It was late in the afternoon and I was embracing the heat. It appears there is no ‘cool of the day’ here in Benin. Meltingly hot, I found myself attending a ceremony for a man I had come to know, to receive one of the highest honours in his Country: For service to his nation, by order of the President. The usual ‘protocol’ was observed – hierarchy is important here - and I listened in awe at his lists of achievements for health care in Benin. A true hero. As the heat sapped the life out of me, I wondered if I could have done it – if I could have got out of bed every morning to 99% humidity and to a workplace where my love for people was bound within limits I could not control. I wondered how his compassion hadn’t died or faded to apathy. Maybe it had somedays. Anyways… his turn came to return the speech. My ears cling to every word and I do my best to follow without making my own story up… ‘Merci a Dieu – notre Dieu insondable….’… the room rippled with soft and heartfelt ‘Amen’s’. Something had been said and I needed to know what it was. Something in the room had woken up.
I scrabbled for my dictionary…. Insondable. ‘unfathomable’. Now I get it. He was talking of our unfathomable God. And everyone agreed.
I’ve had the privilege of spending a few hours on some of the wards we are doing mentoring projects on this last couple of weeks. It fills my heart. I wonder how the nurse so ably does 7 dressings on the trot, with one single sterile dressing tray and somehow keeps it (pretty much) sterile for all 7 patients. I wonder at hours spent folding pieces of gauze, cut from big rolls of it… because the pre packs cost way too much. I wonder how their skilled hands twist and fold to make dressings I thought only Johnson and Johnson knew how to create. I hear the cries of young children in pain because their parents can’t afford the pain killers they need. I watch a mothers head drop to the floor as she awaits her child’s dressing, only to be told they cannot do it because she cannot afford the supplies and the wound stays dirty.
I can’t even take it. Unfathomable. In the wrong sense of the word.
What on Earth gave me the right to be born in a Country where we lavishly throw many of these things away? Where we tidy away half open packets of gauze in the bin and buy Paracetamol for 16p. Why should it be so? How can it be OK? It’s not. And it should wrench my heart and make me want to scream. That is OK. That is the only right response.
And yet our God is unfathomable. These people who have so little are the happiest I know. They giggle about Yovos (White people) trying to say their names and they generously offer me a bite of their lunch. They make me feel alive and they remind me that our God is unfathomable. They know it more than I, and I am jealous of that. They know they have nothing else. They have nothing. Yes, I am jealous of that. Unfathomable.
I’m going home in a few weeks for Christmas and I don’t know if I can do it. I want to see nature and breathe fresh breezes. I want to see friends and hug family tight. But please don’t make me face the reality that I do not know my unfathomable God as well as my friends here do. Please don’t let me get distracted with stuff and wrap myself in control and fear.
Please instead sweep me up in an awe – of your great grace, of your great love, of the beauty of your birth and your gift of eternity. Overwhelm me in that and allow me to love generously. Allow me the gift of being loved generously too. I long for those things.
And let my unfathomable God be seen for who He is.
In awe and love always, KWW