21 March 2008


Another market photo by Ilby, a French volunteer who worked in Niger for a few years.

I'm going to try something I've not really tried before - writing on a particular theme on a particular day of the week. This particular subject is a theme that is near and dear to my heart right now, as I'm participating in a Bible study written by Beth Moore, Living Beyond Yourself, which is a study of the fruits of the Spirit. We are well into the study - I can't believe how quickly these 10 weeks are slipping by. Last week, we studied patience. Patience is one of those qualities we all KNOW we need more of, but very few of us REALLY want to go through the disicpleship lessons necessary that result in God demonstrating His patience through our lives... or at least we joke about not wanting to...

I've been mulling much over the following, from this Bible study. There are two primary words in the New Testament that we, who speak English, associate with patience:

  • Endurance/perseverance - or patience in circumstances, motivated by hope.
  • Forbearance/longsuffering - or patience with people, motivated by mercy and demonstrated by NOT judging and forgiveness. It is this second type of "patience" that is spoken of in Galatians 5.22,23, when we speak of patience as a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

It is this difference that I've been meditating on and praying about, maybe because I'm continually seeing realizing just how true it is. I can persevere through circumstances because I know, in the long run, that circumstances are temporal and I have a hope that someday, they will cease. And while I don't have to, I can do so in my own strength. I just grit my teeth and keep on keeping on. I cannot, however, forbear and be longsuffering with the people around me, especially in difficult circumstances, unless the Holy Spirit is the one directing my thoughts and actions. I think that I can sometimes, maybe even often, act the right way, but I know and God knows that my thoughts and internal responses to trying people are not what they should be... and that they only will be if I am patience due to His might and His power working in me and through me.

Shopping at the market (hence the above picture) is one of those time that I see this so clearly. When in the States, I can walk into a grocery store, grab my cart and wander through the store searching out the items on my list, check out using the automated checkers and never have to deal with another person. It is not one of my favorite things to do, but I can survive it and I know it is necessary. Shopping in Niger is a whole different ballgame. We do have some grocery stores - but there will always be people with whom I have to interact: the guard at the door, the butcher, the guys stocking the shelves who've taken all the carts so I have to hunt one down before I can use it, the check out lady who wants to go through all the customary greetings and wonders how Elsie Mae is since I've not brought her into the store for several weeks, and the bagger who expects his tip for placing my purchases exactly where I told him I didn't want them... Then, there are the fruit and veggie stands where after you select your produce, you must check and make sure that they totaled everything correctly and barter the price down at least a bit because that is just what is expected... Or the shack around the corner from the house where you've always got a running account going because they never have the right change - and all of that has to be arranged when all you really wanted was to buy a few tablespoons of salt because you ran out before the end of the week... And finally, the full-fledged market experience, where little boys follow you around wanting to carry your packages for you or wanting you to give them a small "gift," the vendors who accost you to try to get you to look at what they have to sell, the never ending price debate game (and it is much more intense in the market), the fact that you are the only "foreigner" shopping that morning - so everyone wanders around to take a look, and of course, trying to understand and be understood in the strange mixture of French and Zarma that I resort to most times I'm at the market. In this last situation, I can muddle through the circumstances and the obvious interactions with people in what appears to be a pleasant attitude and good humor, and do so in my own strength. However, if I want my thoughts and internal responses to be pleasing to God, even a simple thing like buying groceries has to be done, filled by the Spirit.

And all in all, that is just one more little reason I'm thankful to be working and serving here in Niger: I'm dependant on God to even do my grocery shopping the way He'd want me to do it.

And now, after all that, I'm off to do my grocery shopping for next week... ;-)

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