Saturday, April 21, 2007


Something sad woke me up, late that evening.
I turned over, and, still waking up, realized that my wife was crying.
I knew instantly that it was about me.
I don’t know any more how she did it, how long it took or how difficult it was for her make me understand, but she let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt very alone in our relationship and that something fundamental was wrong.

Before a missionary family went on furlough a process of evaluation and planning took place.
The personal evaluation was done anonymously by Western and Nigerian colleagues.
Most of the time I got passing grades.
This time, reports that I was impatient, distant and angry appeared like an oil spill on the waters of my work.

In Nigeria (and I assume this would have happened wherever we were working) I looked for the first time directly into the face of my own sinfulness. Not just that I did things that were wrong, but that “sinner” was a description of who I was.
I was capable of throwing away the things that were the most valuable to me – my wife, family, work, calling and relationships – because of my own pride and selfishness.

The Heidelberg Catechism gets it right in Question 2:

How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
The first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; (There is a third, but I don’t quite agree with that one.)

Today we call it grace.
You realize that you are a crook.
You realize that you are still unconditionally loved.
During those years I began to realize those truths.
I had to in order to survive.

That process is still continuing.
It is unbelievably freeing.

(Note: this is the seventh in a series of blogs around the 30-year anniversary of our departure for Nigeria. The blogs can be found under the label "Anniversary". Click here for the first one.)

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