It’s remarkable how fast life goes past. Sometimes I feel like I’m just trying to hold on while my existence flies by, it takes every ounce of intentionality within me to find moments to hit the brakes and breathe.
Earlier this summer, Melissa and I had the opportunity to pastor four young ladies that came from Vanguard University to intern with Global-Effect. Since they left last month, we’ve been blessed to keep up with them a little over Facebook and one of them, Cynthia, (a junior at VU) came across this photo in an old VU yearbook and asked me if it was me.
That is me. Or that was me. That photo was taken my first full day in Tanzania back in May 2008 at an orphanage called Kili Kids. That’s over six years ago.
When I think of that guy in the photo, it’s easy to get sentimental and remember the bright-eyed, bushy tailed recent college grad he was. Sure, he was naive in a lot of things, but one thing he didn’t lack, passion. He had such certainty in his plans, thoughts and callings, sure he was wrong about those things a lot of the time, but you wouldn’t tell as much because he was just that zealous. He drank the “I’m gonna change the world” juice and shared it with his friends.
I wonder what happened to that passion. I hear my wife say the same about her reflection on college life. She was passionate and people knew it. We all wore it on our shirt sleeves.
Perhaps in a lot of ways, I became disillusioned. There are layers to these things. You first go on a missions trip and you want to help and you decide to pursue God’s call to care for orphans. I took that very real calling and moved here in January 2010. I was enthralled with the orphanage I worked at. There was nowhere in the world that I’d rather work. Time went on and things got hard, differences among the staff, not being able to do more for these children that you love so much, getting tired, getting lonely, getting tired of being lonely. In the process, God brings along these huge transitions in life, getting married, having a kid, switching organizations and somehow you’re no longer that recent college grad pushing two random Tanzanian orphans on the swing.
He was naive, but he was sure of himself. He was inexperienced, but he was determined. Above all, he was passionate and people told him as such.
In this whirlwind life, it’s easy to romanticize yesteryear. Today, I’m choosing to believe that God has brought me a step or two forward since that photo was taken. Lots of young folk are chalk full of passion for different things. It often gets misdirected or simply erodes as they get older. But today, I’m choosing to believe that God has been refining mine.
Sometimes it takes a person six years to learn that he can’t change the world. Can’t do it. The guy in that photo wouldn’t believe it if I told it to him. He gave himself the mantle ‘father to twenty-six Tanzanian orphans’ and said things like ‘I love kids so much, I just have to get plugged into an orphanage where once kids age out, more little ones come in. That way I can always have kids around me.’ Those things aren’t possible for me.
Sometimes it takes a person six years to learn that only Jesus can change the world. Sometimes it takes a person six years to learn that if he’ll have any role in changing the world, he has to be adjoined to the body of Christ and submit to other believers.
When I think about my daughter Promise, I know what it means to be a father. Being a father is such a huge part of my life. It pains me to say that I couldn’t be the father that the kids at the orphanage needed. It pains me that I couldn’t be the father that Awadhi needs. Yet, in all my past disappointments of personal inability to change the world, I know that God has established a righteous resolve within me. He is able to change the world and He is wanting to use me. His Kingdom is at hand and He beckons each of us to reach out and grab it, to join Him in renewing and changing the world. As for me, I want each child in this nation to know the love of a godly father and I want each godly man to know the love of child they can call their own. I can’t be that man to those children. I’ll probably max out around six or seven kids, but there are people, men and women, that can be the parent that these kids need. God is able to change the world and change the world of each person, what a honor that He invites us to join him.
Though it’s not on my shirtsleeve any more, I know that passion is still inside of me. God has refined. I thank God for directing my steps. He’s taken me down paths that the young man in the photo would have never imagined and in all honesty would have dreaded. But God is faithful and He’s changing the world we live in.