Inspired by Joanah Madzime’s Poem, “Dear God”
A New Mission Field . . .
While I was with my husband Kirk, where he was speaking onbehalf of a non-profit ministry, a pastor gave me reason for pause. “We should not be surprised if within the next few decades we begin seeing missionaries from Africa journey to the United States to share the message of Jesus,” Pastor David told me.
Though I didn’t say anything, my first thought was that Pastor David’s ideas were ludicrous. Did he seriously believe the tables might turn, and one day African Christians would view the United States as a mission field?
But I couldn’t shake Pastor David’s words. As God often does, a seed was planted. Then, before I could spend much time arguing on behalf of U.S. Christians, God pummeled me with Pastor David’s words, just to make sure I got the point.
Raw Words from Cape Town
A week later, I watched a video from an event called Poets in Autumn. In the video, a woman in Cape Town, South Africa passionately spoke about “Breaking Up With God.”
The raw words of this woman–Joanah Madzime–first stunned me; my initial inclination was to reject what seemed to be blasphemy, but I kept listening. Just like the ancient biblical story of Job, there is so much more than bitterness in her words.
Watch the video. All the way through. Don’t give up in the first couple of minutes; and listen for the shift as “Dear God” shifts to “Dear Joanah.”
As she spoke about starvation and brokenness, Joanah’s words produced an unexpected emotion. I didn’t feel sadness or guilt; I felt jealousy.
As I listened and watched, I longed for her faith, hungering for her passion. I wanted to yell, “Lord, I’ll have whatever she is having!” I am left wondering, can I be as decidedly determined to grab hold of God and not let go? Can my faith be chained so deeply to my God that nothing–nothing–will separate me?
The Blessings of Suffering
Oddly, the hardship and suffering Joanah sees serves as a catalyst for her deep faith.
When tummies stay hungry and tragedy looms like a constant shadow over life, a daily reliance on God is required. Perhaps faith is better cultivated in suffering.
The hard truth is, Joanah’s poem verbalizes feelings that many Christians, regardless of our geographic context or social class, experience. She gives life to words that stay hidden in the dark recesses of our hearts.
I fear that more and more of us are living out the first half of this poetic break up with God: settled in bitterness and apathy. Others stop midway, shouting the words of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Yet somewhere between bitterness against God and one-verse religiosity, many of us hang in the balances. But why?
The Challenges of Abundance
I am not here to beat up on my fellow Americans and rant about how materialistic we are. But, few of us have been forced to learn the unwelcome lessons of daily suffering. Even the poorest among us live more abundantly than a majority of the world. Yet, I am awakening to the thought that this may be to our detriment.
In America we are surrounded by noise and an affluence of our wants and needs. Even when hard times hit, rarely is someone left with little hope of finding food and basic shelter. We can solve our own problems through the web of community and organizations existing within our culture. Let’s face it, for most in our communities asking God to supply “our daily bread” is more obligatory than a genuine request.
Yet we have our own sufferings. Death shows no partiality; it steals people we love, just like anywhere else in the world. Our marriages crumble, addiction devours hearts and minds, jobs are lost, and disaster strikes. Within all of our material abundance, we are found fragile.
Here is a simple truth which needs reawakened in our nation: Every breath is an underserved gift. The simple act of acknowledging God for our very lives is a critical weapon in fighting for faith.
If we create a foundation of consistently recognizing God’s work in the seeming little things, then we don’t fall quite as hard when real life knocks us to the ground. Within the inevitable heartbreak of life, can we still see the heart of a God who loves us so deeply? Breaking up with God seems dangerous, even ridiculous, when you know your very existence is because of Him.
Without daily thanksgiving; we are left with half truths and subtle lies which rear their ugly heads in the face of real-life struggle. If we forget the source of good, we then falsely think we are entitled. When I daily bow before God in gratitude, I am humbly reminded that I don’t deserve the good in my life anymore than my brothers and sisters in Africa deserve bad.
Within my abundance it may take longer, and require more work to reach the incredible faith I see in Joanah, but I must believe that I too can be radically faithful to my God. Daily I will thank the One who gave me life.
There is a daily routine of faith that needs reawakened In America. I pray we can rekindle faith within ourselves so the passion of our African brothers and sisters can be used elsewhere upon the earth.
Let more faith be found upon the earth, and let it begin with me.
*I want to give special thanks to my beautiful sister Joanah Madzime, for her willingness to communicate with me across continents, granting me permission to share her incredibly inspired words. Joanah can be found at her youtube channel. Click here to explore and subscribe – Joanah.