Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, our first Spoon Licker boarded a plane in Kenya and flew away to college life in the U.S.A. His high school graduation marked the end of the season when we, all seven of us, lived in Africa … until this month. For almost eight days we lived together again on the continent we had all called “home” for so many years. Our seven has multiplied to twenty-one and there we were, under “one roof” again. During those short but glorious eight days, we visited, played games, sang, read God’s word together, prayed, cooked, shopped, washed clothes and even got a little sleep now and then. And we went places.
We had a guide who led us on each of these outings. These men knew the roads and drove us safely to the day’s destination. Our safari drivers knew where to find the animals and took us right to them. A family our size, with members from babies to grandparents, can be cumbersome to move. Our guides were patient as they periodically reminded us, gently, that “we need to be going now”.
One fine day, a knowledgeable, local man led us on a trail through his village at the base of majestic Kilimanjaro. The path was well beaten, so we probably wouldn’t have gotten lost by ourselves but our guide stopped us along the way to describe the flora and fauna and traditional customs and practices that related to the things we were seeing. Our journey was enhanced by this expert who had been this way hundreds of times before. He was not only knowledgeable, but enthusiastic about his mountain home.
We trusted him to lead us safely. The path was usually wide enough for just one person; it often bordered the very rim of a ravine. Caution was necessary. One of our small ones slipped, falling over the edge only to be immediately caught up by our watchful guide.
The views of the lush valley, the living compounds and the terraced gardens were reward enough for our exertions. However, the real prize and goal of the long hike was the waterfall at the end. And we weren’t disappointed. After splashing in the water and slipping on the rocks, it was finally time to get off the mountainside. Mothers threw their calls to the head of the line, “Junior, I said walk! Don’t run!” (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.) Going down can be treacherous and the risk of falling is greater than on the ascent. The guide walked in front, a barrier to stop any bodies whose legs moved faster than their heads.
It’s suddenly over. This epic Africa reunion, this mountain top experience, is history. I am required to leave the peak, but don’t know how. My human guides were exactly suited to their job, and their job is over. I need a different Guide for this descent. Planning this event took years. It was challenging and exciting. But coming down afterwards can be perilous. I’ve stood at the top with my husband, children and grandchildren, together. I gloried in the unity expressed as we worshiped our Lord Jesus together, sang and laughed, played and prayed; as I observed our members demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in self-control, in patience and in overlooking the faults of others. Together we pressed into the moments and tasted joy. How do I come down from this? My Lord Jesus— patient, knowledgeable, eager to lead me— takes me safely down.
“Father God, give me your mind and your thoughts. Orient my reflections. Monitor my emotions. Correct any wrong impressions I may carry with me. Keep me from slipping on these small pebbles that become little wheels under the weight of my foot, sending me careening. Control the speed of my descent – not too fast lest I race over a word or deed worthy of a longer look; and not too slow, lest I become distracted from the present joys, morosely mourning the end of the peak experience, dishonouring you and distrusting your goodness by coveting more.
“You have done great things for us. May I remember with a thankful heart. May I keep Christ, the wisdom that is his, before me at every turn. Remind me that the gathering, though so personally satisfying, was ultimately about you. Our coming together was not an end in itself for our sakes alone, but served (and serves still) to exalt Jesus as Lord and Saviour so that you, Lord God, will be known by those in our respective realms of influence. With this mind, I will descend safely and my foot will not stumble. Amen.”
I Corinthians 13; Proverbs 3:19-26, Psalm 87:7; Psalm121; Philippians 2:1-11