A Third-World View of Survivorship
Over the past several days, I’ve had the opportunity to get together with Taylor. While unknown to most of the world, those who’ve seen the documentary Rainbow Town know who I’m talking about. Taylor is one of the children featured in a film about a Liberian orphanage and is currently traveling around the United States. My friend Amy hosted him over the weekend and today he spoke at our church. As I’ve gotten involved with Rainbow Town, my heart’s grown for this amazing group of people in West Africa. Not only are they beautiful, courageous and strong. I’m convinced they’re some of the most faithful individuals on the planet.
Emotional roller coaster
I’ve experienced many emotions during the few interactions I’ve had with Taylor. I imagine this is common when you either travel to third-world countries or meet people from them. Guilt – I was born a “Westerner” and have “simple” privileges like cars and credit cards. Sadness – no child should have to live through war. Embarrassment – he must think we’re so lazy. (He walks 1 hr 45 min to school ONE WAY!) Excitement – his passion to be a pastor is contagious. Joy – God SAVED him! And most of all – humbled. Now that’s a survivor.
I am a survivor of cancer. And Taylor, he is a survivor of war. And while I certainly am not trying to liken our experiences – I do understand life-threatening situations that leave physical wounds, emotional scars and life-changing consequences. We both identify with the word “survive.”
The thing about Taylor though is that he doesn’t find his identity in survivorship. He’ll openly talk about being orphaned at birth and tied naked to a tree as a 4-year-old when rebels overtook his country; however, Taylor always ends with the point that God saved him. God had mercy on him and rescued him. No calls for pity. No room for tears. He shares his story to share about Jesus.
Finding Purpose in our Pain
Taylor’s story isn’t about Taylor – it’s about Christ. And that’s the way it should be. This teen has already found the purpose for his difficult life circumstances. He has no question about why he survived war, and what he’s to do now. And I’m rapidly taking notes.
I live in America where we process our feelings and talk about what happened. In the midst of it, we also get a “free pass” when it comes to our faith. We often aren’t pushed to lay down the pride and selfishness that can come with surviving something so awful. (After all – we do get a lot of attention and free t-shirts.) Instead, we can fall into the trap of self-pity and let ourselves off the hook. We think we’re acting like the Psalmist when we question God and blame him. However, for many of us – we can stay camped out at that place way too long, or never fully let God back into our hearts to do His work.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to have met Taylor. He’s showed me once again that there is purpose in survival that is far beyond ourselves. God works for our good and He loves us. No, life’s not always easy. And things aren’t going to be fair. But that doesn’t take away the fact that we are to fear Him and that He wants to use us. If we will just open up our hearts to Him, the journey through survival will make so much more sense… from any part of the world.