Our walk from our apartment to school takes about 25 minutes, is predominantly downhill, and takes us past construction sites, the Japanese embassy, some busy intersections, a beautiful little park with a sometimes running water feature, and a plethora of dogs being taken out for their morning walk. On a clear day, we are granted glimpses of at least three volcanoes, snow capped and majestic against the vast blue sky.
Reverse this path at the end of our day, add in the fact that it now takes closer to 30 minutes as it is such an uphill battle, and realize you have a built in exercise program any day we walk to and from our work.
Sounds great, right?
It really is…and, the reality of the situation is that it only takes about 15 minutes longer to walk than it does to drive the same route. With the exception of the final part of the descent, in which you have to navigate mass amounts of traffic, bus fumes, and gas smells, the walk is therapeutic and mind clearing.
Except that you can never fully relax.
We realized how true this really is when we returned to visit South Dakota the first summer after living here. The shoulders finally came down from being pulled up to your ears, as the stress from always having to be on guard began to recess. It is a sometimes subtle, sometimes prevalent, type of alertness that you carry, and it becomes a part of you as you walk or drive to various locations here in Quito. While you don’t live in fear, you do live in a state of awareness, one that keeps you looking over your shoulder, watching for risks, and avoiding situations of danger as much as you can. And, just when you start to get complacent, you hear of a friend getting her purse snatched, or an attempted robbery in a nearby building, and your guard goes back up again. Shoulders up and tense, senses heightened.
Don’t misinterpret these statements. We don’t live in constant fear. We do not walk around with anxiety and trepidation because of the real possibility of bad things happening. While we may be considered a “target” because we are sometimes perceived as having MORE due to the fact that we are white foreigners, it does not impede our ability to thrive, explore, and enjoy life.
It simply causes us to be aware of the evil going on around us and demands we be alert, armed, precautionary, and ready.
As I was reflecting on this the other day, I realized how much our daily reality is an example of what we should be doing in our Christian walk. The enemy has surrounded us and we are in a constant battle. Satan is jockeying for position, and is around every turn, every bend. He is waiting to strike when we are not on full alert, or when we have grown complacent. We may see someone else fall into temptation, or get struck down, and we know we need to amp up our game. Perhaps we ourselves are in the middle of pain, suffering, unfairness, bitterness, fatigue, fear, or temptation. Maybe we increase our prayer time for awhile. Perhaps we dig deep into the Word, looking for a quick fix. We may see the need in the tough times to call upon the name of Jesus and ask for help, and, if we are really honest, we wonder if He will answer, preferably in the method, way, and timing we demand.
But, what do we do to stay alert at all times? Our life here in Ecuador demands a full diligence when we are out and about. There is rarely a time when we can let our guard down. We scan the streets when walking. We walk routes that are populated. We don’t carry valuables. We don’t draw attention to ourselves (as much as this is possible with five gringos walking down the street, typically towering a foot above everyone else). We vary our routes so as to not be predictable. We keep our windows up when we drive and come to a stoplight to minimize the possibility of a break-in. We park in areas with parking attendants, willing to pay out anywhere from a quarter to a dollar for them to watch our truck. We live in gated communities, or behind walls topped with glass or barbed wire. The list goes on and on….but, the fact remains, we are vigilant.
You don’t realize how exhausting it is until you get a reprieve and feel the contrast.
But, here’s the lesson. Our reprieve is in Jesus Christ. That battle we fight on a daily basis? It continues day by day, hour by hour, but the war has been won. Satan has been defeated but still rages in his power here on earth. As Christians, we’ve been armed but don’t often take up our tools…the Word, prayer, and relationships with other believers. We want to snatch them up when we feel the pressure, but don’t want to carry them around with us on a daily basis. That kind of diligence and vigilance takes time, dedication, and practice, and often doesn’t feel like something we want to do day in and day out.
We don’t have it all figured out. But, God continues to work on us and help us find clarity in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s seeking Him daily, in the little things, because that allows us to be faithful for the big things that often come upon us. It’s rejoicing and praising Him when the walk is smooth and straight. It’s digging into the Word and building foundations that support and sustain us when the battle gets tougher, bigger, heavier. Then, when the storm clouds come, we are trained to look to the Holy Spirit for the power that he has promised us and which is contained within us. We are prepared, we are armed, and we are ready. We can fight with the power of Christ leading us into battle.
Last week, in His gracious timing, Psalm 32 was in my daily readings. So prevalent in this Psalm is the promise of joy when we repent of our sin – no matter how big or how small. The burdens are lifted when we humbly come before him and seek his grace and forgiveness. We often want to skip this painful step and get to the good stuff. But, there is no mistake in the order of God’s words:
When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
The contrast cannot be missed. We often want to wallow in our sin, holding it close, not admitting our faults, and, as a result, we are wasting away, heavily burdened and losing strength. But, look what happens when we confess!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
The promise is sure and true: He will guide us along the BEST pathway for our life! Isn’t that an amazing gift? When we confess our sins, he will forgive them, come alongside us, and put us on the best road to follow. That is safety, that is security, that is a promise that will not be broken. And, bottom line, a whole lot easier than taking our own crooked road and experiencing a less than abundant life apart from Him.
So, as we walk through this frequently treacherous life, know that it is filled with things of this world that can entice and enslave us. But, we have all the tools to fight this battle if we seek Him daily. Fill your cup with Him, through the Word and prayer, so that your cup can overflow into others and the kingdom of God can be advanced. Confess your sins – seriously, look and see if there is something separating you today from God – and receive the grace and peace that only He can provide. Humble yourselves before Him, and He will guide you in all His ways.
We don’t live in fear. We live in the victory that only comes by knowing the Savior and living in Him. So, when we walk these Ecuadorian roads and look over our shoulder, it is because we are prepared and diligent against the one who seeks to harm us. My prayer is that you claim this as well and know the path He has for you is perfect in Him. That is true freedom, and it is promised in Him!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that
they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (ESV)
Claiming this victory and trusting in Him,
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