When I got up this morning it was still quite dark outside. I made my way downstairs to my "quiet room" where I normally spend my time alone with God. When I turned on the light switch to the room a loud boom resounded as the light bulb exploded into hundreds of tiny fragments. It was enough to make a grown man jump up off the floor. So, in the dark I grabbed the broom and dustpan and began sweeping the glass fragments into the trashcan. After several minutes I was certain I got all the glass up off of the floor. Then, the sun began to rise and light began to peek through the windows. I spotted a few more glass slivers to the left of the room. After I picked them up and placed them into the trashcan, I came back into the room where I spotted a few more glass slivers in the middle of the room. And, just like before I tossed the pieces into the trashcan. By this time, I knew for certain the floor was spotless. Until I sat back in my chair and once again saw a glimmering speck of light in another corner of the room where the sunlight was bouncing off a few more glass shards I had missed. And, so this continued for several more minutes until finally there were no more glass pieces on the floor... I think.
Through this little event, I was reminded about how nothing is hidden from God. His light exposes things found in the dark. God's word says, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible." (Ephesians 5:13-14). Even when we may think we are hiding something from others, it is never hidden from God. Sometimes, we may not even be aware of where we ourselves are lacking or sinning. So, when God reveals to us our sin, our imperfections, and our flaws; He is not revealing these things to judge or condemn us. Instead, to sanctify us, purify us, and conform us more into His image. Our glass shards of life are exposed by God's magnificent Light, to be made known to us in order to become more holy and pure. So the next time something is brought to light in your life whether by God or through others, don't go on the defense. Rather, take comfort in knowing that your Heavenly Father is exposing these things to you, because He loves you and wants you to become the man or woman He wants you to be in order to be a better representative of Christ in this world and the world to come.
I wanna be in the light
As you are in the light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, lord be my light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the light
All I want is to be in the light
(In the Light written by Charlie Peacock)
For all of my life I have lived in middle to upper class white suburbia America. Most of my friends were white with a few African-American, Asian, and Hispanic buddies along the way. Rarely, did I ever encounter any discrimination or hostility because of the color of my skin or my nationality. I heard many stories growing up about how black people were treated poorly throughout American history. And, sadly I have observed this same dislike towards Hispanics even today. I can’t say that I have ever been discriminated against. Nor have I intentionally discriminated against others. But, I know there were likely some instances when I may have thought to myself that I was better than someone because they were a different color than me, or lived in a different socio-economic status than I. But, I was never vocal about these thoughts and kept them to myself.
Being in Albania has given me a small glimpse of what many minorities face in America. When I walk past a group of Albanians I can feel the stares behind my back. Their whispers to one another speak volumes. Sometimes young Albanians will gawk at us and loudly jeer, “Hey Americano!” On several occasions we were charged more for an item simply because we’re American. Even though the color of our skin is very similar to Albanians, our family sticks out by the way we look. It is obvious we are either American or Northern European. We are truly minorities here. Everywhere we go, we barely understand what is said. Some Albanians get discouraged with us when we try to understand what they are saying. Traffic signs look foreign and if we make a wrong turn or unintentionally get in the way, we are scoffed at as crazy foreigners. Don’t get me wrong. In general, Albanians are very warm and friendly people. And, it’s not everyday we experience these unfriendly encounters. But, these encounters give me a reminder of what many people face in America. Whether it be the young Hispanic family just arriving in America for the first time; or, whether it be the 70-year old African-American who has faced discrimination his entire life. I am thankful that I have been spared the humiliation of derision and discrimination all of my life. And, although I don’t always enjoy it, I am thankful for God’s gentle reminders that discrimination still exists and nobody is immune to it. It’s real, it’s here, and many injustices are bred from it. There is nothing more I can say to this, except that we must emulate Jesus and take up the cause of those who are treated less than us: the poor, the weak, orphans, widows, and social outcasts. Jesus was there for them and so should we.
Our family with some neighborhood kids in front of our newly received minivan.
Last week we finally received all of our stuff that we had shipped from the US, including our minivan. We also shipped a lot of much needed items for various families and ministries here in Tirane. It took nearly six weeks for it to arrive and by the time it got here, we had to wade through a lot of bureaucracy just to get it. It was truly a lesson in perseverance, patience, and self-control.
Albania is still recovering from 40 years of communism, and the government is really trying hard to become like the rest of the EU and the US. Sadly, without proper checks and balances in place yet, the government is still corrupt and lack the trust needed for good governing. Paying and accepting bribes are a common practice here in Albania. When we went to the customs area (Dogana) to retrieve our items, it took three days of jumping through hoops and running around town in order to avoid paying a bribe to receive our stuff. We were sent to various places and agencies throughout the city to get documents signed, copied, notarized, and translated only to return to the office with these things in hand to find out we need more.
This three-day escapade became quite exhausting and was really unnecessary. There were times I wanted to pull out my hair (what little left there is) and pull out the hair of others. When we finally did receive our stuff there was great relief and a sense of accomplishment. I was later told that much of this bureaucracy could have been avoided were I to have paid a simple bribe of 5000 leke ($50 USD) or more and be done with it. As a result of choosing not to pay the bribe, we were put through the ringer. It would have been so much easier to just pay the bribe. But this lesson taught me to be patient, practice self-control, and keep on persevering, because I knew eventually I would receive our stuff. After all, it is just "stuff" right? No. It is also our memories, our livelihood, and what little left we have of our home away from home.
I am reminded of Peter's words about perseverance and self-control and how it correlates to our faith and love.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)