My niece, Kayla, and I depart for South Africa tomorrow. Kayla's 18-years-old, just graduated from high school, and is wondering what's next in her life. She's always had an amazing heart. Here she allows you to look inside before we depart for a three week pilgrimage of pain and hope.
After pondering the thought many times, it’s taken so long for reality to set in that I’m actually going to find myself standing on the grounds of South Africa. I have been trying so hard to tell myself that I’m ready, I’ve been questioning whether I really deserve this trip, and I’ve been worried about leaving my family when I have so many duties at home. I had been preparing, questioning, and worrying so much that I had given myself anxiety and extremely heavy burdens. So I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed. God had given me three questions to answer on my own: What is “ready”? Is there a difference between what we deserve and what we don’t deserve? And finally, what is your life long duty? I had to come up with the answers.
So, what is “ready?” Well, you can look it up in the dictionary and it says ready: completely prepared or in fit condition for immediate action or use. However, to me, all I could read was the word “prepared” and as far as preparation all I could think of were materialistic things. My suitcase is packed, our snacks are all laid out, and the books and electronics are all set for our flight. So I read the definition again and the next words that stood out were “fit condition.” This time all I could think of was my physical condition. A couple weeks ago I went to the Children’s Hospital for my annual check up and received wonderful news that I’m currently beating my Muscular Dystrophy. I remembered that blessing and I thought maybe I was about to hit the nail on the head. But no, I still couldn’t get to what God was trying to tell me. Finally, the last words “immediate action or use” hit me. Our heads, our hearts, and our emotions act immediately and are used on the spot. We can’t prepare for when our heart races or when our stomach drops. We can’t fight emotions because they happen on the spot. We can’t control thoughts that instantly pop up. That was it. You can’t be ready for the next day until the next day is here. It’s when that very moment comes, when your heart races, you may cry you may smile, and your thoughts run wild. You have no choice other than to accept yourself in the situation mentally, physically and emotionally. I finally came to the conclusion. We can’t be ready until it’s time to face a situation and we as a whole are ready.
Well that was one piece to the puzzle. The next question was such a blur. Is there a difference between what we deserve and what we don’t deserve? Well of course there is. I don’t think good things just happen to good people and bad things happen to just bad people. However, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that when you choose an action you choose a consequence. So we get what we deserve but often times we forget something. Just because something bad or painful happens doesn’t mean it wasn’t God’s plan and it doesn’t mean he’s punishing us. We forget that he always knows the outcome and he always has something better in store. When I first told my friends about this trip, all anyone had to say is that I was lucky. I don’t even like the word lucky but it got me thinking. It had me thinking about how top notch this trip really was. I had to be honest with myself, my choices, the mistakes I made in the past couple of months, none of it added up to deserving this getaway. Only three days ago, a day before my flight, had I decided that I needed to clean up my lifestyle and build back up my relationship with Christ. I don’t deserve to get on a big fancy airplane and watch movies the whole time and eat nice dinner. I don’t deserve to stay on a game reserve where not many people get to go. The list went on and on. Sure we’re all sinners, but I’m so hard on myself when I mess up. When I reach out to God all I ask is simply that this trip change my life. That’s all I’ve prayed for. Once I got to Washington, D.C. my Aunt Donna really start putting it in my head that this wasn’t for vacation. She talked about how it was to work on our hearts. All I could say to myself was finally! Someone else saw it in the perspective I did. It was no longer about the actual trip it became clear to me that what I deserved was the experience. I realized that the experience also wasn’t going to be so easy. It’s going to be brutal on my eyes, I’m going to have many empty thoughts, my heart is going to break, my emotions are going to be heavy, and I am going to feel some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It’s going to hurt but this is not the Lord’s punishment, and he most definitely hasn’t forgot about me. He is giving me the desires of my heart. That is what I deserve.
I know when I’ll be ready, and I know what I deserve. The last question revealed such a fulfilling answer for me. What is my life long duty? When I think of duty, for some reason the only thing that crosses my mind is the military. Then, I realized how much I had fought for in my life and I realized why I was so worried to leave home. I’ve fought for relationships, I’ve fought for my rights, I’ve fought school systems, I’ve fought to keep a roof over my head, I’ve fought to keep money in my wallet. Finally, I put it together Sunday morning during church when the kids’ choir came up and I remembered singing in church when I was younger. The song “I’m In The Lord’s Army” immediately popped into my head and played over and over and over again. I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery. I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes sir. My life long duty is to be a better soldier of faith.
I searched in and out to find the answers before I left for South Africa. I no longer ask myself if I’m ready but am now anxiously awaiting every moment from when I board the plane to my first steps on the ground. God never gives up on me so I will never give up on his plan, I pray that he turns me inside out over the next few weeks. My duties at home will be there when I get back, but my duty every day is to be a better soldier of faith. I plan to march right through South Africa, I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it proud, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.