Dearest prayer warriors,
We safely arrived back in our village on the 22nd of July. To deal with the stress and depression, we decided to forego our typical weekly schedule of ministry, homeschooling, strict dieting, and daily exercise, in favor of resting, praying, and avoiding insanity. Even so, the last five days have been hard.
God is so gracious in helping us follow him. After deciding to stay inside and rest instead of going out, there was some temptation to feel guilty – but God serendipitously washed that away…with monsoon season.
Monsoon season always brings flooding, but people always act surprised by it.
Schools are closed so kids walk to high ground to socialize.
Pedal Rickshaws exchanged for Paddle Nokahs (boats).
Serious flooding happens every year when the rivers swell over their banks. This is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. A blessing because this one way that Bangladesh grows rice. The farmers prepare their rice fields in anticipation of flooding, carving out land pockets that will catch and hold the flood waters so they can plant rice when the flood recedes.
Flooding is more obviously a curse, washing away precious crop land and damaging roads and buildings. This is a serious problem that I will address more specifically in my next blog. Of course we’ll have a ton of work to do in disaster relief after the waters recede, but unfortunately there’s nothing that we can do while the flood is happening…and, like every year, it will be happening for the next 5 to 6 weeks, a.k.a, monsoon season.
What does all this mean for us right now? Well, it means we’ll be doing a lot of waiting. Ironically, even if we had come back ready to return to the villages and share the gospel and disciple believers, we wouldn’t have been able to do so. Roads are underwater and boats are few and far between. But that didn’t stop me and my national partners last year. Last year we paid five times the normal cost to travel down to the villages by nokah (which took 3x as long to do) only to find that most of the villages were empty. To be fair, I had been warned of this possibility by my national partners, but I couldn’t imagine waiting 6 weeks to continue discipling our new believers. In the end, that’s what we had to do.
That time has come again, but now we need the rest and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to just live in community here with our villagers, sipping hot tea, watching as the torrential rain relentlessly falls from heaven, and playing Minecraft.
Now, being stuck inside, there’s no way I can blog about the previous five days and fail to mention Minecraft.
For those of you who know me, you know that I hate being stuck inside, because this can really exacerbate my depression. Well, Minecraft is what God used to reset my emotional stability. Mrs. Linville likes it (she built The Gray Havens), Little J likes it (he flies around spawning legions upon legions of creatures until his server crashes), and the villagers like it (they mostly just blow stuff up with the TNT).
I’ve never played Minecraft before, but I’ve certainly been exposed to the Minecraft culture via YouTube, and, after watching a crazy video about it, I decided to download it (with my wife’s permission, of course) and give it a whirl.
Having only been really into two other games in my entire life (Jet Motto  & Skyrim  ), I’m by no means an expert, but I think Minecraft is the most perfect game ever created. Perhaps there are other games out there with no levels, objectives, rewards, or missions, but this is the first one I’ve been exposed to, and I love it.
I love it because I can turn it on, dig a digital (nonexistent) hole for five minutes, turn it off, and be done. In that way it’s somehow efficiently unproductive. Did I just waste five minutes of my life?
Is that okay?
Yes. In moderation.
Why? Because having the ability to “waste life” is at the pinnacle of human experience. Of course, one could argue that any moment spent in the enjoyment of pursuing happiness could hardly be a waste of life, and I would agree. In this way, I believe that I can honestly say that I play Minecraft for Jesus.
How can I say this?
Because Minecraft is not why I’m happy to play Minecraft, Jesus is why I’m happy to play Minecraft. And the same should be true for everything else, but it’s not.
Over the past two years, I’ve struggled against developing the “savior complex.” This is what happens when I start believing that helping people is why I came here. Philanthropy is good, but when it results in receiving uninhibited thanksgiving and celebration – in my name – it can quickly become an idol. After all, who doesn’t like to be appreciated for hard work? But…
“Idolatry is taking a good thing, making it a god thing, and that’s a very bad thing.” – Mark Driscoll, from the sermon Resisting Idols Like Jesus, preached April 13, 2013 at Mars Hill Church
Note: Smiles are considered inappropriate for pictures here. They looked happy until the cameras came out.
Going into a majority-world jungle village as a wealthy white male is as close to feeling like a god as any mortal could ever feel. There’s no shedding of blood, but there’s definitely sacrifices being made, and while it’s incredibly awkward, it’s also a little intoxicating. Of course I desperately do everything I can to vocally redirect this praise towards Jesus, but my wicked sinful heart is ever eager to believe that I am worthy of praise.
So I confess that sometimes philanthropy has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
Likewise, I confess that sometimes:
- receiving respect & honor has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
- getting paid to travel the world has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
- immersing my kids in a multi-lingual cross-cultural environment has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
- et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Somehow I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus that still struggles with my old creation’s wicked idol making heart. It is the ambition of the devil to turn a few good things into the main things when I’m struggling with hating having to live here. The great deception is accomplished when I believe that by focusing on the positive instead of the negative, I’m doing well. Wrong. Focusing on anything other than Christ results in idolatry, and of this I am extremely guilty.
Thus, I am overwhelming humbled by Isaiah 42:3:
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
And I encourage all of you to read Alexander MacLaren’s (1826-1910) insightful comments regarding this beautiful verse and join me in the bliss of our inheritance in Christ right here.
God grows us in mysterious ways, and right now he’s growing me through Minecraft, allowing me during this monsoon season to enjoy something good while protecting me from my propensity to idolize. What has God used to grow you in this way? Gardening? Sailing? Fishing? Sewing? Hunting? Reading? Writing? Cooking? A different video game? Please share that with us in the comments below! Also, don’t hesitate to call me out on this if you think I’m wrong or want me to clarify something. All criticism is welcome!
Regarding my depression, please pray that I learn the lesson God is teaching me: to focus on Christ amidst all my subjective positive and negative feelings, which can change as quickly as a monsoon wind.
For those who prayed for us last week:
- Praise! Our personal quiet times have been more consistent. Keep praying for us in this!
- Praise! I blogged again!
- Request: I’m hoping to make some flood related videos for the next blog. Pray I can do this.
- Request: We have not done anything more to challenge our disciple Jell to grow and make a disciple of his own. Continue praying for him and for us to do this.
- Request: Pray the Lord shows us the best way to continue studying Bangla.
Preview for the next blog:
Living in a flood. What we deal with, what they deal with, and how you can help.
To all of you who’ve been so loving and encouraging in leaving us comments, please continue. What ways has the Lord given you to enjoy living life for Jesus? Football? Dinner clubs? Pinterest? Also, we’d love any Scriptures that the Lord has recently used to encourage you. Thanks!