Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Most of what I know about Faith, I learned in Indonesia

My Indonesian friend who is a widow shared her trials from these past few months. A teenage son who remains distant, angry about the loss of his father.  Her struggle to fill her time in her loneliness. Her waning faith. And her search for answers in prayers cried in the night.
I don’t have those same struggles, and hope never to have them. But I could relate to her. I’ve been in that place where I’ve wondered, “why?” and for that matter, “now what?” and “when?” and “where?” and “how?”
And I wondered them after answering what I believed was a call from God by stepping out in faith to move to the other side of the world—to this small island in Indonesia.
Why is my husband so sick? Why does my neighbor still beat his wife even though we pray for them and try to help them? When will I ever learn this language? When will I get a break? Where can I find that one ingredient I need for dinner (after stopping at five grocery stores)? When will my baby stop crying? Why am I sitting here at the funeral of a friend? How can I do this? How do my Indonesian friends survive? How can I help them? Will it make a difference?                       

Underneath these questions lay the deeper ones. Can I really trust God? Does anyone have my back? Can real change ever happen? Is my faith big enough? Will God say “yes” to me, and to my desperate friends?
In my seven years of living in Indonesia, I’ve seen faith in many forms. There was the crowd at the Hindu temple on the special holiday celebrating a particular god. The people pressing in, beating themselves. The man with the claws digging into his back with someone pulling the ropes attached to the claws until his skin ripped, blood mixing with sweat in red streaks.
There are the words chanted over and over, foreheads pressed into dusty carpets, the prayer ritual an exact science meant to please God.
There are the offerings left for dead relatives under the glow of red lightbulbs, while the real worship of Money rules life.
There are the charms attached to baby’s ankles, and grown women’s waists, meant to ward off evil spirits, to attempt to control the fears that rule both waking and sleeping hours.
And it all seems so empty.
Then there are the prayers of desperate widows, living in an uncertain world, believing in a real God. The prayers changing her, and perhaps over time, changing others.
Most of what I’ve learned about faith hasn’t come in neat little answers that gloss over deep hurts. It doesn’t require my never-good-enough attempts to earn acceptance. It doesn’t promise no more heartache...at least not yet, not here.

The faith I’ve learned has come in keeping the conversation going, the journey moving, the growth blossoming. It has come in repeating what I know is true.
No matter the hurt or the doubt or the question…God is faithful. He has my back. I can trust Him.
To read more lessons learned in Indonesia, read my post on learning about motherhoodfriendship, the impossiblemoney, and marriage.

photo credit, Lel4nd

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