Martin and Gracia Burnham. Remember them? While serving as missionaries in the Philippines, the Burnhams were kidnapped in 2001 and held hostage for more than a year by a radical Muslim group. During a rescue attempt, Martin was killed.
Gracia, wounded but since recovered, returned to the US and has been telling their story. I heard it yesterday and was struck by what she discovered about herself when all the “props of normal life” were removed. She said it wasn’t pretty.
I feel like my walk with the Lord is a joyful one. He fills my heart with joy and gratitude for what He has done. My email signature even says, “Living joyfully, Melanie.” But, I have a roof over my head in a house we own and can enjoy however we choose to enjoy it. When I am hungry, I open the fridge or pantry and grab something to eat whenever I choose to do so. If I don’t feel like cooking, we can drive 5 minutes, plop down some cash or a credit card to draw money from a local bank and order whatever we feel like eating that day. I live in the safety of America with law enforcement and 911 emergency help available at my call. Those are my props of normal life.
What would I be like if my props were removed as they were for Gracia? On the move day and night to keep away from the Philippine military. Only the clothes on her back; not even any shoes for hiking. When given a pair of holey boots to wear, she didn’t have a pair of socks to prevent the infiltrating sand from irritating her feet to the point of being raw flesh. No pillow, no mattress, no sleeping bag or cushy pad. Just rice sacks between her and all the creepy crawlies below her weary body. Her props, even the few comforts associated with being a missionary in the jungles of Philippines, had been removed. And, she realized that all she really had were her relationship with her God, her character to deal with the situation, and the presence of her loving husband beside her. Her props had been removed.
I wonder how I would react? I have been on backpacking trips for a week at a time where I carried on my back the only props available to me for those days. But, I was safe in an American wilderness, with food supplies and clothing that fit me. My husband was by my side, strong and experienced in wilderness living. If in trouble, someone could have rescued me within hours or a day. Though physically hard, I still had my props. I probably whined a little about sore muscles or cold nights making sleep difficult. But, I remember staying pretty joyful. No one was threatening me with an AK-47 or a machete “guillotine.” At the end of the week, I knew I could have pizza and coke at a restaurant and take a shower at a hotel. Gracia didn’t have that on her yearlong hike. Her props were removed, and she discovered some ugliness about herself she didn’t know was even there—selfishness and hatred for sure.
I know I would discover some ugliness about myself should my props be removed. But, I know there is some ugliness right now with all my props still in place. My joyful walk should not be dependent on my props. My trust in God’s love and goodness to me should not be dependent on my props. Gracia and Martin prayed for God’s spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. to be produced in them, evident in them, during the midst of this terrible trial. God answered that prayer. Read their story online. Or, watch a short video.
I don’t know what would be revealed in my character if all my "props of normal life" were removed. I hope I won’t have to face that in my lifetime. But, I believe that God can produce his fruit in me, even in the worst situations.
Have you thought about what would be left if all your “props” were removed?