Even Christ didn’t please Himself…

 

Excerpt taken from ‘Lost in Faith. It could take faith to...’

Chapter one:

It could take faith… to walk all alone!

‘I am crushed with despair and emptiness on the realisation of what we have done! How could we have brought our two little English boys to live in this snake-infested, fly and mosquito infested, barren and scorched wilderness called Spain!?

I go weak at the knees and slump down to sit on a rock unable to hold back the tears, staring at nothing less than a time warp.

‘Christine, I’m sorry I brought you here’ Chris my husband is saying taking my hand in his. ‘Listen. I’ll take you home tomorrow sweetheart and we’ll forget all about caves, gypsies, a life of faith and being missionaries and I mean it.’

I now realise just how English I am! England –a life of comfort on a well-populated clean, neat, and green island. Yet all these normal things about my own country have hit me for the first time ever as having been heaven, yet were simply  asphalted roads, neatly formed houses, and street lamps. I’d never realised until now, that even the basic gadgets in my home had been domestic bliss!

Now we are here in this filthy part of the world, ‘in faith’ whatever faith means to me now; feeling abandoned in the middle of nowhere, it is extinguishing any desire to live up to who I thought I was!

We grab candles as without warning the caravan is suddenly engulfed by an inky blackness. Out there somewhere is a place called Cuevas – if caves really do exist that is!  But all I can think of is the preparation for the extremely wearisome unending journey back home on all those foreign roads and that unfamiliar foreign money and how I will make such a journey without nappies. However, arriving to my green, busy, civilised, and well-lit country will be worth any inconvenience, even though our reputation will be in tatters!

We both know once we arrive back that we’ll always bear the name ‘failures’ and never be admired or be listened to again. That will be our life-long burden to bear; the couple that ‘didn’t make it and who weren’t missionary materiel after all.’

Outside the caravan an orchestra is building of high-pitched weird sounds filling the silence of this huge empty dark and scary space, and I’m hoping and praying that none of them will want to make our acquaintance tonight! I’d only ever heard such whistling, hooting, and screeching on a cowboy film on TV. back home. They sounded such cosy noises when snuggled up to a sweetheart on a couch. I’d always thought of deserts as romantic places with starry-lit skies, not dark, frightening, noisy, and freezing cold in a flash.’

I remember how exciting God’s will was for us when we were enjoying being ‘Kris and Kristine’ The Sunshine Evangelists’   loved and admired by churches throughout our denomination.  Although I was a shy and timid evangelists’ wife, to Chris’s relief I always managed to overcome it as we walked towards the rostrum, Chris squeezing my hand to re-assure me. I hated attention, but my gleaming, vivid red, full size massive accordion helped me to feel hidden somewhat, and we sang our hearts out, Chris singing tenor, me I alto, Chris accompanying on his guitar.

My part in the conventions was being the children’s’ evangelist. How I loved children and always felt full of confidence when doing anything involving children.

In my own familiar surroundings in England, I knew how best to cope with my timidity. But in these primitive outback villages, where everyone just stares as if an extraterrestrial being has landed in front of them, seems to make me freeze and I loathe being so noticeable.

I never ever imagined that there were people whose lives revolved around water. I never dreamed water could be so sparse and precious. It’s like an idolised substance and is collected only by the female population regardless of age. Young women, even little girls and old ladies bent with age, fill big heavy water pots and carry them under their arm or on their head! I’m so pleased I have sons not daughters!  I know I will not be able to do it as I’m certain their heads seem flatter than mine!

The task of the little scruffy peasant boys is no easier. Their job seems to be to be picking snails from the scrubland, then squatting to sell them!  I cannot believe there are human beings who put slimy bugs in their mouth that have just been picked from off filthy weeds.

We decide to follow a rusty old sign that says ‘Mojacar. The drive is a steep and twisting one on a track just wide enough to fit a donkey and cart, of which there are more than a few! The smell is a ghastly mix of raw sewage and donkey dirt.

We don’t know if the peasants are staring at us in disgust being in a car. We seem to be a novelty to them just as the wrinkly, olive faces are to us. Big rickety carts with stone water pots and straw piled high join a painfully slow line. I can’t figure how the straw all stays put. This slow drive is a painful one coming from a country where people have things to do. I can see how patience would be the most needed fruit of the spirit here for any missionary. Cars are definitely not suitable and I could see us having to swap it for a donkey – if we were staying that is!

We can hardly see for dust flying everywhere, and one ruin after another with aged and weary looking peasants clothed all in black sitting outside them .

How I wish I’d realised the beauty of England. I can hardly believe I’m seeing somewhere time has stood still, and how mules and water are all these poor folk have in life.

