Hard Place? How to let Lent Loan You More (Real) Hope

I

meet a woman named Ndubaayo who gave up four hours of her day to walk — one way, barefoot—  over a range of rugged hills — to hear the heartbeat of God.

It’s Ndubaayo I think of on Ash Wednesday.

When I sat in front of Ndubaayo’s house, several of her neighbors join us, and I lean forward on this tipsy white plastic chair to hear her tell her story:

How she walked 8 hours a day — with no shoes — five days a week.

26 miles a day.

A marathon to get more of God.

Five days a week — for four years.

She thought it was worth it — to get to literacy classes to hear God’s Word spoken from the book of John, to learn to read from the Book of John, to learn to write, to write her own name — to learn her name as His Beloved.

But after the birth of her twins, Ndubaayo tells me, she fell direly sick — raging fever, uncontrollable infection, dangerous dehydration.

Her neighbors wished death upon her, and she wished she could find a way through, and this is a world of brutally hard places that begs us to believe that we are still in hope places. 

How could Ndubaayo know the otherworldly thing that was about to happen —  and why in the world do we doubt the miraculous ways God still intervenes in the darkest, hardest places? 

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Esther Havens for The Seed Company
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For days — and then weeks — Ndubaayo burnt up on her bed knowing she was but dust, knowing her own mortality, knowing her time could be short.

I feel Ndbuaayo’s story in this ache between sternum and pounding arteries.  And I know it on a Friday in northern Kenya and on an Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent:

When we know we are but dust, when we feel our hearts have been crushed — is exactly when we are to entrust all into the hands of the Potter, so He can remake all to be more like Christ.

Ndubaayo looks up at me.  I  can see it in her eyes — this radiating reflection of Him.

“The Pastor came.” Ndubaayo speaks softly. “He spoke the Word of God over me: ‘Any challenges, any obstacles that you are going through — your God is with you, and God will make sure a way in your challenges.’ ” 

That’s a Word meant for somebody –for me — right now.  Ndubaayo breaks into this smile.

“And right then: I no longer see my great problems —  I only see my great Hope.” 

I brim a bit and nod — yes, yes yes. The hardest places — can still be hope places. 

Those of us who are dust have a certain Hope that cannot fade.  And those of us who give up our ways,  find God makes a sure Way. And those of us who want His word most, find ourselves wanting for nothing.

Ndubaayo tells me how she lay there in her bed, talking to God:God, look at the way people are speaking of me, wanting me to die. Because I leave everything for You, they say that this is why I am sick. I want Your courage.

And in the darkened stillness of her room, of her open heart, Ndubaayo suddenly resonated with Word in the inner chambers of her being:

“I hear you, and I see you, and I know the goodness that you are doing.”

Ndubaayo lay still. What — had she heard?

An answer?

And then — a word reverberated in Ndubaayo that she had never heard or known in her life: “Galatians. Galatians, verse 9.”

Ndubaayo lay motionless in the dark — confused.

What was Galatians? She had never heard of that word, “Galatians.”

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

Bedridden, in her fevered stupor and aching sickness, Ndubaayo replayed it again and again, what had reverberated unmistakably, unforgettably, in her heart, words that came from somewhere she had never heard of:

I hear you, and I see you, and I know the goodness that you are doing. Galatians, verse 9.”

What did —  ‘Galatians’ even mean?

“Then the church mamas came,”  Ndubaayo gestures to the west.  “Forty church mamas come to tell me to keep on.  Keep on. Do not lose Hope, sister. God is with you.” Ndubaayo’s eyes glisten. She leans closer.

“And I tell the church mamas, I tell them: ‘A voice comes within me, telling me, ‘I hear you, I see you,  the goodness that you are doing … Galatians. Verse nine.’ ”

Galatians?

Ndubaayo’s neighbour, Judy, sitting across from Henry and Lawrence, she interrupts Ndubaayo’s story now, tells me she was there that day, standing over Ndubaayo’s bed, watching the deathly-ill woman murmur what she insisted she had heard in the chambers of her heart.

“Galatians. This is not a word any of the church mamas know,” Judy is animated, adamant. “Not a word in our Rendille language, not a word in the Gospel of John, the only book of God’s Word that we had in our mother-tongue.”

Judy moves closer to Ndubaayo: “Someone asks if anyone has an English Bible? Pages are turned — and someone reads it in English: Galatians! This is a word in the Word of God! Ndubaayo has heard a word from God! And all of us in the room, we start to cry. Because of the Bible. Because God speaks.”

I look into Ndubaayo’s face, Judy’s face.

God speaks Hope to those who sacrifice for the love of His heartbeat. 

