A couple of nights ago at 7pm (dusk) we were returning to Kijabe on the upper main road/highway and came upon a child lying facedown in the middle of the road, entangled in two smashed vehicles and a donkey-drawn cart. The accident had just happened. In the 2 seconds that we could see him as we maneuvered past on the shoulder, Mardi didn’t think she could see him breathing, and we agreed together that the risk of stopping on a notoriously dangerous section of road at night with the kids didn’t warrant her attempting an unlikely resuscitation. Riley and Liam had seen the body while passing, and so we talked through it with them that night, having some precious discussions about life after death (do we really go to heaven when we die, Daddy?) along the way.
In the last seven or so days there have been four attempted carjackings close to to Kijabe on two of the roads which come up the mountain to the Hospital from Mai Mahui, close to Kijabe. One of them was caught on a dash cam; the video has done its rounds in the Western media. I ride along both roads most days on my bike commute and have changed my route until the bandits are caught.
So…it’s Advent. It’s my favorite season, traditionally one of reflection, fasting, and expectation. This Advent, I find myself considering the brevity of life and narrow margin between peace and violence.
Some of my thoughts: how difficult it is to resist the temptation to let threats of loss and the inherent uncertainties in life lead me to attempt to control the uncontrollable or fear the unknown. In resisting, I remind myself that real life, kingdom life, “eternal life” is found in grieving and lamenting well, living wisely, and loving others sacrificially, at cost to ourselves. I remember the words of John Wimber: “faith is spelled r-i-s-k”.
In a recent conversation with Bono, Eugene Peterson said that one of the blessings of the imprecatory (“cursing”) Psalms such as Psalm 5 is that they help us learn to be more honest in our prayers, to “learn to cuss without cussing”. In response, Bono noted that one of the major issues for followers of Christ he has observed is dishonesty…Christian artists who write songs about only good things, happy times: “just once I’d like to to listen to a song by a gospel artist about their bad marriage”, he reflected.
Struggling with honesty. Learning to stop using phrases like “God is in control” when terrible things happen, and instead to lament, grieve, wail, cry, curse without cursing. And to be able to do so with honesty, particularly in this Advent season, alongside the blessed hope that one day God will restore and redeem all that is broken.
We’re so fortunate, in our setting of a mission hospital in the resource-poor world, to regularly experience events which are a foretaste of this hope: events resulting from the in-breaking of Christ’s lordship, created when Christ inaugurated the coming kingdom through his incarnation.
But that doesn’t mean that terrible things don’t happen in this “already-not yet” time between inauguration and fulfilment. And I continue to learn that being honest about grief and loss doesn’t mean one isn’t hopeful or doesn’t have “believing allegiance” (a better translation of the biblical word often translated “faith” in the Christian scriptures) to Christ as Lord.
It just means we’re not pretending. And–dare I use a word that I shudder when I hear because it is often wielded as a weapon–it means we’re being “biblical” when we use all of the Psalms, including the imprecatory Psalms, to help us be honest in our prayers.
Update: We found out yesterday that the boy in the nighttime road accident is alive. He was brought to Kijabe Hospital, where where he received emergency (successful) surgery in the night. Truly, a miracle: the confluence of the grace of God, the combined efforts of the local community (a good samaritan who brought him down the mountain to Kijabe), and competent and compassionate medical care in the middle of the night. My understanding of the concept of ‘miracle’ continues to grow, and my reflections this Advent season deepen.