Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Love remembers no wrong...

Furious love.
It's the only way I can begin to describe the last 10 months. At every end, in every fear, in loss, celebration, joy and difficulty, I feel this endless pursuit after my heart.

Not many of you know but this last week marked the third theft that I've experienced in the last seven months.

It began when I moved into my new house in a part of town that is known to be a slum area. Though the place I stayed was close to the main road and quite safe, I still became a target of theft. They watched my moves and staying alone, I was an easy victim. I used to leave my windows cracked open at night (though there are burglar bars and no way for full entrance) I woke up to a face in my window, curtains pulled back and an arm reaching down into my bedroom. It was the beginning of a home marked with fear. He was unsuccessful this time around but little did I know he would come back for a second round. I changed my habits, closing my windows when I slept but opening them for a short while when I first came home. Church members would walk me in to my gate and watch me lock up. It only took one week until he came back with success. After losing my wifi router and feeling vulnerable and full of fear, I didn't sleep much for almost a month. Even after getting a dog to guard the place, I worked full time as a second night watchman. I could jump to my feet at the sound of a grasshopper and I was beyond weary from the lack of peace. I prayed, I sang, I got screens on my windows, I trained a tough dog but still struggled with this gripping fear. It was hard to see the spiritual battle at hand when all fronts were being attacked. Conflict at work, no peace at home and the lingering question if there would be any end in sight to all this struggle. Thankfully, with the arrival of my first American volunteer in May, finally, I slept. No longer did I worry about what awaited in the night and peace was restored.

With the question of outside thieves far from my mind, a new battle arose.

The ones I had loved most, poured my heart into, my time, finances and energy began stealing from me. They were the ones I longed most to see and experience the reality of Christ's furious love. I was aware of what was going on and would sit them down, confront them, counsel them and give them opportunity to confess and be restored but they weren't willing to open their hearts to the truth. I had options, I could have told them to leave, I could have locked every precious thing but still all I could hear is, "Love always trusts, Lindsey. Show them that furious love. They aren't thieves, they just don't know who they are. Don't define them by their mistakes, call them to their truest identity." Clothes went missing, shoes, money but still I kept telling them, "You are not thieves, you are powerful, responsible, and deeply loved. Start living out of that identity and take responsibility for the things going on." I could ask them what they were going to do about the things that went missing. I saw change in one of them in particular. They had brought back one of the things they stole but the other was still full of hardness and pain. Eventually things escalated and the one continued to steal and left my place altogether on their own terms. When that one left, they had taken my hard drive with all my files since I first got my laptop in 2008, they had replaced my money with fake money and went off with the rest of my U.S. cash (only about $40 that I was saving for my airport travels). By the time I realized it, they were staying in another city and I was left absolutely crushed. I had done everything I could think of to show them the goodness of God. I would pray with them, read the Bible to them, laugh, play, counsel and pour what I had into their lives but I was left only with the feeling of utter betrayal.

I pulled myself away from all the people I thought were involved. I thought about reporting it to the police, trying to put them in jail for a night, making them repay everything they stole but every thought of vengeance was met with His words, "Show them my furious love. Don't give up on them." God continued to speak His truth into my life. They would usually bring me to tears, revealing every broken wound I was carrying deep in my heart. But He is so faithful, friends. He bound up every ache and kissed every pain back to life. I eventually started visiting the one who stole from me at their home. God kept speaking to me from 1 Corinthians 13. "Love remembers no wrong..." That person was well aware that I knew what was done and they were steeped in shame but with every visit they experienced the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. I could come with sweets for their kids and some small things to give to them. Eventually after many visits, all those relationships found restoration all before I moved North. All those who took from me came for a farewell party, bought me gifts and helped me pack my things for my move. One of them even came and asked forgiveness for all the ways they wronged me. It was the Kingdom of God touching the darkest of places. It was His furious love, restoring life! I never recovered my possessions or the money I had lost but broken relationships being restored was enough for me. I was being changed by the unstoppable love of God.

Leaving Hoima was difficult, despite the 9 months of so many challenges and disappointments, all I could remember was the faces that I've grown to love and the relationships God had given me. But as I've continuously learned, there are far better things ahead than anything you can leave behind. Excitement rang through my bones thinking of a new start in Kitgum. I would have freedom from the leadership that was oppressing me, opportunity to dream and envision all the Lord had in store and a clean slate to begin from! After only three days in our new home, I went looking for my suitcase that was holding all the clothes I usually wear in a week but all in vain. To my shock, it too had been stolen. It took three days after the incident to realize that the chances of it being returned were very slim. I allowed myself to cry for the first time. It wasn't for the clothes that I cried but for the continual squeeze that I felt my heart was undergoing to continue to trust and love those around me and those I had yet to encounter. It was painful. I had to deal with the bitter loss of more of my things but God's faithfulness endures! People came together, asking how they could help, comforting, supplying towards my needs and looking after my life. I was in complete awe!

Now,  I could hardly imagine that there was still something better that had yet to come... The ones who had previously stolen from me heard about what happened here in Kitgum and went to the markets and shopped for tops, skirts and even a pair of shoes that they sent to me here! Can you imagine the redeeming love of God! In Christ, the best has always yet to come!

The furious love of God cannot be stopped until it captures every heart through His mercy and grace.