First and foremost, Samir and Roleen, my first ever investigators, my first ever lesson, my first ever baptismal dates, are getting baptised this week. Very few things could make me happier. I knew they were going to be baptised, but it was a matter of when. And when is now!
So 18 months of this missionary stuff under my belt and the transfer call was made and I’m………………staying here.
It is good because we found a whole load of new investigators including a blind lady named Eva, (so cool to teach someone who relies on the tone of our voice rather than the expressions on our face) a wonderfully humble truth seeker named Gosie, whose brother was just killed in war in eastern Africa, and Moses.Moses. Moses. Moses. Miracle miraculous Moses. The hope of Israel!
The Royal Sheep. Seriously, these are the royal sheep. As in, these sheep belong to the King of Sweden. This is the King’s Uppsala palace..
Moses is simply one of those miracles that just happen and you find yourself rather lucky to witness it. He is the sort that is so prepared and so good down to the core that it really does not matter all that much which missionaries teach him, he would accept the gospel and convert to it himself. We could just hand him the Book of Mormon and a few pamphlets and he would do all the work to prepare for baptism…..Of course we will be doing much more than handing him reading materials though. We will be pouring everything into him to build his faith, for a far from ordinary future most certainly awaits such a soul as Moses.
He was born in Eritrea but has been a wandering refugee from that violent dictatorial state just about his entire life. On the way, he lost his mother and now Moses, having ironically moved last from Egypt (it was not a 40 year exodus fortunately) is completely alone in Sweden at age 18. Remnants of his family he believes are in Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Netherlands, etc.. He never has had a normal peaceful life. He literally grew up running. And here is the thing—he is absolutely brilliant. He is fluent in 5 languages, (not just able to communicate….I mean fluent), is a geography wiz and now he wants to go into theology. And, he is just a good human. Straight down to the core he is goodness. There is a light in his eyes of pure goodness. Despite all that he has been through, or perhaps because of all that he has been through, he is one of the kindest, happiest, deepest and spiritually in touch souls you could ever meet.
So, as we began teaching him he had two questions for us 1. Why are there so many different Christian churches? And 2. Why do we no longer have prophets and miracles like the bible times?
You could not ask for two better questions to prepare someone for the message of the restored gospel and he just embraced it with joy, with absolute joy. We invited him to be baptised on the 18th of June but we had to change the date…. to the 11th. hahaha. Not a problem for me.
Those last three months of working through nothing but rejection and heartbreak and disappointment finally produced something. It shows how little of it has to do with me. How little is in my power. To take success in the mission as glory on yourself is idiotic…. It is the Lord and the prepared that you find who should receive all the glory. I did not make Moses want to be baptised. I certainly am here to help him be baptised and converted, but ultimately baptism and conversion are in the hands of the Lord and Moses himself. I can hopefully be a tool to help sculpt but never should I take the credit as the artist. As Isaiah asked “Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” (Isaiah 10:15)
So this recent lovely series of rather fortunate events led me to pondering on what, as mortals, is in our control and what is not. To suggest we control everything is commonly agreed upon foolishness. You do not need to look further than the weather forecast and the gambling casinos to see that we, mortals, do not control everything. We can influence, inspire and teach people in a positive light, or we can manipulate, enslave and brainwash people in a negative light, but ultimately it is they themselves who make the change, influenced upon their surroundings but ultimately up to their free agency. But, saying we cannot change people does not mean that every event of our life is outside of our control either. We are not helpless pooh stick just drifting down the preverbal river of the Roman concept of fate. We are, as a better allegory, more of a canoe with paddles. There will come rapids and waterfalls and stones as obstacles in the metaphorical river, and sometimes with the flow of the water, we will meet such dangers and no amount of paddling could prevent such, but more commonly the rapids in this particular river can be avoided by proper paddling in advance to the danger. Often times, when we go through such problems we tend to confuse (or convince ourselves that we are confused) the avoidable rapids with the unavoidable ones. Though Cassius, from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was not much more than a dirty, rotten, slimy, selfish, cowardly villain, he did offer some wisdom when he observed (and correct this quote if I am wrong mum…. I have no way of looking it up) “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.”
How often do we blame the stars, or fate, or someone else for our follies? Furthermore, how often do we take all the credit for a blessing that really did come from the stars, was really fate or was due to the actions of someone else? How do we recognise what is our fault or our good work or really just something complete out of our control? I think it has a great deal to do with finding the beautiful balance between humility and self worth.
It is a common, if not almost omnipresent, mistake of mankind to either be too deep in self pity or too deep in self arrogance, that we end up being neither humble nor self valued. Pride is the adversaries rendering of heaven’s self worth. Self pity is the adversaries rendering of heaven’s humility. It is pride and self pity that masks what good or poor fortunes on the preverbal river of life are our fault or out of our hands. Therefore, it is mastering power over these two that clarifies what we can and cannot control in our life. C.S. Lewis once noted that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” And likewise I cannot think of any better cure for narcissism than getting out of yourself and thinking about others.
So, the cure to these polar plagues is simply what seems to be the cure to almost every spiritual predicament: love. When you serve others, you think less of yourself and so your arrogance goes down, and in turn you find more of yourself, for there is more of yourself to find, and your self worth increases. It must be noted that I am talking about real love and service. It is very possible to do “charitable things” without an ounce of charity, and when the heart is in the wrong place it can even inflate your ego even more, but that is a discourse for another week.
As for this week, the message is there are things you cannot control, such as the conversion of a soul. You can influence and inspire and teach and these will certainly be key in the conversion process, but ultimately the conversion is in the hands of the convert. Likewise, there are things that we do control that we sometimes deny to ourselves. For example, you can say the mediocrity of your essay was not your fault because you were so busy throughout the week. But, chances are that you could’ve begun the assignment earlier and been more organised with your time. The way of recognising what we do and do not control is through balancing our humility and self worth and denying the presence of self pity and pride to creep in.
And that is the message for this week, folks.
Loving it here in trevlig Svergie.
Much love and peace,