Nancy’s Recent Advent Reflection

Advent is the season of hope and expectation.  I recently read this about expectation:

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues , nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.  But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love.  You see what has happened?  A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philosophical importance.  The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.  I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. … Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

From The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis

One of the gifts that I have received from my years among Christians in Benin and now in Burkina Faso is that I have learned to expect things from God as opposed to depending on my own abilities and strength to make things happen.  If we trust in God and hope in God, we wait in hopeful expectation for those things for which we have asked.

I am reminded of this once again as Bruce has returned from his latest trip to Nigeria. The day that Bruce left, I told a group of parents from Jeremiah and Deborah’s school about Bruce’s travel plans.  One of the parents told me that there is now a web site from Nigeria that lists the prices of each kidnapped victim according to their nationality.  At the top of the list, for the highest price, are American citizens. On the eve of Bruce’s return, a French man working in the north of Nigeria was tragically kidnapped by thirty armed men.  This French citizen was guarded around the clock by armed guards, but they were outgunned.  Bruce did not travel with guns, nor was he accompanied by an armed guard.  He went out of love for the Nigerian Mennonite Church with whom he has had an ongoing relationship since our time in Benin.

I knew that I could do absolutely nothing to assure Bruce’s safety, but I did not worry long about this.  Instead, I entrusted him to God and asked God to keep Bruce in God’s perfect will. Each time I began to feel anxious, I prayed for Bruce’s safety, once again entrusting Bruce to God’s perfect will.  I also asked the church to be in prayer for Bruce.  When Bruce returned home safely, I was of course relieved and grateful.  I was also reassured that God had indeed been with Bruce and watched over him.  This experience, added to many earlier ones, has reinforced my confidence in God and strengthened my willingness to trust God rather than to rely on myself.  That feeling of being able to rest in God’s strength rather than relying on my own has in turn brought me immeasurable peace.

I am well acquainted with the notion that bad things happen to good people.  I do not mean to imply that kidnap victims are at fault because of their lack of faith or that their families are to blame because they did not pray enough.  I do not even mean to imply that Bruce could never be kidnapped.  Rather I mean to say that God who hears and answers our prayers can do more than we can ask or imagine.  I will continue to expect great things from God and to live in grateful hope.

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