After a month of experiencing the beauty of South Africa, I have finally been faced with some really ugly truths.
My eyes are being opened wider to the pain and the struggles that so many people have to deal with each day. I have seen fist fights break out in the streets, sons and daughters getting cursed at and abused by their careless parents, little children going to school barefoot with empty stomaches, and teenage girls who will do anything for just a tiny bit of attention.
And those are just a few of the issues that occur on a day to day basis. In the States, when I was growing up in elementary school… my biggest worry was if my socks matched my headband. My biggest struggle was deciding if I wanted my Dad to make me Pop-Tarts or Waffles for breakfast. Priorities, right?
It’s one thing to see images of hungry and impoverished kids flashing across a tv screen, but it’s an entirely different thing to coach alongside a girl who’s little sister is struggling with thoughts of suicide because her mom constantly doesn’t feed her and tells her that she’s going to amount to nothing. It’s an entirely different thing to walk into a team meeting and find out that my friend has been stabbed and robbed the night before. It’s an entirely different thing to see toddlers with runny noses and scars on their bodies sitting alone on the side of the road because no one cares what happens to them. The worst part is that this is normal life for these kids, this is what they know, it’s all they know…and that breaks my heart.
I realized that the battle isn’t against the irresponsible parents or the messed up South African government (google: load shedding and you’ll see what I mean.) My battle isn’t against the drug dealers who sell to children or the men who rape the women living in the townships. My battle is our battle, and it goes far beyond the physical things of this world (Ephesians 6:12). If we know God is good, then we must know that there is also evil that will counteract that good. The enemy wants to hit God where it hurts by taking away the one thing that He loves most.
And when I sit and think about who or what that one thing is… I realize that it’s us.
It’s His children. He gave up everything just so we could know Him. Jesus died for us so that we could have a free and loving relationship with the Father who gave us breath and life and grace and love and peace. If God had a heavenly refrigerator, our pictures would be all over it (pinned up with cute little heart magnets because He’s that awesome.)
Our battle is a spiritual one, and it’s sometimes harder to spot in America because as “American Christians” we are less open to the spiritual realm and more open to the rational one. We tend to see a homeless deadbeat alcoholic wasting away on the streets with our physical eyes, but we can’t seem to see that same person as someone who is desperately seeking love and acceptance but just can’t catch a break. Walking down the streets of Cloetesville, I can see spirits of Fear, Depression, Anger, Rebellion, and Addiction. These spirits grab on to the hurting and the lost for dear life, reeking havoc and destroying their lives, but there is one Sprit Who is greater. There is one Spirit Who has overcome this world and Who is strong enough to set people free. Jesus was able to cast out demons with less words (Go!) than it took Him to calm a storm (Peace! Be Still!), THAT’S how strong my God is!
I can freely love my neighbor (the good, the bad, and the ugly) because His perfect love has cast out all of the fear in me (1 John 4:18). I wont stop fighting on their behalf because Jesus never gave up fighting when He was pursuing me.
So…it’s time to put on our armor and fight back.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6