I want what they have. God’s Word is spoken here.

Verse 9?

“I can read English better than most, so I look through Galatians for every verse 9.” Judy nods. Galatians 1:9, 2:9, 3:9, 4:9, 5:9.

Last chapter of the book —Galatians 6:9.

“And I read what it says, Galatians. 6:9,” — Judy knows it by heart now.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

I’m blinking it back. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT GOD TOLD HER! 

Ndubaayo smiling, tears brimming at the memory that never leaves, that God sees and speaks: “I hear you, and I see you, and I know the goodness that you are doing. Galatians, verse 9.”

Judy whispers, shaking her head: “Let me tell you.”

“We got courage — we got HOPE! —“ Judy reaches over to grab Ndubaayo’s hand.

And I’m the one seized:

What am I giving up to get the courage of God? The Hope of God? The Word of God?

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“Ndubaayo?” I pull closer.

“You’ve personally been waiting almost 18 years  — to hold in your own hands God’s Word in your own language.” I nod toward the fresh-off-the-press New Testament there in Ndubaayo’s lap, a 30 year undertaking of Wycliffe translators and The Seed Company.

Not 24 hours prior, I had witnessed Ndubaayo lead a celebration of more than 1000 Rendille people and their neighbors, gathering like a people to holy flame, to welcome the long-anticipated coming of God and His Word.

Ndubaayo presses open the pages in her lap, runs her fingers across the lines of the one Book she’s longed for her whole life, that she’s held on to for dear life, that’s saved her life.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it: She traces the lines like she’s tracing a lover’s face. 

God’s Word is cherished here, wanted here, spoken here — all our hope, all our courage, because of all of our love.

And all I can think is: For all the duotone leather-imitation Bibles collecting dust on forgotten shelves or suffocating under stacks of glossy celeb mags and rags, what is most spoken under suburban and comfortable roofs?

Stress is spoken here, Hurry is spoken here, Politics is spoken here, Worry is spoken here, Facebook is spoken here, Celebrity Gossip is spoken here, Football is spoken here, Frustration is spoken here — and in all the deafening noise, there is a still, small whisper:

Is God’s Word spoken here? Longed for here, sacrificed for here, wanted here, heard here — because His Word gives us the hope, the courage, that we need?

Who is willing to give up whatever it takes — so God is spoken here?

What if there was leaning into a season of giving up lesser things — so there  were 40 Days of God Speaking?

What if this — was a Lent of Listening? A Lent of More of His Word? A Lent of More of  God? 

What if: 

Give up — whatever you need — to hear God speak.

I look down at  Ndubaayo’s worn feet.  Giving up 8 hours a day,  26 miles a day, for four years, a marathon to get to God.

It’s never that we don’t have enough time — it’s always that we have different priorities.

The enemy plots our destruction 
through distraction — 
distraction from God’s Word, God’s voice, God’s ways.  

Give up distractions — to keep your soul from destruction. 

What if you gave up 30 minutes more of your day to spend more time in His Word?

There is always a way to shave minutes off here, carve out more there, trim a few there, pare a bit here — and then gather up the moments, and make time for what you want.  Time is made for what we love.

Wherever love and priorities meet, time is made. 

We always make time for what we love. 

Giving up something
for the love of Jesus —
isn’t really giving up anything
when He gave up everything
for the ones He loves.

I watch Ndubaayo’s face.

Your loves alone limit how much of God you have.

Your wants, your habits, your priorities, your choices, limit how much of God you have.

Declutter what fills the mind, fills the screens, fills the heart.

Less is more
God.

There’s a giving up — that only gains.

There’s a sacrifice that only fulfills.

There’s a sacrifice — that is no sacrifice at all.

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

Esther Havens for The Seed Company

And then, overcome, Ndubaayo clutches God’s Word up to her chest, arms clinging, heart wrapped around Word, and tilts her face heavenward.

“I slept with it under my pillow last night.”

Give up what is lesser — to get more of the Greater.

This is the glory I memorize, and in a moment, I am but dust mingling with brimming liquid love, malleable clay for the Potter to remake.

There’s is a sacrifice — that is no sacrifice at all. There’s a sacrifice that only fulfills.

I meet a woman named Ndubaayo who lent this longing to me —  to only want more of God.

Ndubaayo flings her arms open wide over the word and, there between heart and sternum, you can feel it, like a burning that isn’t a sacrifice but a passion for more:

You can have as much of God —  of His Hope, of His courage, of His love– as you actually want.

 

This Lent: Give up — whatever you need — to hear God speak:

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Give up what is lesser — to get more of the Greater.

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