“Congratulations…” And I don’t remember anything else said. And I don’t really care. After an hour of questions, I heard the magic words. Dissertation defended and approved. Doctorate done. Now I can read books about things other than African theology and contextualization theories.
Later, I read write-ups by the evaluation committee. One of them went into great detail about how he was sucked into reading parts of it. “You have a natural strength for making connections between seemingly unrelated cultural issues, drawing them to tangible ministry and theological conclusions. I found myself pulled into the Maasai world, intrigued, more curious as I read. However, a weakness was revealed in your academic writing style…” Three years ago when I was accepted into the program, I told the dean my greatest struggle was going to be writing four hundred pages in academic-eese. It’s not exactly how I’m wired. Guess what? Three years later, he said, “You were right.”
I got to thinking about Moses and how he told God in the burning bush “Hey, I’m a terrible speaker,” and despite his (sometimes reluctant) obedience, you know what? We never find out if he became a better speaker! All we know is he was obedient and God used him.
Zacchaeus? Didn’t grow taller. Samson? Died still blind. Peter? Still couldn’t keep his mouth shut after three years with Jesus. Jonah? Never hear if he got over his anger-management issues. Paul? Never did learn to use less than twelve commas in a sentence. Obedience doesn’t guarantee you’ll get better at something you’re weak at. It simply means you let God work in and through you.
That’s one of the messages I’ll be taking to Uganda next week. There will be a group of pastors and young believers who have low education, limited resources, and little Bible knowledge. But they want to be obedient to what they believe God has asked them to do—start churches in western Uganda along the Congo border; disciple men and women who will influence those villages; teach people the Word.
Will they learn to read? Most probably won’t in their lifetime. Will they go to Bible college? No way. Will they get money and status in their villages? Probably the opposite. But they’ll be obedient. And they’ll do it in the unique ways God has called each of them, weaknesses included. Just like He calls each of us where we are.