At each curve we get a little glimpse of a line of gleaming white that goes across the very peak of this barren mountain everyone is heading for. Then as if a mystery has unfolded the climb comes to a sudden stop and we see what the gleaming white is – ancient ruins pressed back into the mountains all brilliant white, yet still look like piles of rubble and risky places to live in.

We arrive to the first hustle and bustle we’ve seen and the reason for all this trekking up this mountain. Women are standing washing clothes by hand but doing it while standing thigh-high in water! They are all lined up in a long trench slapping down garments onto slabs. Chris gets out of the car to collect some water struggling between all the donkeys lined up their tails flapping furiously due to the abundance of flies like black clouds. We soon realise that Chris is the only male around and the ‘tutting’ and murmuring from the women gets louder as we realise it’s a place for women only! This means until we get out of this dreadful place it will have to be me who collects the water!

How I pity these poor women, with tired, leathery line faces, each dressed in black headscarf and identical thick black dress in such intense heat. They slap down garments mercilessly onto worn down slabs of solid stone, rubbing and rinsing, rubbing and rinsing while their dresses float to and fro above the water as froth builds up swirling around the dresses.

They keep glancing over at me and it’s obvious their chit chat is about me sitting in the car, making me feel like a queen in her carriage smiling at her subjects but stays a reassuring distance away from them!

I am so taken aback and in tears as I see the pathetic amount of water Chris has been able to collect on realising that until we leave this dreadful place, I’ll have to wash all of our clothes in such a tiny amount of water- and water that I will have to collect myself! I shudder at the remote possibility of standing in a trench alongside these women to wash our clothes!

Although Chris is still trying to entertain us, it’s obvious he can see that it’s one thing to dream about a gypsy in a cave while in a sparkling new bungalow in England in a nice cosy bed, but another in reality. We both realise we’ve ruined our lives.

But even knowing what a terrible disappointment and embarrassment we’ll be to both of our moms and our church; and how our denomination will probably feel vindicated they were unable to send us, isn’t stopping me wanting to get our two little English boys out of this backward, smelly place as soon as we possibly can.’

My heart is breaking over the awful decision we have made to go home and what an awful embarrassment we will be to mine and Chris’s Moms, who are held in such high esteem throughout a lengthy history of good names within our denomination.
Although our Moms were dreading us moving so far away, they’d been so proud about their ‘babies’ being the first missionaries in the family, and they have done their fair share of testifying and boasting about it. I feel sorry for them. It will send shock waves when we arrive back on their doorstep, let alone them having to find us somewhere to live. Selling our home and all our possessions; and people having special meetings and events for months to load up the caravan with food, had been for a life-long calling, like all missionaries, not for a month! That’s why our Moms had been so broken-hearted when we left – we’d been leaving them for good!

As we begin to pray, my tears are for myself and our Moms, but are mixed with twinges of joy for our two little boys going back to live in England, with their aunties, friends, cousins and grandmas.

We start by asking God to forgive us for being such utter failures, feeling like the children of Israel, ‘How often they rebelled against Him, and grieved Him in the desert’ (Psalm 78:40).
We then have the nerve to ask the Lord to help and bless us with our never-ending journey back home, in a caravan so old it had already started a deteriorating rattle on the way down.

We begin to thank the Lord for Salvation and my thoughts go to the lonely route He must have walked when He came to earth and how it was far worse to leave the beauty of heaven, than us leaving the green and pleasant land of England. How He chose to come humbly as a baby, His cot being an animal’s feeding trough. How His solitary journey with a lack of physical comforts, led to a painful death on a roughly hacked out tree.

I become aware that getting to know the Lord, must mean having some understanding of the suffering of the One we follow, ‘He learned obedience by the things He suffered’ (Hebrews 5:8). And suddenly, my tears are changing. They are not tears of self any more but are ones of gratitude, and my heart is breaking out of repentance.

Being severed for good from my country, relatives, and denomination, has seemed to pale in comparison with more of an understanding of His detachment from a sinless environment.
My tears have now turned into tears of submission. I even feel privileged because of what the Apostle Paul said, ‘We are fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him’ (Romans 8:17).

I have already learned my first lesson in this wild, barren, and silent wilderness, and I’m certain there will be more lessons I will need to learn yet.

I don’t need to ask Chris if he really meant it when he said he would take me home. He can sense we’re not going anywhere.

The Lord has started to prepare me to walk all alone’

“Even Christ did not please himself” (Romans 15:3).

‘Even so, faith, if it has no works, it is dead (useless) being alone’ (James 2:17)

‘For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses’ (Hebrews 4:15).”‘

end of excerpt

Lost in Faith. It could take faith to…

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By Christine Smith