fish bowl...

>> February 21, 2011

LaRae and her husband are missionaries in a Muslim country in West Africa, where they are developing a public health clinic to serve the medical needs of the people in their village. They live with occasional electricity and running water, and have a son who is 3 years old.

I suspect that most all of you reading this blog can understand the fish bowl experience. You know, where everyone watches everything you do and discusses it, sometimes giving you their unsolicited opinion?  

There were times growing up that I remember being angry that my parents were asking me to submit my feelings and desires to the example that I should live as a Christian. My parents were very wise and made it clear that this example was asked of me by God, not just because I was the pastor’s daughter. Somehow, they were able to get this point across to me without me being angry or bitter at God. 

It made sense and I knew that God would provide the strength I needed. Even though I'm human and I often have my “poor me, I have to be responsible” attitude. Yet, the experiences made me a better person and in many ways more able to submit to God’s calling on my life than I would be naturally. (I  still need to learn to submit without having my pouting spell first, though!)

The fish bowl experience has become very literal here in Africa where we live now. There are bars on the windows of our house, but no screens yet. 

The kids here are very curious and like to climb up the bars and peer into the house to see what we have or what we are doing. It took a while to get curtain rods and make curtains, and there are still some windows and doors that are not covered. There is no end to the kids climbing and looking. 

I feel like a broken record sometimes: “Don’t climb the window!” I say it over and over to the same kids day in and day out. Some are starting to learn, but not all.

Some days I get so impatient and angry. There have been times when I haven't treated the kids as I believe Jesus would treat them. Then I feel guilty and I reflect on my example. Why do I get so upset? Why can’t I be more creative in dealing with this situation? When I lose my temper and lose my focus on Jesus -- my example is also lost.

Jesus lived day in and day out with 12 men, and to a great degree in front of the eyes of anyone who  chose to follow Him and “look into His windows.” Yes, he took time to be alone and pray, but for the most part He lived in a fish bowl.

LaRae's African house and garden

Today I realized that there are others who watch my every move, even if they aren't climbing my windows. I choose to teach my 3 year old son to sit with me during church, sit still (for the most part) and be quiet. He is required to kneel when we kneel, stand when we stand, show reverence during prayer and whisper if he must say something.

Sometimes I feel overly strict, especially since most kids here are allowed to wander in and out of church and don't show any respect for prayer or the worshipers. But in church today I noticed another mother being more attentive to how her 4 year old was acting.

Somehow her action struck me hard. This wasn’t the only thing the church members have changed since we came. Mind you, this is a very small church so it's easy to watch each other. :) 

Without ever saying a word about how to parent, how to behave in church, how to... I was seeing others start to mimic my behaviors and ask my advice. It made me ask myself some tough questions. What example am I setting? Is the way I live leaving a mark that will bless and enhance life here or will it have a negative effect? What perception of God and faith am I giving?

Not only are church members and children watching, but the whole village AND my own son.  God, help me surrender my selfishness to You and live to You!

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

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Mrs. Pastor February 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM  

This is hard for me. I share your sense that the example of our lives matters, that God works through us that way. I also struggle to feel confident in making choices that are good for my family without fretting about how others see it.

God bless you and your closely-watched family.


LaRae,  March 1, 2011 at 1:38 AM  

Dear Mrs. Pastor,
I pray that you will feel the grace and love and strength of Christ to be confident in following what you know to be God's will in your life. I pray that you will have the time, desire, and strength to spend the time in God's word to give you the wisdom and confidence you need. I thank God in advance for what He is doing in your life, family and ministry. Courage to you, God is with you and your closely-watched family. :) Blessings.

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