KIM CHURCH | GUEST
It was science experiment day. My kids were buzzing with excitement about what they would get to do and see for this week’s experiment. As we opened our garage door that morning, we were welcomed by the equatorial sun and heat of the dry season in Uganda. With too many helping hands, we got our experiment ready to go. I made sure everyone’s eyes were on the set-up because we had one shot at this. I didn’t have extra supplies, and we didn’t have the ability to get more. I counted down… three, two, one.
Just as I let go of the clip that would set the reaction in motion, there was loud banging and shouting at the gate to our compound. We all instinctively looked out the garage door to see my neighbor happily banging on my gate as she greeted us. Almost as quickly as we looked away, we looked back at the experiment to see that we had missed the entire split-second reaction. I instantly felt anger rising from deep within me towards my neighbor. I struggled to find the patience I needed to navigate my three crying children because they didn’t really understand why I couldn’t just do it again so they could see it. My neighbor continued banging on my gate expecting me to come let her in so she could visit. Again. Just like she had done the day before. And the day before that. And most days for the past 2 months. I went to the gate and begrudgingly let her in without properly greeting her because I was fuming, and I wanted her to know how much she inconvenienced me that morning.
I went to get my husband to entertain her because I still had a garage of disappointed children that needed my attention. My husband, unaware of the science experiment mishap, warmly greeted her and welcomed her into our home. My anger was just about to explode like a pressure cooker that ran out of water, and I knew I needed to get out of there. I made a beeline for my bedroom at the back of the house and somehow managed to not slam my door and throw things around like I so desperately felt like doing. Like the self-controlled adult I tried to convince myself I was, I took deep breaths for several minutes as I regained my composure. When I felt like I had released enough pressure, I went back out to the front of the house where my husband and my neighbor were freely bantering back and forth. I sat down like a pouting child and refused to participate in the conversation. Sensing my frustration, my husband skillfully brought the visit to an end a short time later.
We both got up to walk our visitor back to the gate to send her off in the culturally polite way, but before she stepped out the door, she turned abruptly and grabbed our hands. Through a big smile, our Muslim neighbor proceeded to tell us that every time she comes to our house, she feels an overwhelming sense of peace and joy while she is here and that is why she likes coming over. My husband quickly seized the gospel moment and told her about the peace that Christ offers her while I tried to maintain my composure once again. But this time it wasn’t anger washing over me; it was conviction and guilt. I stood there completely stunned. How could she feel any degree of peace and joy with the anger vibes that were radiating off me all morning? After she left, I once again retreated to my bedroom. This time, to pray and repent.
As a missionary, I often feel like family members, friends, and supporters put us on a pedestal. That my sacrifice and calling as a missionary in Uganda are far beyond what any “normal” Christian would be able to manage. 2 Corinthians 4 gives a beautiful description of reality though. I am only a clay jar. A plain, fragile clay jar. In fact, regardless of our vocation in life, we are all clay jars. Thankfully though, we are also chosen clay jars. Chosen by God to hold a treasure. Our clay jar status is intentional so that the power of God and the light of Christ is what the lost see, even through the fragile and chipped vessels that we are. I was acutely reminded of my clay jar status that morning. My neighbor was drawn to the peace and joy in our home not because of me and my husband’s greatness as missionaries, but because she sensed the power and light of Christ radiating from within us. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash