The whole concept of technology being a good or bad thing is controversial in today’s generation. Like most things, there are positive and negative aspects to consider, but I have to admit that technology has been a vital blessing for me this semester. One of the most challenging things to learn while being abroad is how to adapt to change. This is something I knew was coming before I left the States, but learning to adapt to change that is sustainable and fulfilling for a long period of time is really difficult. I have been following my family’s church at home, through the online sermons that they post weekly, as a way to stay rooted in scripture. I am out of town traveling most weekends, so being able to follow their weekly devotions and sermons whenever and wherever I am is a blessing!
Forgive me for jumping around a bit, but this past week was Holy Week—the most important week of the year in the Catholic Church. It began with Palm Sunday and led up to Easter Sunday, the most important holiday of the year for Christians. Ecuador is a primarily Catholic nation and I learned much through the cultural events that took place this past week.
Back to the blessing of technology this semester, I was listening to the Palm Sunday service from my church at home and realized how similarly I live to the Jews who were waving their palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The palm branches are a symbol of pride and praise in celebration for a king the Jews thought was going to lead them into battle, and deliver them from the Romans. We now know how the story ends, and so did Jesus as he was riding through town on a donkey.
I really struggled at the beginning of the semester adapting to the constant change that happened during my first few weeks in Ecuador. I began to get frustrated that my original plans before I left weren’t the reality of what was happening when I arrived. If I’m being completely honest, I wanted to escape. I wanted a deliverance that seemed easy and would change my present circumstance. Like the Jews on Palm Sunday, I was gripping my palm branch so tightly and cheering so loudly for God to deliver me from the difficulty I was facing. In the sermon I listened to from this past week, the Pastor reminded me that I have to loosen my grip and stand with a posture of open hands to follow the Good Shepard. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Let go and let God.” This is true, but I’ve learned you actually have to let go… like completely let go. Trust me, God will shred the old parts of you to pieces.
By the example of Jesus, we know how the story ends. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his plans are always for us and not against us. I was blind to my purpose in Ecuador when my plans went to ruins, but God powerfully made clear to my closest family members that I am here for a reason. I was encouraged and prayed for to stay in the good fight! God’s lessons are some of the most painful to learn sometimes, but they have the most beautiful endings. I think Jesus felt this way, as well, riding on the donkey, knowing he was on his way to the Cross. He asked God to take the present circumstance away from him, if it were His will, but God didn’t because He had a bigger purpose for Jesus to accomplish.
No one, not even Jesus, likes to face hard things. Unlike Jesus, I began my semester with closed palms. The Good Shepard will use anyone with open hands, and Jesus knew that and trusted God with His entire being. When I, with the help of my peers, chose to open my hands to the opportunity placed before me, God’s goodness began to unfold. I experienced a semester of old parts of me being shredded to pieces for God to make His Way in me.
In the weight of the darkness is where transformation, healing, and restoration begin. I celebrate that my will wasn’t accomplished this semester, but that His was being fulfilled. I celebrate Easter because the story doesn’t end at the Cross, it begins with the new life I am given because of the One who went through the darkest of all trials, recognizing that God’s ways have the bigger picture of Redemption in mind!