Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Samuel is nine years old. He joined our family when he was about six. Being originally Zulu, his grasp of technical English is still growing.
Today, Samuel’s teacher and I decide he needs to go back a few steps in his Maths. It’s a tough call - it puts him behind his younger brother, but in an ironic twist of circumstances they are both now ahead of Kiara. He has his heart set on Engineering, and I know we can get him there if we build in the foundations well.
“It doesn’t mean you’re not smart, Sam. Look at Kiara. She has to learn this Maths again, too. You had an accident, just like her. Your accident was when you got lost, and then had to learn a new language. When you’ve had an accident you can’t worry about keeping up with other kids. You just have to keep building well.”
He gets the building analogy because he watched how many days the builders left the concrete foundation to set at our home before they were able to build walls on it. If the concrete’s not hard enough, then when you start putting the roof on, the structure buckles and you have to knock the walls down and start again.
“Is this Maths the roof level, Mom?”
“No, my boy. Your Engineering Maths at varsity will be the roof level. This is still the concrete foundation. It’s the most important part. That’s why I want to go back a bit and make sure it’s rock solid.”
It’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation, but somehow Kiara is the perfect analogy to help him get it. She was made to be something amazing, and we all know she’s going to be everything she was always meant to be. It’s as if the real Kiara is there, but slightly out of focus. We can see so graphically the messiness of the journey to being her true self, and her patience in having to climb a mountain she already had under her belt. It seems more graceful and more doable the second time round, and she gives us courage to climb our mountains for the first time. Destinies and destinations define us more truly than our daily detours and setbacks.
I have my own learning to do right now, and have met with my own setbacks. Eighteen months ago, I felt God say a strange thing to me... He said, “Anonymity is a gift. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
And while this month has hardly meant fame by any real world standards, I am also forced to note that less anonymity means getting away with less. Bigger ‘reach’ means magnified character - the good, the bad and the ugly.
As we navigate the balance between wanting to shout out from the rooftops about our miracle-working God, and yet wanting to walk humbly before him, too, we have found ourselves shouting out at times and then realizing we should have been silent. That feeling when you belt out the next verse in church, but everyone else is waiting for the chorus...
I send out a Facebook message that I’m preaching this Sunday, then wonder who’s glory I’m concerned with? I’m about to defend myself to God, saying that I’m doing it to bring people to him, when I sense him quietly rebut, “I don’t need you to make me famous.”
His words so often hit me in the gut with their truth. People often complain that they never hear God speak. I sometimes wish he would be silent!
I find myself sickened with the idea that I might misuse this situation. Oh God, help me to be neither silent with shame nor to speak for the sake of self-glory! All this at such cost to Kiara, it hurts that my integrity gauge sometimes struggles to find true North.
I remember a fiery preacher once saying that he sometimes wished he could take his heart out of his chest and beat it to a pulp, and I wonder what it means for my sanctification journey that I identify with that so regularly!
I feel like such an idiot for thinking it was a good idea to promote myself. It’s so scary how social media takes our momentary misjudgments and spreads them before hundreds of people in minutes. Despite the fact that I can’t undo the damage I’ve done to my own reputation, I delete the post and kneel before God. He reminds me of the very same psalm:
Don’t follow after the wicked ones or be jealous of them.
Don’t think for a moment they’re better off than you.
They and their short-lived success
will soon shrivel up and quickly fade away
like grass clippings in the hot sun.
Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes.
Fix your heart on the promises of God and you will be secure,
feasting on his faithfulness.
Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life,
and he will provide for you what you desire the most.
Give God the right to direct your life,
and as you trust him along the way
you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!
He will appear as your righteousness,
as sure as the dawning of a new day.
He will manifest as your justice,
as sure and strong as the noonday sun.
Quiet your heart in his presence and pray;
keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you.
I used to think it would be nice not to be aware of my own sin. And yet I find such comfort in repentance, such unbridled joy in the knowledge that every imperfection I find is wiped clean as I bring it to Jesus.
Kiara and Sam and me and all of us, meant to be something amazing, and yet finding our way to our true selves. Kiara’s determination to become again what she always was, and what she truly is, becomes a picture for us. My fall seems less accidental, and yet there is mercy for that in repentance. Detours and setbacks will come, but grace defines us by our destinies, and by our destination.