Life among the pagodas
Life in Myanmar is bursting with all sorts of disruptions. There is no such thing as a “quick run” to the grocery store. Some stoplights will keep you waiting for 20-30 minutes. Long distance buses post signs that say, “Please do not ask when this bus will arrive.” The men you hired to install an appliance don’t show up till it’s 6 p.m.—right in the middle of a dinner event you’d planned. The water stops running on a 100-degree evening, with eight thirsty and sweaty bodies in the house. The water guy promises he’ll show up in a few days to fix it. The power goes out for hours at a time during this season of the year. We returned from an afternoon out last Friday to discover two different types of bugs invading our house, and a water leak positioned right above our bed.
These things are weekly, if not daily occurrences around here, and they’re par for the course in life overseas. Gone is the convenience of North America, where I can get several major tasks accomplished in one day with little interference from the outside world. (Privacy to do your work? That isn’t a thing here.) Here, being able to cook and eat three square meals, do laundry, and go out in the neighborhood is an amazing day. Life here has forced me to reset my gauges and to question terms such as “good” and “productive.”
We Americans love to count our blessings; we thank God expectantly for the small and pleasant surprises we hope to find He’s planted throughout our day. But do we have the same attitude toward interruptions in our lives, toward people who slow us down, circumstances that might block our best-laid plans, or our own inability to accomplish what we’d hoped?
Our response to interruptions can give a pretty quick read into our identity, and ultimately, the source of our faith and hope. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” If disruptions in your life send you into a tailspin, what does that say about your faith? When we’re faced with less than ideal life circumstances, it is a painful struggle to celebrate the fact that God might actually be doing something amazing because of it.
But take a cue from Job, one of the most confused sufferers in the Bible: Job could see little evidence of God’s hand, and yet he said with confidence, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). The “count it all joy” exhortation from James 1 is easy to do in hindsight, but God calls us to rejoice now, and not to postpone it for better days. Our lives here on earth may be disordered and messy for a time, but we’re only looking at the back of the tapestry right now.
Our level of “interruptibility” is what sets us apart as followers of Christ. For what kind of people can sincerely “be joyful always… and give thanks in all circumstances,” especially the less-than-ideal circumstances?
Only those who rest in this hope: “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). This is the confidence we have in following a perfect, unstoppable, and uninterruptible God.