On May 22nd, 2013, Mark and I left for our African adventure. We hopped that plane having no idea what was in store for us. The flight felt like the upward slope of a roller coaster when you’re moving higher by the minute, hearing the ticking of the track as your car approaches that final climax. Your heart is racing, breathing is suspended, and anticipation is mounting. You have no idea what is on the other side, but now there’s no turning back. So you wait with gripped hands. And, at the first feeling of downward momentum, you let out a good scream.
Our summer was a wave of emotions, with highs so great I will never forget the smells, sounds, and words of those moments, and lows so stretching I still cringe thinking about certain days.
Through it all, I walked away with some deep encounters with God. One of those moments came on graduation morning as we closed out our Pemba, Mozambique season.
Graduation day was a big deal in Pemba (especially the chicken and rice that followed) so no visitor, village mama, student, or Mozambican pastor was staying away from joining in the festivities. It was Sunday morning and all 1,000 of us were dancing our hearts out to African worship that included bright lights, loud speakers, and songs that switched from Portuguese to English within a beat of the drums.
No one was safe from the dancing chaos. Chairs were pushed back, Bibles and shoes strewn everywhere. It was a party – just as African worship is known to be in my experience.
While my body was keeping in (relative) motion with the masses, my head was processing through some disappointments and unmet expectations from the summer. Specifically, I wondered why God had been so silent in a summer where I expected him to be so intensely active.
I came in expecting crazy and supernatural moves of God everyday. But my summer wasn’t really like that. It was incredible and restful and full of Him, but it was quiet. And sometimes quiet can be disappointing when we are expecting loud and raucous.
In the middle of the worship chaos, I got to the end of turning my thoughts over in my head and gave a final exhale. It wasn’t conscious nor did it come joined with any words, but its meaning was clear: whatever was (not), it was well with me. In hindsight, I believe my exhale created space for the breath of His whisper.
Because in the same air, I heard Him say, “It was always about if I am enough.”
Sometimes faith can easily become about experiences, words, encounters, and feelings that we mistakenly start feeding off of those for fuel. But those aren’t food for us. He is. So sometimes, the stripping may come in the package of unmet expectations and disappointments to take us back to the simple truth of God as enough.
When we live believing God as enough, our spinning emotions, lives, and reactions can settle, allowing us to step into rest and ease. Enough stops us from wasting energy on the things we cannot change, and starts us stewarding energy towards things that matter (like our relationships, health, or the Kingdom). We become stewards to life’s disappointments and setbacks, no longer victims to their effects.
Enough is the birthing ground for pregnant dreams. When we stop spinning and start stewarding, and when we stop running to noise and embrace quiet – life forms within us. It is hidden and unseen at first. But it is grounded in a truth unshaken by the world’s reaction or critique.
My season in Africa was about if He was enough in the quiet and the hidden, when all felt silent, distant, and withheld.
My instinct is to fight for the quickest way through the quiet, looking for the first sign promising an exit. But the quiet is where growth springs and revelation is cultivated. It’s where the deep stuff of faith gets settled into us. Though our instinct may be to rush our way through the quiet, wisdom and discernment will tell us not to wish too quickly for its passage.
Because in the quiet we settle into His enough.