Those of you who have hung out with me for any length of time know that I like analogies and object lessons. OK, I love them! (I once had a conversation with another girl all about washing machines--and we weren't even talking about how to wash your clothes!)
The past couple days I've been thinking about two semi-related analogies and thought I'd post them up here for your perusal. :)
#1 - Lome is a BUSY port! The cargo ships that dock next door unload probably 18 hrs/day. They're here for three to four days and then you wake up one morning and they're gone. They're carrying all sorts of things; frozen fish packed in dry ice (we were all glad when our smelly neighbor moved on!), rolls of wire, bags of rice, bags of cement (we were also glad when that neighbor left and stopped covering our entire pier, Land Rovers, and ship exterior in cement dust).
Some ships come in so heavily laden that the tops of their cranes only come to about our deck 6. And then as they unload they "magically" rise out of the water, revealing their full ship name, and their badly-in-need-of-paint hull. Sometimes you wonder how much they can hold. It seems like hundreds of semis drive away from their pier, all carrying pallets stacked so high you hope that the load doesn't fall off and squish anyone. And you wonder how much of that frozen fish the Togolese people will actually see. Will that cement actually go to help build new buildings, homes, and schools?
I am also a vessel... albeit not a sea-going vessel. What I am unloading is important, but I might say that the consistency of what I'm unloading is perhaps more important. When a ship comes in, we can quickly tell what it's carrying--when we see the ship unload the same cargo day in and day out for its entire berthing we can then say that the ship fulfilled its duty.
Have I come and unloaded happiness, joy in the mundane, sincere smiles, hard work, and a gentle attitude that refuses to get easily offended? Have I continued to unload that cargo or have I switched to the less desirable cargo hidden way down deep in the cargo holds... cargo that does no good to its recipients and only acts as dead weight?
#2 - The African people know how to dress colorfully! What is it with brown taking over the Western fashion world? How about orange, purple, lime green, turqoise, and yellow? How about all those colors in one piece of fabric!
Africa people also know how to dress appropriately. They would never dare to wear their market-going clothes to church. They would never wear their one pair of nice shoes to play "football" in. At church this morning I noticed that even the babies/toddlers on their mothers' backs are dressed for church--although they will probably fall asleep and stay wrapped up on her back the entire time.
If you walk down one of the crowded market streets you'll see stalls selling African fabric by the 6-meter pieces right next to stalls selling "Calvin Klein jeans" and stalls with piles of used clothes for sale. The fabric is way overpriced usually, the jeans are knock-offs that probably won't last more than a few washings, and the used clothing most likely came from Western countries' donations to be dispersed to "the world's poor" but got taken in by a middle man and taken to the markets for sale.
If you drive down the Beach Road on your way to almost anywhere you will see businessmen dressed like we'd expect, women wearing colorful African dresses and fancy shoes, babies and toddlers running around in only underwear, children wearing dirty t-shirts with English words on the front and skirts/pants made of African fabric, young men with t-shirts full of holes and faded jeans and super cheap flip flops. They're wearing anything and everything. Some have a choice of what to wear, some wear what they can afford/someone gave them. Some have more clothes at home, some don't even know where home is. But they've all got something on.
Makes me so grateful for my closet of clothes. What do I have to complain about? I have clothes that fit and are relatively new and I have more shoes under my bed than I can wear at one time. I have a choice of what to put on each morning. Hot pink shirt, jeans, and cute brown shoes says I'm confident and casually classy. Nice top, black skirt, and heels says that I am comfortable dressing up and am totally OK with being tall...
If my physical clothes can/do say so much about me, what are my spiritual clothes saying? There's a lot that I'm told to put on:
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience... and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Col 3:12,14
"The night is nearly over: the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Romans 13:12
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Eph 6:11
"You were taught... to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. "Eph 4:22-24
And you can't consistently unload what's not put on the ship before it embarks on its journey around the world or around the block.
*What are you putting on? What are you unloading?*