I with the best of the best. They have made many sacrifices to give us everything that we would need and a lot of what we wanted. They have sheltered us a lot from the ‘real world’ problems, but in the same breath they have also provided many opportunities for us appreciate all that we have been blessed with and give back to others who were less fortunate. Because of this upbringing I have developed a love of giving back and blessing others with what I have been blessed with. However, over the past couple of days the imaginary chip on my shoulder that I’ve been carrying around forever was suddenly made known to me. I subconsciously held certain expectations about this South African experience that were not going to work.
In my mind certain simple things, expected conveniences would be afforded to me in the same manner of which I am accustomed to. For example, after taking over two weeks for my internet to be up and working properly in my flat, and then finding out that the internet provider through my school (Rhodes University) does not allow WiFi, and then it has a cap on how much GB you can use weekly. My first reaction was shock and “Where they do that at?” Well apparently in South Africa. Of course I am accustomed to unlimited access to internet and don’t have to maneuver around a long cable hooked up to my laptop. Even if I can’t use the WiFi in my house, there are at least a dozen restaurants or coffee places that offer free, unlimited internet access. I don’t even have to purchase anything in order to use it! So yes I was shocked that a large university would place such stringent limitations on internet usage when that is all students are using for study purposes and of course entertainment. But apparently this is the norm in Grahamstown, South Africa (unfortunately). So after waking up one morning to find I had no internet access because after less than a week I had exceeded my internet usage I was quite perturbed. This was not going to work. I guess I Skyped one too many times and caught up on too many episodes of The Following. First world problems at its best.
Then after crying over that spilled milk, a few hours after my father leaves to return home a huge and unexpected storm rolls into town. I’m talking lightening and thunder, heavy rain and strong winds, and heavy flooding in the streets which cause my electricity to go out. In the middle of me cooking dinner at that. So at this point all I can do is laugh. I could hear God shaking His head and saying ‘You were upset over not having internet…now deal with this.’ All I could do was sit on my bed and pray. God was certainly dealing with me a on some issues with pride I didn’t realize existed.
But God was showing me in the very beginning that I must one: not assume anything about this experience other than the fact that He will keep me in His will. And two I must let go of my elitist, bougie, 1st world mentality that says I am entitled to certain comforts and ‘luxuries’ because that is what my ‘normal’ is back home. Well my normal has drastically changed. I admit I was not prepared completely for this but I am adapting. God is teaching me a valuable lesson about pride. He is showing me that my pride is prompting me to expect certain things to be a certain way. But when things don’t go the way I had expected them (especially in my subconscious mind) then I don’t know how to deal. I feel out of whack and I can’t cope. Wow! Talk about getting outside of your comfort zone. So many of us don’t even realize that it exists on this level. Who wouldn’t expect there to be something as simple as electricity or unlimited internet. Something we take for granted and don’t even realize it because we’ve become accustomed to it always being readily available. The thought that it may not be accessible never crosses our minds (unless we have struggled to pay for it). Comfort zone living has handicapped us to the point that anything remotely outside of that zone causes our big, flashing alarm to go off! We can’t deal! Pride check!
God wants me to be totally and completely dependent upon Him. Everything down to my electricity comes from Him. I must be content in all situations, so even as I sat there in the approaching darkness of night and my food that I just purchased began to spoil, I must be joyful! I must look to the heavens and praise God! For he has kept me safe and dry from the storm that caused this state of lack. But I can’t help but look around at what He has already done and is doing for me since being in the country. He has blessed me richly! I see that every time I step outside my neat, comfortable flat. But even now He is saying don’t get too comfortable. He can take it all away in a second. I must walk into my flat everyday sincerely thankful. Even if my food spoils and I have to eat dry cereal for dinner, I will still be satisfied because all I need is Jesus. So who am I too think I deserve anything and everything just because I was born within borders that said these things people call luxuries are the norm. Electricity in this country for the majority of people is a luxury. Internet in their home certainly is! A roof that keeps the rain out is a blessing! I come here and walk out of the store with many expensive appliances to take back to my cute, clean apartment. I have two bedrooms to myself! How blessed am I!
But God, the ever efficient teacher, wanted to make sure I got the lesson on pride. Today I started with the Lebone Center. Since it was the first day, the center director wanted me to really get to know the children I would be primarily working with on a more personal level. So she invited me to view their files that contained confidential and disturbing knowledge about their family and home life. All of them lived in the poorest part of town. Most of them did not have electricity, running water, let alone internet access in their homes! Many of them had abusive parents and some lived in foster care or with their Aunts or Uncles because of extremely unsafe living conditions. So as I sat and read line after line of their heartbreaking files, I couldn’t help but scold myself for my earlier actions and obvious selfishness. God was revealing to me that this experience had nothing to do with me. It was not about me, if I wanted to be with all the comforts of home that is exactly where I should have stayed. These children despite of all that they deal with on a DAILY basis still come to the center each day smiling and with a joyful disposition. Not one of them complained about not having enough. They are grateful for anything and everything they receive. So how dare I get bent out of shape just because my internet wasn’t working like I’m accustomed to! Girl get your life!
I can report that I have learned my lesson. My pride needs to take a back seat. God did not send me thousands and thousands of miles to live in the neat, comfortable box with unlimited internet access. He meant this to be a growing up experience. He never said it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it. So I urge you all to do some self-reflection and ask God to reveal to you the areas you hold pride in. What modern conveniences that if taken away you wouldn’t know how to cope? Would you still be content and joyful if certain things disappeared or certain situations didn’t work out they way you planned? Will you still believe God and trust in His plan? I know 20 kids that would be happy to take what we so easily take for granted.
I am learning that if I truly want to hear from God and receive all that He has in store for me, I must check my pride at the door. It’s not about me, but all about Jesus Christ. Pride check!