Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Don’t Give Up the Walk

We had the morning planned out – see the receptionist; have a picnic; swim then lounge until noon. We started as planned by going to see the receptionist. Everything changed when he told us about the equator line. Little did I know that I will have a lesson to learn on my Christian walk.

“I’ll print out directions on how you can get to the equator line,” he said.
In my mind I said, we’ll accept the print out simply to please you. We have no plans of going there.
“You can’t leave Sao Tome if you’ve not visited the equator line,” he said as though reading my thoughts.
I glanced at my husband. He seemed to have that look on his face that concurred with the receptionist. I am sure my look said, “But we did not plan for that!”
He simply said, “Let’s give it a shot. If we don’t feel like it half way, we can turn back.”

That sounded nice. As my husband explained the map to me, I suddenly felt like I was on an adventure. A fresh thrill came over me. The equator line was somewhere on a hill. All we had to do was walk straight, until we see a sign board pointing right that read “ECUADOR”. It sounded simple on paper.

We were not prepared for the journey. We needed the right shoes to climb a hill. We had only slippers for the swimming pool. The sun was scorching and we were sweating before we started the journey. We had no drink or food. If we got lost, we had nothing to contact anybody. Worst of all, we did not have an idea of where we were going to. We did not know how far it was, what the terrain was, or what we were going to see. We simply wanted to get there.

After walking for about 300 meters, we had not seen the sign board to redirect us. We stopped. I complained about my hurting muscles. I reminded him of the ice water, cold juice, yoghurt and biscuit we had in the refrigerator.
“Let’s take a picture here then turn back,” he said. “When we are better prepared, we’d go on the journey.”
I smiled. We took the photograph. Somehow, I felt bad. He really wanted to see the equator line. I had always been having my way. He was always understanding and supportive. Why couldn’t I support him?
“Let’s go further,” I said, “the signboard may not be so far off.”
“Are you sure you are not tired?” he asked in his ever considerate manner.
“I know you’d carry me if I am weak,” I replied mischievously. We laughed. He took my hands and together we continued the journey.

After walking about 50 meters, we saw the signboard.
“We made it!” I squealed with excitement.
“This is just the beginning of the journey. From the map, we have about the same distance we’ve walked to get to the equator line.”
“If we’ve walked this distance, we can walk the remaining distance,” I replied. “Christ who strengthened us before will strengthen us to the very end.” I could not believe that was me talking.

The second part of the journey was more frightening. The narrow path was bushy and all sorts of creatures were going about their normal lives. Was I expecting the lizards and snakes to die because I was climbing the hill? Or the birds not to have fun because I was scared of flying creatures in dark areas? Suddenly fear and discouragement came over me.

“This journey is better with a jeep. It would be faster, we won’t get tired and we will be protected,” I said.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…” he started.
Then I said, “For He has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.”
“Praise the Lord!”
“Let’s jog. We’ll be faster, we’ll trample on the creeping creatures, scare others away and we rely on strength from God.”
“Praise the Lord!” So he chanted.
“Hallelujah!” I replied. This was our song as we jogged up the hill.

Our minds were no longer focused on the circumstances around us. The creatures were still creeping. The slope was still steep and difficult (not impossible) to climb. The birds were still flying. The eerie sounds were still in the background. The trees were still so tall, thick and numerous, making the forest look very dark. The damp smell of grasses that had not been warmed by sunshine still filled the air. But we had our minds elsewhere. We had our minds on the faithfulness of God and His Word. And we kept on giving Him praise.

We were enjoying our song, chuckling when I went off tune, when before us stood the white tower that represented the position of equator line. A new joy filled my heart. The sight was beautiful. It stood on the map of the world and it was placed exactly where the equator crossed Sao Tome. We held our breaths for a while, admiring the combined landscape and seascape on the background of the equator line. We also appreciated the efforts of those who took out time to make a shade by the equator line for tourists like ourselves.

“We made it!” I shouted hoping the whole world would hear me. If my husband had not been holding me, I would have done a somersault (I think!).
“Thank You God!” he said, making me remember how we almost missed the opportunity of seeing this sight.
“Thank You Father,” I said. “I am so glad we made it.”
We took a couple of pictures then began our walk back. We were not afraid because we were so sure of the presence of God with us. We had time to appreciate the work of God in the forest, the special creatures and lovely birds. Then when we got to that point where we almost turned back, my husband said, “We almost turned back here. We did not know what beauty, joy, and fulfillment lay ahead of us. If we did not insist on going on and depending on God, we would never have made it. Doesn’t it remind you of your walk as a Christian?”

He was right. One thing I have realized is the Christian walk is a journey that needs faith. My Christian walk has not been perfect. And the worst times have been when I say “I have to turn back now. I know where I am coming from but I don’t know where God is taking me to. Where I am coming from was not too bad. The current circumstances around me cannot let me go on. I was not cut out to be a Christian.” Maybe Saint Paul would have spanked me but he surely would have said “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:13,14].

I have often mocked the Israelites who wanted to go back to Egypt because of the temporary setbacks they faced on their way to the Promised Land. Now I see how I was no different from them. I have often sworn that I could never have acted like Lot’s wife who looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah because she was missing the life she was used to and was not sure of where she was going to. But when I reflect on my Christian walk, I realize many times I have looked back, no, turned back, and walked to where I was coming from ignoring the promised land He is taking me to. This was because I listened to the deceitful voice that told me I could not make it because of my past, that I am not worthy of the Promised Land, and I cannot overcome the setbacks. But I thank God that I have learnt what it takes to remain focused.

I thank God for His Word. What I need in my Christian walk is His Word. His word reminds me of who I am in Christ Jesus. The word reminds me that I am a new creature and old things (even 1 second ago) have passed away. The word reminds me that I have the Holy Spirit residing in me to teach me all things and direct my path to where God wants me to be. The word reminds me that all I have to do is trust in God and give thanks to Him in everything. The word reminds me that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the word. Therefore I can overcome all setbacks. The word builds my faith for each passing moment. I cannot trade the salvation, peace, joy, love and reward from God in my walk and where I am going to because the past seems more comfortable.

Beloved child of God, where He is taking you to, eyes have not seen nor have ears heard. One thing I know for sure is He has great plans for you. Plans of good and not of evil. Plans to bring you to an expected end [Jeremiah 29:11]. If in your Christian walk you feel discouragement, doubt, fear, hopelessness, weariness or any suchlike emotions, you do not need to turn back. Where He is taking you to is surely, surely, better than where you are coming from. Take His Word, hold on to Him. The Christian walk may not be easy but it is worth it. And He is faithful that promised, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you” [Isaiah 43:2].

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