8 dogs wandered in and out of church today as we sat down inside and outside for our classes. There weren’t any pigs which was nice because they can be awfully noisy. The lady in front of me picked out lice from a little girls hair and dropped it to the ground just as the sacrament water was being passed around. Sacrament is something we do in our church to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us when He gave His life for us. We have young men who pass around trays filled with little cups of water that has been specially blessed. Each person who has entered into baptism has the opportunity to take a small cup of water and drink it in remembrance of the blood of Jesus.
As the tray passed by I took my cup and handed it on to my daughter. There were only two little cups of water left one with a tiny bit of water and one with a lot of water. My 10 year old daughter took the cup with only a little water in it. She is ultra paranoid about germs and looked to me to ask “has this already been used”, obviously it wouldn’t have been there if it had been used, so I shook my head ‘no’ as she drank it down. But the young man passing the sacrament tried to cover his laugh as he grimly whispered ‘yes’ at the same time. oops. She was sicked out- poor little girl!
Sacrament was now finished and It was my turn to go up. I stood looking at the large congregation (there were nearly 100 of us), behind the worn out pulpit in our little outdoor church building. The microphone was working today which was a big bonus so I wouldn’t have to shout to be heard.
It was my turn to give a talk. I couldn’t do it in Bislama, even though I’ve been here for 3 months, all I can really say is ‘hello, what is your name’ and ‘my name is Rebecca’. Pretty pathetic I know…
I got asked to give the talk last night before I went to bed. At home In Canada I need at least two weeks warning before giving a talk in front of our congregation. This gives me enough time to research, pray, practice and memorize the whole thing. Then I reread it and say it out loud practicing looking up at the audience as I speak a few times. All of this prep time gives me enough courage to face the sea of people who will be listening as I deliver my well thought out speech in my clean, electrified, air conditioned, quiet church building. Okay, well maybe not quiet.
I realized when I was asked to give the talk at the last minute, and didn’t have that usual feeling of anxiety that accompanies such a task, that things here have given me a whole new perspective on my life back home. It suddenly hit me that in North America we have an entire culture surrounding the idea of perfection.
Our homes are getting bigger and bigger, and cleaner and cleaner, our cars nicer and nicer, our phones better and better and more and more expensive, our education is expanding at an astonishing rate. We have access to more information, more types of foods, more job opportunities and more technologies than have ever existed in the entire history of mankind. And all of this has created a culture where the humans that exist inside of it are stressed and depressed and in bondage to more debts and addictions than ever before.
I realised as I prepared my talk that I was living as one of those human beings. Trying to be the perfect mother, neighbour, church goer, friend, visiting teacher, wife, daughter and community member. I was so worried about how I APPEARED that I allowed my happiness to be hijacked by trying to fit in and measure up. I always wanted my house to be clean, my meals to be healthy, my lessons to be clever, my kids talents to be explored…on and on the list goes without ever satisfying the endless list of demands.
The seams on the wooden pulpit I was standing behind were all coming apart and the wood was swelling in the joints, but nobody cared because they were just happy to have a pulpit at all. The church building that we were under was a patchwork of tin and grass and plywood, but it was okay because they were just happy to have somewhere to worship outside of the elements. I could have given a talk in Chinese and nobody would have minded. Now in front of them, they just all looked at me with caring kind faces, smiling and nodding as I went off in English.
I might cry, or talk too fast or too slow, or too loud or not talk at all and it wouldn’t matter. In fact, yesterday a girl got up to speak at a baptism and just stood there staring at us for ages. Nobody minded or was impatient, and eventually when she whispered words into the microphone that none of us could understand we all just smiled.
Because here, WHO you are and WHAT you are is good enough. And God provides the sun and rain and the fruit on the trees and the fish in the oceans and there is no reason to complain or wish for anything more.
It was never more evident that our culture in North America is sick and that all this destructive perfection seeking is an exhausting way to live. I promised myself today that I would PAUSE. Just wait a moment in silence and remember the simple blessings and gifts that God has given me and thank Him and praise Him. Have a happy Sabbath 🙂