Attending church in East Africa is an eye opening experience. Back home, I go to a church that I am comfortable in. The music is incredible, the atmosphere puts me in the perfect posture for worship, the people there are some of my best friends, and the sermons always go down smoothly and are digested with ease. That is my comfort zone. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s what I know.
However, at no point in scripture does our Savior ensure us an easy life. Rather, the life He has called us to is packed to the brim with radical surrender and denial of self: “If you cling to your life you will lose it, but if you give up your life for my sake, you will find it” [Matthew 10:39]. Although Christ does not promise comfort, He does promise “a rich and satisfying life” [John 10:10].
During church in Community 4, as I listened to the people around me with passionate faces belt out songs that I did not understand, I realized that the faith I have had for the majority of my life has been rooted in all the wrong things.
Instead of being rooted in the glory, power, and splendor of the resurrection and the sovereign character of God himself, my belief has been rooted in the gifts that God gives, the emotions He offers, and the amiable reputation that I get from following Him. The epitome of pride. The pursuit of ease. As disciples, we are called to earnestly seek our Maker – even if our circumstances are not aligning with our expectations. Even if we feel like all we are doing is washing other people’s feet. Even if I am not sitting in a big, hip church. While I was sitting in a plastic chair on a dirt floor covered by a tin roof, watching streaks of light flood in through the cracks of the wooden walls, I began to realize that anything other than God Himself is secondary to my faith. And in the end, everything else is not imperative for me to have in my life in order to be a believer in Jesus Christ.
I think that if you could snap a finger and replace every church in America with a typical church in East Africa, you would see a great number of confused Christians. The truth is, the God that we worship halfway across the world is the same God we worship in America, not because of a similar style of church, but because God desires authentic and unwavering dedication [Psalm 63:1]. This raw surrender is abundant here:
“My goal is God Himself,
not joy nor peace, nor even blessing,
but Himself, my God.”
During our time in community 4, The Lord has uprooted me. Uprooting the false idea that I can box God into my feelings, a chapter in the Bible, a song, a peak experience, or even a church. He is infinitely vast – beyond even the most polished display of human reason, beyond the beauty of African sunsets, beyond friendship, beyond anything that this world has to offer. And despite His incomprehensible vastness and self-sufficient nature [Isaiah 40:12-14], when He looks at me, His heart is filled with love and compassion and He calls me His own beloved son [Luke 15:20]. HELLO. This irony is one of the most beautiful things in the entire universe. Now we are getting somewhere ladies and gentlemen.
-Paxton Spessard | Journey 2016 Intern