We returned to the neighborhood of burned houses on Wednesday and took them some clothes, food, and school supplies. It is an hour and a half drive from my house to that neighborhood and we got a little bit of a late start, but I promised Kim I would be back in time to help her with her language lesson at 2:00. I think my exact words were “I will be back for language. I promise. Aside from some unforeseen disaster, I will be back. Ok?” Oh, how confident I was then. Kim, she knew better and had a back up plan. Smart girl.
We pulled up to the neighborhood around 11:15 and I had it all calculated out how long we could be there before I HAD to leave to get back for Kim. We had a good hour to play around with and I was sure that we would be done before then. In my mind, I envisioned talking for a few minutes, dropping off the supplies, and leaving. Simple as that. We had been there yesterday and it had been pretty businesslike and straightforward, so I was just sure that was how it would go on this day. When we arrived, I stepped back and let some of the locals that work with us take the lead. That was my first mistake. Twenty minutes after we arrived, after sitting and staring at each other for a little while, with me trying to figure out what was going on, we moved into one of the houses where they had prepared a sitting area for us. I had told our workers about my time schedule, so I was sure that they were going to honor that and get right down to business now that we were in the house. They didn’t. A choice of either tea or coffee was offered, and they chose coffee. Choosing coffee means choosing to be there a while, since they roast, grind, and boil the coffee right in front of you on a fire. It is not a quick process. Still, I was naively hopeful that this would all work out in the end. Twenty minutes later they brought in wood for the fire. Well over an hour after that, we finished our coffee, as well as all the other snacks that they had brought to us. I was literally about to jump out of my skin. The clock on the wall – in plain view of everyone else, mind you – said 1:30. It was pretty evident I was not making it back on time for Kim’s lesson. Of course, there was no phone service out there so I couldn’t even let her know and apologize for my gross misjudgement of time! If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I HATE to be late…really, really hate it…even in Africa.
As I was plowing down the road at 2:30, going faster on that deadly bumpy dirt road than my truck ever knew it could go, it hit me. How arrogant was I to think that I controlled time?! I had boldly and confidently promised her I would be back by a certain time…as if I had authority over time. My little American self thought that this world ran on my time table and on my schedule and that I was sovereign over making things happen according to my plan – unfortunately, this often tends to work out for me. We do that all the time in America, but I had been in Africa long enough to know better. While it was a small example, I realized (for the 1000th time) how little I depend on the Father and how much control I like to think I have over my life. The people here would never say that something will happen at a certain time. Anytime you are planning for a future event, they will end the discussion with “inshallah” – if God wills it. How different a response that is from “I will be there at 2:00. I promise.” How quickly I forget that God is sovereign and I am not, no matter how often I act like I am the one that is in control.
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:14-16
I just got reprimanded.