One morning around three months ago, I was having a particularly nice start to my day in Togo, having managed to be up early enough that the heat hadn't fully set in yet and I could enjoy a walk without feeling like I was melting. I was walking back from the little shop on the school property, carrying a gift I had just purchased. I was in a particularly good mood because I was excited about bringing this gift home with me, and equally as excited about the person it would eventually be given to. As I walked along, I crossed paths with a young student going in the opposite direction. He had enough sight that he could tell who I was once I got close enough, and as he greeted me in French with an enthusiastic smile, and I was able to form a somewhat proper response thanks to two or three years of French class in high school, I remember thinking "How is this my life?". There I was, feeling immersed in the new culture I was experiencing, holding this gift I had just carefully selected, being greeted so sweetly by this precious child. It just seemed too good to be real, and yet it was.
I've thought a lot about that interaction recently, because I can remember it so vividly, and yet the extreme happiness I felt in that moment feels so far away from the way I have felt over the past week or so. "How is this my life?" is a question that has been on my mind once again, this time for different reasons.
How is this my life, I've wondered resentfully. How am I so far from where I want to be, even though I've tried hard to stay on a path that will lead me to my desired destination? Where did I go wrong? I'm certainly not perfect, but I've always tried to be "good", sometimes to a fault. I have memories of being very young, following my brother around and constantly saying, "But we'll get in trouble!" to most every idea he came up with. I don't even want to know how many fun adventures I passed up in my attempts to stay out of trouble. Now that I am older, I have my moments, but that little girl who was such a rule follower never fully left me. I think that somewhere in my subconscious, I've always believed that as long as I keep doing what I think is good, what seems right, things will eventually work out in my favor. But lately, I've experienced many harsh reminders that I was misguided in that belief, at least in some ways. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, things just don't work out the way I would like them to. No amount of trying to be good and do good can completely safeguard me from failure, and that is a hard pill for me to swallow. As much as I have tried to justify my misguided belief, there is no guarantee that as long as I am good, things will turn out to my benefit immediately. I am learning that many times, when I feel like I have been working hard and doing good things for long enough that it must be time to reap the benefits, God has other plans.
Often, when I have tried to do what I think is good and it hasn't worked out in my favor. I have been tempted to give up even trying. If being good isn't getting me anywhere, might as well have some fun doing whatever I please, right? But I know that is an incorrect way of thinking, one that will inevitably lead me in the wrong direction.
So, I am trying my best not to be discouraged, and not to grow weary. And even when life is tough, there are still so many wonderful moments to keep me encouraged, something that I was reminded of a few days ago, when I met the recipient of the gift I bought that morning in Togo for the very first time.