and yet.

I see the work of your hands, galaxies spinning a heavenly dance

God, all that you are is so overwhelming…

I delight myself in You, captivated by your beauty

I’m overwhelmed by You.

God, I run into your arms, unashamed because of mercy

 There is no one more beautiful.

–Big Daddy Weave, Overwhelmed

*

I never run at night.

Yet, for whatever reason on this particular muggy Monday evening, I was running. At just around 8:30pm. I was supposed to meet JP at 8:15, but alas, Africa time got the best of me (again).

JP and I ran on the straight pathway bound for the Embassy of the United States. An ominous building, it raises the American flag high, with large black gates, protecting a pearly white structure (the pool is visible from the sides!) and is a good marker to indicate distance for long runs. Exactly 3.5 miles from the brick-walled home I have been living in; a round-trip will cost you 7. Hope your legs are ready.

usembassy

ahem. yeah. that’s the US Embassy. Kigali, Rwanda. photo from a great blog, mountains & miles

I am often lost in my thoughts and music when I climb these Rwandan streets with my pair of feet, but this evening was different, as JP and I conversed on our top three favorite & least favorite things about Rwanda & America. For reference, it’s a great topic to kill time while running. We knocked out a least 25 minutes while on the subject.

When we finished – perspiring, worn, and ready for bed – I turned on my street corner near the bus stop to head home. At this point, it’s just around 9:35pm.

Rwanda just received a top 5 ranking of countries in the world safest to walk around at night, so believe me, my worries were few.

I had wanted to put my musical jams in my ear to listen to – for whatever reason, I didn’t.

I thought about running the rest of the way to my house – again, I didn’t.

I had to be in the perfect moment, in the perfect place, at just the right time for what was about to happen.

Haven’t you heard? That’s how God works. A master orchestrator, conductor like no one has ever seen, we too often take miracles as coincidences, or divine intervention as mere circumstance. I know, I trust, I believe that our lives are so intricately designed that in moments God plans (and is planning).

You think you have total control of your day with your planner, as I am so often inclined to believe? Hmm.

I don’t think God needs a day timer, that’s for sure.

*

A short, unassuming woman side-steps me on the cobblestone path.

‘Mwiriwe,’ she states, ‘Amakuru?’ (In English: Hello, how are you?)

‘Ni meza…nawe?’ (I am well, how are you?)

‘Wapi…minsi wapi…’ (Bad, today has been bad…)

She started to explain her circumstances – her problem in that moment – and instead, I rudely interrupted. I kid you not, in this woman’s moment of despair, I chose instead to be defensive and spit words like this,

‘I am not an ATM machine! Just because I am a foreigner doesn’t mean I can just give money…honestly, what can I do…?

In a moment where I can only describe as ‘being slapped’, my voice stopped mid-sentence. I couldn’t speak. Instead, I gestured my right-hand to bring her closer. In a miraculous instant, I realized that whatever I was saying, frankly, was stupid. I needed to listen. So, I beckoned her over, and she came.

Stopped like that in my tracks, I opened my ears. My heart began to flood with sympathy. My eyes saw the need for a deeper kind of empathy. Her pain, her circumstance was causing great hurt in her. As I listened, I prayed for forgiveness in my initial harshness. Eugenie was headed to a hospital about 5 miles away. Everything she had was in a small, worn duffle on her left side. Her baby was already there – but with no health insurance. The cost for the government subsidy – which she would qualify for – per year is approximately seven (7) US dollars. With no other family, her sick baby had created unbelievable stress for her; she was afraid the illness would result in something more serious.

My blinders removed by the grace of God, I invited her to come down the road with me. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew it would be okay. Turns out, during our walk close to my home, she ministered to me. She had been praying for an answer to this problem. Yes, she knew and strongly believed that God would come through. She proclaimed further, in an enthusiastic, deeply assured voice,

I have been saved by the blood of Jesus. It’s what keeps my hope alive. I have nothing in this world. But I have everything.

She said this verbatim and went on – the entire walk – about how Jesus changed her entire life. No family (her mother passing away from cancer years prior) to speak of, she is here, in the city, with her only child. Her husband left her last year. So, she searches for work. Seemingly hopeless. But, she assured me, she is living for something greater.

I couldn’t believe this conversation was even happening.

I sent her on her way with the equivalent of $10 USD, two bananas, and an extra pair of shoes. For some reason, it seemed like she might need them. We prayed together before she left and as I watched her walk away, I was overwhelmed.

What was that? What just happened?

*

My soul rose the next morning quite weepy. Yet, without a trace of sorrow, my entire body was instead filled with inexplicable awe.

My week had been full of revelations of weaknesses and sin I have maintained in my relationship with God.

Just to name a few:

acceptance by others & the world (the fear of not being liked); perfectionism; reliance on doubt; selfishness; & pride. And yet. And yet.

And yet.

It doesn’t end there. The story isn’t over in our brokenness, humanness, or weaknesses.

GOD STILL USED ME IN THAT MOMENT. ON THAT MONDAY. ON THAT RUN.

HE STILL USED EUGENIE TOO; I NEEDED HER AS MUCH AS SHE NEEDED ME.

*

I was blessed enough to be a blessing. Despite every imperfection I carry, He is still faithful.

He is not a God of sacrifice. He’s one of mercy (Matthew 9:13).

We don’t have to fear our short-comings. We don’t have to define our relationship with GOD because we’re having a bad day and messed up. Or, we said something mean to our friend. Or, maybe you think you’re worse. You think you have done something that is unforgivable. Maybe you cheated on somebody, maybe you stole, maybe you physically harmed somebody…it doesn’t really matter. The Gospel isn’t about what you did. It’s about God, about Jesus, and about the bigger picture.

I was overwhelmed by this, reminded of this story, and encouraged that nothing I do separates me from Him. It might be a simple thing to say, but it’s an overwhelming standard by which to understand the world. But hey, I’ll take that worldview, each and every time. Humbled, grateful, and renewed, I’m thankful for Eugenie and her message. I’m thankful for God using me, but also using her. She proclaimed His name – even in times of deep trouble – knowing she was secure in the identity she had.

Speaking of identity, one more thing.

I forgot to mention the Kinyarwanda translation of her name. Yes, her first name was Eugenie. However, her second name? Ukuri.

It means truth.

*

 

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