Suffering By Choice

It was Saturday morning. Mama, Lilly, and the kids had gone to the garden for the entire morning…leaving me behind because they decided for me that my rest should be valued over awaking me, as I had requested, to go to the garden with them. But I wanted to work! So, my entire morning was spent cleaning the house, sweeping and mopping the compound and doing laundry. My inner industrious self needed to get down, dirty and sweaty. The most fascinating part was watching Ugandans drive by on a boda boda with their mouths practically hanging open…as if they had never seen a mzungu girl with a broom in her hand and sweat on her brow. All I could do was stare back at them, chuckle to myself and do my best to withhold sassy comments.

I wanted to “suffer”…I wanted to sweat and pant and be exhausted in the name of helping out my Mama and Lilly with those chores they would have had to do later that day after returning from the garden. But suffering goes far beyond that.

While putting the finishing touches on the last chore of laundry, Muzungu came over to give me some company. After he gave the typical Ugandan word of encouragement, “Jeballeco” meaning “well done”, we began discussing our plans for the following day in which he, my sister Lilly and I were going to hit up Kampala for a day of church, university touring, eating, and shopping. Push came to shove, though, and we began talking about some cultural things I had learned in regards to my issue of spending money in front of him and Lilly and feeling like I am making myself appear rich. I spoke of how I felt poorly for seeing days when Mama didn’t have enough money to get gas in the car to go somewhere yet I can just head to Kampala and spend “extravagantly” on Christmas gifts. Muzungu suggested then that if it would make me feel better that I help Mama out fiscally when she needs it. This then led into the topic of creating a hierarchy through giving of money, even when it’s not intended. Push came to shove, again, and suddenly I was flowing out all my thoughts about giving money versus giving time, that cultural differences and the like.

I could tell Muzungu wasn’t really wrapping his mind around it. I didn’t expect him to; he is not in my shoes, not an American and hasn’t been sitting through Faith and Action class. All these things combined created what he could see was a manner of suffering. His comment was along the lines of, “Wow, you really have been suffering while you’ve been here”. I said yeah I guess I was…but it was the kind of suffering that was learning…the kind of suffering that was causing me to grow…the kind of suffering that God had placed in my path so that I could learn to see and think outside the small realm that I grew up within. It was a good kind of suffering.

In Mere Discipleship, by Lee Camp, there is an inserted quote that says,

“The believer’s cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the baring of which is demanded  The believer’s cross must be, like his Lord’s, the prices of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost. It is not…an inward wrestling of the sensitive soul with self and sin; it is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come.”

In short, suffering from taking up our cross must be a result of choices we make, and not unavoidable bad situations…otherwise, it has to do with luck and social location rather than to do with following Christ. – a quote from Mark’s power-point in F&A class.

We make a choice to suffer. It’s not us being victimized…and suffering by way of chance does not count. If we are victims of suffering, it’s because we victimized ourselves…and we should own up to that choice with confidence, knowing it’s in the name of expanding the Kingdom of God and glorifying our Lord.

Later that day, Muzungu and I went on a walk up the hill. Our conversation on suffering and burdens continued. He seemed worried, and as one might expect from a young man in a relationship, he clearly wanted to help take some of that burden off my shoulders. But I just told him, this sort of suffering (with growth through culture, through relationships, through learning) wasn’t a sort of burden or suffering that I could dish off onto anyone else, even if I wanted to. It was something I chose to take on and that I have peace with because I know the Lord is growing me through all of it. Sure, it hurts at times, but you can’t expect to serve the Lord and live a happy-go-lucky life.

What a concept. It left me really thinking…how often do I go seeking out the insufferable situations versus suffering? Do I choose when and where I want to suffer or do I keep my mind focused on where and when the Lord gives me those situations. Do I try to decide when the right time is for me to carry a burden and decide at other times that I’m simply not ready? While I make the choice to suffer, my heart ears should be listening to the Lord and seeking out what His plans are. After all, I have chosen to suffer for His sake, not my own.

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