Before reading this post, let me apologize. I did it. I did what I said to myself I wouldn’t do when I first started a blog. After months of consistently posting, I let the car idle too long and it stalled. So finally, here I am months later with a new post, and hopefully the start of a new consistency. But keep the faith, and I’ll try to do better moving forward…
A Thousand Eyes
Not too long ago, my son and I were walking through the heart of Tenwek hospital. It was fifteen minutes into the lunch hour, and since I had not made it home per my usual routine, Zach had come up to the operating room to investigate the cause of my absence. Fortunately, I finished my case just as he arrived. We strolled quietly along the hospital’s main sidewalks as we basked in the beautiful, mid-day sun of the western Kenya highlands. The usual hospital crowd of both patients and family members blanketed the architecture and landscape in all directions, young and old, occupying every available bench, wall, and soft patch of grass that could be found. Kenyans are a social but sometimes quiet people, and it is not uncommon to see a half dozen or so huddled in a row, seemingly content just to be together.
Despite the fact that I’ve worked at Tenwek for well over a year, and even with dozens of wazungu (white) physicians visiting the hospital annually on short-term trips, those curious Kenyan eyes never seem to lose interest as we pass them by. And when a missionary child accompanies mom or dad at the hospital, those eyes get a bit wider and stare just a little longer. We exited the hospital’s rear gate as we offered our “habari” greeting to the guards, and started down the rocky and windy path leading home. As we made our way, I looked over at Zach and remarked, “Hey, I think I have a title for my next blog post … A Thousand Eyes. Do you know what it’s about?” Thinking he would reply with interested uncertainty, he immediately answered, “Yeah, it’s about how the people here always watch everything you do.”
After recovering from my surprise that the title had such an obvious impetus (at least to Zach), I began to meditate on those last four words of his … watch everything you do. He was right, but on more levels than I think he realized. The people here do seem to notice every step we take and every move we make (to borrow a quote the musician Sting), but mostly because we have a lighter skin color and come from a culture far away. It can be a little intimidating, and to be honest, at times I feel like checking the mirror to be sure that my white coat isn’t covered in urine or that I didn’t unknowingly grow a third eye overnight. And on those really difficult days, my flesh sometimes wants to cry out to those intense onlookers, “What, what, what!”
Yet in reality, this little idiosyncrasy of being a missionary in a culture that’s not my own is really a metaphor for what it is like to be a follower of Christ in a broken world that is longing for the truth. Christians are constantly being scrutinized by the crowds, and it is easy to feel that we are simply victims of unfair examiners who are out to get us. We are quick to point out, as many a bumper sticker have proclaimed, that we’re “not perfect, just forgiven.” No doubt there is wonderful truth in that statement. But that doesn’t justify settling for an existence that is any less than the best we can have through the empowering of His Spirit. And I just can’t find any Bible verses that excuse us from our responsibility to live in a way that is worthy of being given a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
Instead, we are reminded in 1 Peter 2:1 to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” And in the same vein, Matthew 5:15 instructs us that “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. “
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that all inquiry into the lives of Christians is done fair and square. And I’m not saying that in general, the biases out there in our society aren’t overwhelmingly against the Christian faith. What I’m suggesting is that before we cry foul at the inequities imposed by those who oppose, we should ask ourselves, what is our default modus operandi: “not perfect, just forgiven,” or “ambassadors for the King of Kings?” In a world where the line between Christian and non-Christian is often blurred, it behooves us to remember what the term ‘holy’ means: set apart. My prayer is that as the stares come our way, we won’t shy away from scrutiny, but through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we will cherish the opportunity to live lives before men that leave no room for anything but to bring glory to our great God.