Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Patience, Complaining, and Thankfulness

Our family arrived in Gabon at the end of August, 2008. We came to do what we've committed our lives to, no matter where we go- being an expression of the love of Jesus Christ. One of the ways we were planning on doing that here was using my skills as a pilot and administrator to start a medical air transport for the Bongolo Hospital.

So, we've been here for about 10 months and I have flown exactly ZERO flights for the hospital.

I was chatting with a doctor from the hospital the other day about my frustration and I said to him, "imagine if you had arrived in Gabon, after years of training, language school, fund raising and anticipation, and then you went 10 months without performing ONE medical procedure. Not only that, but after 10 months, you still had no clear idea when you will start!" The doctor's eyes got big as he imagined this. "Wow"... those were his words.

Do you see how good I am at throwing a pity party for myself? Yes, it is unfortunate about how things don't go our way, sometimes. Yes, we have our plans in mind and timelines and expectations and ... When it all comes tumbling down around us, we can't avoid the fact that we've been created as emotional people. The feelings start... sadness, pity, despair, hopelessness... I happen to be good at being a cynic when things aren't going my way.

Usually, while I'm sulking in my cynicism, God comes along and shakes me with something. Today it was an email and news of the death of the father of dear friends of mine.

I had a great start to the morning- some exercise, walked our dog, Tozer, (more like "pulled") through the neighborhood, had some coffee and mango yogurt (good stuff), and headed to the office to check the email. One of the messages in the "Inbox" was simply titled with this man's name. If you've seen those types of emails, you usually get a sinking feeling.

I read the email and my fears were confirmed. "Sonny Boy", as my friends called their father, had enjoyed a round of golf, gone home to mow the lawn, and then, as he relaxed on the back patio, had a heart attack and died.

I feel so sad for my friends and their sweet mother. I used to sleepover at their house as a teenager. It was a big deal to have soda (or "pop" for all you Ohio folks), and we almost always were treated to a glass at their home. It was a fun and safe place. I remember a painting of an aircraft on their wall- a Piper J-3 Cub. I asked about it one time and found out that their father, Sonny Boy, had been a commercial pilot, but had to stop due to health concerns. Not for just 10 months or another period of time- but no flying for good.

I think about this, today. Sonny Boy was never cynical; never complained; never threw pity parties; never, as far as I knew, questioned God to a point beyond the amount trust he had that the Lord had something "better" in mind for him. In fact, there wasn't a time that I can think of when Sonny Boy didn't greet me with a smile and a warm hello. Their home was a safe place, full of fun.

My perspective needs this check. No doubt, flying was a passion of Sonny Boy and, when it was taken from him, there was a deep grieving internally. Years of training, dreaming, working... for what?

As a follower of Christ, we have confidence that each moment of our life is a precious opportunity for us to reflect our Creator to this broken world. Whether we are constructing buildings that will someday fall, or adding knowledge to our brains that may someday succumb to the travesty of alsheimers- all things in this world are empty and should not be invested in... except people.

Sonny Boy understood this. He did not live a life of bitterness toward God for things that "should have been". Inwardly, privately, I'm sure there were times of deep grief and questioning. However, I never witnessed anything but Christ-likeness on the exterior.

So, I could build a beautiful building, career, family, reputation, skill set, etc. If I've neglected the investment of people and built my identity around things that, eventually, will fail, then it's been all for not. I pray that we all continue to have Sonny Boy's in our lives to remind us of these things. We can have alot, and do alot, but if we "have not love, (we) gain nothing" (I Corinthians 13:2).

So, I'm thinking of complaining a little less and being thankful for the patience that is being grown in me (I hope!) and thankful for the wonderful opportunity I have to rub shoulders with all kinds of people who are investing in me, and me likewise. This can happen- airplane or no airplane. Thank the Lord!

And "thank you Lord" for allowing me to know your treasured child, Sonny Boy.

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