Sunday, November 7, 2010
Reflections from Uganda: Bow the Knee
Upon my recent trip to Uganda, the Lord did a work on my heart. He broke me in places I had not yet been broken. He planted joy deep inside, in faraway corners of depths that had not been laced with joy until that point. He stretched me like tender sinew where once I was hard as stone without even realizing it. (As Ezekiel 11: 19-20 prophesies, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”)
It has taken me some days to sit down and begin to write these reflections. I had to sift through my 83 pages of journal entries that spanned our 8 days in country. Now being back “home” (though I feel somewhat away from home…longing more than ever for that Greater Country, where we shall be truly one in Spirit & Truth in His great and glorious, vivid Presence), I am ready to share in words some tokens of what the Lord has taught me.
One of the great lessons I have taken away from my journey to the Pearl of Africa has been what it truly means to bow humbly before the Lord in reverence and worship. To be quite frank, I struggle with my prayer life. I think of myself as one who prays often and finds true life in union with my Creator & Redeemer, but the distractions and physical realities of our world often cloud my vision of the Spiritual, and I let hours, sometimes days go by without communing with the Lord. When I do pray, I often “send up” a sentence or two and then get back to my continual thoughts of the day, my worries, my agenda, my tasks.
I have not taken seriously the plea of Psalm 95. A little girl named Maureen gently convicted my heart in this area. On the lakeside hill by the great and calm Victoria one morning stood little Maureen in her yellow and orange dress against the backdrop of the blue, vast lake, the clear, open sky, and the green field. Her dress gently blew in the warm October breeze as she stood still, shy, alone, and elegant. Tiny little thing she was, but with a bright and curious presence. I walked over to her and began to speak to her with love and care. The music director at Kigungu, tall and noble Dennis in his blue coat with kindness in his eyes, came over to interpret for me. Maureen would not crack a smile in her serious, little, soulful face. Like a small number of the children, she had this way of standing out from the crowds of bubbly personalities who embraced us with song, dance, jumps, and joy. She was a reflective little thing who has probably seen her share of more suffering in her few years than we can imagine in a lifetime. She did not look sad, only solemn and sincere, as if thoughts filled her heart beyond her young years.
I told her, through Dennis’s interpretation in Luganda, that she is beautiful. Her face lit up with a humble smile. We continued to connect and relate in the following few minutes, mostly through eyes and not words. I gave her some stickers, which she looked startled, surprised, and in awe at receiving. It seemed to me like it was hard for her to accept this gift…like it is sometimes difficult for us to accept gifts from the Lord. We don’t know how to respond or take them. We cannot understand His grace. We cannot comprehend where the gifts come from and how we might possibly be heirs of love.
The moment that struck me the most was when she fell to her knees to bow. I had seen the Ugandan children show their reverence for elders and those serving them time and again in the few days prior. They would bow their heads in humble thanks when they received food or any gift of love. One little baby had bowed before my feet on her knees one day in Baale, and I just scooped her up in my arms. And now sweet Maureen bowed in humility and beauty, all because I called her beautiful and placed a few stickers on her face and hands. She showed her incredible thanks and joy by kneeling on the hillside grass, ever so gently and gracefully. It was an overwhelming feeling inside for me. Was this such a grand gift I bestowed upon little Maureen that it compelled her to bow? She, a petite thing indeed, became even smaller in that moment to display a grateful heart and welcoming spirit.
How often do we show thanksgiving and reverence to those around us who share gifts with us? How much more often do we bow before our Holiest of Holy Lords, the Maker and Giver of all good gifts, who deserves our attention, our adoration, and our worship? I think, sadly, not nearly often enough. You see, we forget how marvelous and mighty, how royal and wonderful our God is. We forget to give thanks, to give praise, to be silent and still and just bow. Is it because it is uncomfortable physically or socially or emotionally to bow? Or have we just not “gotten it”? He deserves our worship. He, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, deserves our praise. It is our mandate, our calling, to bow. Until we fall to our knees and come before our Maker with such devotion and awe, we will not fully see the glory of God manifested in our lives and the world around us. We can’t make it alone. We cannot make our lives work by our own accord. We must let go, fall before the Lord, and let the Holy One be in his place to perform a great transformation in our day.
When Maureen assumed her stance again, I blew some bubbles that I had kept in my pocket. She looked up and around her with more wonder and amazement, again displaying her solemn, soulful gaze. The little thing once more seemed to be trying to comprehend where they came from and how they worked. I handed her the bubbles. I literally had to take her tiny fingers and wrap them around the plastic vile. More shock and thanksgiving in her sweet face. She kneeled yet another time. That precious little one, so meek and unpretentious, a child of poverty in the world’s eyes…yet an heir of great royalty in the Heavenly Father’s eyes. She is one of the greatest in the Kingdom of righteousness, a servant who will lead many, reflecting the rare humility of Christ we read of in Philippians 2.
Little Maureen, a child who owns deep and thoughtful character, reminded me with silent elegance and maturity beyond her years, Jesus words in Matthew 7:11 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Maureen’s bow displayed a portrait of the importance of humility before our Maker, our Lord, our Savior, and the Giver of all good gifts.
Will you read Psalm 95 with me and praise Him on your knees today? As in the words of the Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”