Life is simpler than it seems
Life today presents us with a dizzying array of decisions on a daily basis. Individually, they don’t seem to matter much, but taken as a whole, there is so much to decide. Life is so complicated.
This is why Olivia Ndahana’s comment surprised me. No it stunned. Olivia told me how simple life is here in America. Simple? How could it be simple? Surely she misunderstood. Life here is so very complicated.
Olivia and Daudi Ndahana are a couple that I know from working as an intern in a church in Tanzania one summer 12 years ago when I was in seminary. The Ndahanas visited Kingsland for Christmas in 2008 while in the United States for Daudi to work on advanced training at a seminary in Wisconsin.
Olivia grew up in a village in the far west of Tanzania, near its border with Burundi. She knows well the price paid in human lives when the rains don’t come or come too quickly or too hard. She knows well the havoc wreaked by injuries with no ready antibiotics and the toll disease takes with no medicine to fight its spread.
Olivia also knows what it is like to shop for food and other items here in Camden County. She is a very smart woman, with training from a seminary and experience in the field under tough conditions. Olivia is a thoughtful, Christian leader and I knew I needed to pay attention to what she was saying.
She explained how when a child gets sick here in Camden County, the parents just take him or her to the hospital and they get the medicines the child needs. Sometimes, they do not even have to do that. The parent can take a cell phone and dial a doctor’s office, get a call back and have ready advice on what to do in the middle of the night, to get the child’s fever down before bringing him or her to the office in the morning.
Compare this to a child getting sick in Kumwambu, where Daudi and Olivia lived when I met them. No one in the whole village owned a car. A sickness so severe as to need a doctor would mean someone would have to walk to find a relative or some other person with a car and beg use of it, and then get a ride to town where the small infirmary-sized hospital may or may not have on hand what is needed to bring relief. The many things it would take to try to do something to simply relieve suffering were daunting. All it would take here would be a middle of the night drive to a 24-hour pharmacy where even over the counter medicines would provide more healing than available through a day of hard effort in western Tanzania.
Even the poorest among us in Camden County does not face pressure this year on whether the crops will thrive or fail and what that means for us in terms of feeding ourselves or our children next winter.
For most of us in Camden County, our lives are so simple that when we need something, we get it without ever giving it a thought. Not the things we want or desire. I mean food, and water, and shelter, and basic medical care.
Mark Gospel tells us of a wealthy man who came to Jesus wanting to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. After running through the parts of the Ten Commandments which deal with how we treat one another, the man assured Jesus that he had kept all these commandments since his youth. Jesus then asked him something which he had asked before at least twelve times. He asks the rich man to drop everything and follow him. The man famously turns away. He went away grieving for had many possessions. He couldn’t leave it behind. The hold his possessions had on him was too strong.
Judaism had always talked about the life of faith in terms of following “hallakah,” which means literally “the way to walk.” The man wants to know what is the way to walk that will have him inheriting eternal life. Jesus, the great physician, analyzes the man’s sickness and determines that he is going have to set down many things in order to truly follow Jesus’ path.
The question is not whether you have possessions or not. Jesus teaches that your heavenly father knows you need these things. Jesus instead calls each and every one of us to radically reorder our lives. In this you and I stand alongside Daudi and. None of us, no matter how much or how little we possess are permitted to let those possessions come to possess us. Each of us is called to use what we have to live out our love of God and neighbor.
Our lives are so simple. We don’t have to get bogged down in issues of basic survival. Whether the crops do well this year or not, we will all be able to eat well. And with all our basic needs met, we have no excuses. We have the resources to give freely so that others, for example our brothers and sisters in Haiti, will enjoy some of the blessings showered on us. We have the time and energy and resources to devote to following the way of Jesus. We have the time to read the Bible. We have time to pray for ourselves and other. We have the energy to serve Christ by serving others. It’s really that simple.
This is today's religion column for the Tribune & Georgian.
Labels: religion column