It’s been over a week since I’ve been back, and in the midst of a hectic week I was gently reminded about Malawi, though not from the most likely of sources. The most nostalgic I’ve been since I returned, it was the gas pump that set my mind back in time.
This morning, recognizing that I had a drive-heavy day ahead of me, it was appropriate for me to get a full tank of gas before heading out. As I pulled into the gas station, I do as many do, and I surveyed the gas prices, allowing that to dictate my feelings for the moment. Wow, $4.25 a gallon. Prices have gone up a bit. And that’s when it hit me. Africa. Malawi. Lilongwe.
You see, gas—or “fuel” as they call it—is no trivial matter in Malawi. Not only are the prices north of eight dollars a gallon, but people wait in long, tedious lines for hours on end for enough gas to get them home. The missionaries that hosted us remarked about 4-5 hour-long waits for gas, and how the search for fuel is sometimes nearly impossible. They’ve gone as long as six weeks without having fuel for ministry or regular visits to the grocery store. Though it’s no laughing matter, their description of the endless search for fuel sounded like a massive scavenger hunt to me, and yet to them it seemed like nothing more than a regular activity. And it was all true: when we visited town, we saw cars lined up for what seemed like miles, some people standing outside their vehicles, waiting for the gas truck to show up. It was at this point that I vowed to praise God every time I pumped gas in America.
Today was the day that I followed through on my vow. And I was reminded of one of the important lessons that God taught me while in Africa: The simple things that I always take for granted are nothing short of God’s blessing to me during this time of my life. From small things like gas to essential things like my heart and mind, all of these are God’s blessing to me—and to you. And yet we often take them for granted, as if we earned these blessings or like we deserve them. Yes, we take material things for granted like our phones and computers, but how much more do we take the immaterial for granted as well! Things like encouraging parents, a supportive church, or that person who’s constantly praying for you, they’re all blessings for which we rarely calculate true value. It’s like using hundred dollar bills to wipe your mouth during a sloppy meal, not realizing that the value of each bill can feed a hungry village for a month. That person’s prayer (as I experience constantly) can be the difference between having a good or bad day. And yet, we don’t even think about it. O, how we are blind to the blessings around us!
There are incalculable benefits that come with acknowledging God’s blessings, to considering everything in the Christian life God’s property. This is acknowledging that we are merely stewards of what we have, both tangible and intangible. With this in mind we cannot help but acknowledge God’s sovereignty in everything. At any moment, at any time, He is more than able to take away because he owns it. At any moment, He is more than able to give because he owns it. In it all we can praise God, knowing that we didn’t deserve it but were allotted it by his tremendous grace. We would walk through life with an aura of thankfulness, grateful for what we do have and not desiring anything beyond God’s will. How great we would come to value God in Christ if everything was colored through the lens of God’s blessings; things would fade to the background in light of the surpassing gift of Christ on the cross. I venture that we can’t help but be brought to higher confidence in God if such was so.
And just like those missionaries who moved from America to Malawi, we can praise God for that five hour wait for fuel.