Monday, August 23, 2010

Temptations of the World: The Fog of Africa

This is a three part series on the temptations we experience that keep us from reaching out to others in positive ways.

In the first part I talked about Jesus’ trials that occurred during the end of his time in the desert. The three trials were different, but all pointed toward putting ourselves first, of taking care of ourselves and giving in to our desires no matter how noble they are at the time. We all face those temptations, most of us every day of our lives. They are sometimes hard to recognize and look different for everyone.

My great temptation is a temptation of greatness. Many people have given Liz and I reasons they could never do what we are doing (more on this later), but most of their reasons are non-issues with me. Lack of electricity, water, air conditioning, and a future of certainty are not worries of mine. What I am not saying, however, is that I am temptation free when it comes to returning to Tanzania. My struggle in returning to Tanzania is that what I do here will not be well known by people in the US, at least not in the ways I would like it to be. This is a hard admission to make to myself let alone others, but that is my temptation. I am afraid that the distance and lack of reliable communication will create a fog over my actions in Africa. I am afraid that stepping out of a field of ministry I know a lot about into a field of ministry I do not know as much about will mean not having the authority of knowledge and recognition that goes with it. Let’s face it, you don’t get recognized for doing mediocre work in our world, at least not the recognition I am talking about. This desire for greatness finds it basis in good reasons. The more people who know me, the more influence I have, and the more help I can provide...right? What I have found is that regardless of my intentions, temptations are temptations and when I act out of a desire for self-fulfilment I am getting in the way of the work God has for me to do.

I recently read a book that has helped me see the value of a slower, steadier, less glory filled life in fulfilling my calling as a disciple of Christ. The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a book that talks about many of the specific temptations I face in wanting to move on and move up with my life; the book makes more sense out of the dangerous understanding that staying in one place too long is boring, and not good for your career. This mindset leads to the quick, easy fixes that we tend to love, but ignores the longer term, longer lasting solutions that many people need, certainly the people in Tanzania. My temptation is the last temptation of Jesus, the one to rule even if it means an allegiance that will eat us up inside; success at the cost of an allegiance to busyness, expediency, self-interest, self-glory, or parasitic relationships. I am facing my temptation. I am returning to Africa with an idea of slow, non-glory filled solutions to real problems that affect real people, my new friends and family. Hopefully friends, mentors, and God filled encounters can keep me on this path no matter how tempting another one might look.

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