by Peter Swann
This past week, I was in Dallas for some training and meetings. After I finished, my airport shuttle arrived and I prepared to board. As I did so, two things became immediately clear to me. One was that I had the shuttle all to myself. The second was that as my driver was apparently in a very bad mood, he was going to take it all out on me.
It was obvious that my driver wasn’t from the States, so I tried to lighten his mood by talking about his home country. I asked him where he was from, and he grunted out, “Africa.” It seemed clear he didn’t want to talk, but I pressed further. I asked him where in Africa, and he tersely replied, “East Africa.” His stalling technique caused me to temper my own frustration by this point, so I responded, “I’m from East Africa as well. Where exactly are you from?”
The conversation took a huge shift at that moment, as did his countenance. We talked about his people, his land, and the challenges of life there and here. He moved to the States many years ago, but grew up in Africa… just like me. We shared similar stories and it was a powerful time together.
For all that I relished about the conversation, what has plagued me since is that my new friend doesn’t want to return to Africa. Life is too hard in his country. It has cost him too much. He’d prefer to forget it exists, to slip away from the memories of tragedy that haunt his soul.
Although I didn’t grow up in his country, I know his tragedy. I have heard the stories. I have winced at the pain. And I can’t even imagine walking through it.
Yet what so strikes me so deeply about all this is how my new friend’s bitterness has shut down his soul. He doesn’t want to return home. He doesn’t want to face it again. He prefers to pretend it doesn’t exist. Just like so many of us.
It may not be a national tragedy for us, but a personal one. It’s abuse, or loss, or trial. It haunts us in the same way, and we compartmentalize it in the same way. It’s a steel box in our soul, forever blocked off from the rest of life. We fear opening that box, finding it easier to run the other way.
We think it’s safer for us that way, never realizing that we’re forever shaped by our running away.
For my friend, bitterness will dominate his heart until there is peace in his soul. And peace never comes by running, only by facing. I can’t imagine the cost, or the pain, of facing it. Yet for the peace of his heart, it simply must be done.
And for the glory of our Lord, it must be done in each of us! The storms of our past has left cloudy days for many of us. The sun never fully shines where bitterness reigns. And so it’s time to turn, and to face, and by the power of our Lord, to conquer.
There are no easy answers, and the process is far from easy. Yet this is about the glory of God in our midst. This is about fully freeing up each of His soldiers for battle. It’s far bigger than ourselves, and far more important than we know.
So may our Lord grant us courage, grant us faith, and grant us determination. And in the end, by His power and for His glory, may He grant us joy.