I've been on the road a fair bit lately - driving to Kakamega, driving to Eldoret, and places in-between. And I have to admit flashes of covetousness as I drive, something I have wrestled with since moving to Africa in 2005. As I drive through quiet villages, and I see people sitting outside together, laughing and talking and having fellowship, I find myself coveting a quiet life. I often wonder what it would be like to be them. I wonder what it would be like to wake up and only have to care for your family - not responsible for raising support for ministries that many people rely on. I wonder what it would be like to live in a village of family and friends, where you know each other and care about each other. I wonder what it would be like to not have to rush here and there, seemingly always battling deadlines. For example, I took an exam for a class on Wednesday and started a new class on Thursday. I work most evenings until 9 pm, and still go to sleep knowing an endless list of things to do. In part, it is my personality (I know!); but also, there is a lot going on for which I am responsible.
And I find myself coveting that lifestyle. For a moment.
Almost always when those thoughts occur, I hear a verse very loudly in my head, "To whom much is given, much is required."
It makes me think of the parable of the talents in Matthew and Luke. I'm sure you know it. The three persons are given according to their abilities and are expected to use the talents in a way that will bring profit for the master. When we talk about this parable in our class, it always seems a bit surprising to people when I point out that the reward of doing well - of making a profit - is not "Well done, good and faithful servant - come and put your feet up and relax." It is, "Well done - you have been faithful with little and I will put you in charge of many things." In fact in Luke, the reward is to be put in charge of ten or five cities. There is a part of me that wants to say, "Really? That is the reward?" I find running one organization stressful enough - managing ten cities sounds like punishment to me. But if you have been given talents and gifts to manage and grow things, it makes sense that the giver of those gifts wants you to use them.
To whom much is given, much is required.
The truth is, I have been given much. As much as I may grumble about frequent power outages, or no running water, or no kitchen to cook in, or being so far away from my husband and children, I know very, very well how blessed I am. I was born and raised in a "developed" country, with parents who love me. I was able to get a good education. I have good health care. If I were to contract ebola or some other illness, I would be evacuated. I can connect with my husband and children via Skype because I own a laptop and have access to internet. My children didn't wonder whether or not they could get a college education - they only wondered how much they would have to pay in loans.
Would I want to trade my life for someone in the village?
The good news is that I don't have to answer that. It doesn't matter. My life is my life and I am called to use what I have been given for the benefit of my God and His Church.
I love Africa and the perspective that it continues to offer me. And I know how much I need that perspective because it doesn't take much to slip into seeing the grass greener somewhere else. I am thankful for the gifts and talents that God has given me, and how He has equipped me to use those gifts and talents to build His Church. So today, I focus on that and ask God to forgive my covetous nature! Thank God for grace, forgiveness, and mercy!