Authored by Maria van Rheenen (a guest contribution)
I had been thoroughly enjoying my first true solo adventure: visiting Europe after a lifetime (cough, 24 years) in South America. I had been volunteering full-time since I was 17. At that time it included organizing youth volunteer training seminars, managing a mission center, and homeschooling the children of fellow volunteers. Doing something like taking a trip to Europe would not have fit into my budget. However, caring family and friends had gifted me by covering various legs of the vacation (a luxury I had not had for … years!). My dream had literally come true.
I remember unleashing my euphoria on anyone and everyone who came my way (usually in the form of high-pitch squeals and little wiggly jumps) as I embarked on the one-month adventure, which included seeing Iceland’s geysers and floating in its Blue Lagoon; visiting Birmingham’s museums and enjoying New Year’s with friends in Milton Keynes; daydreaming in Istanbul’s palaces, harems, and mosques whilst munching on Turkish delights; performing for and dancing with smiling Iraqi refugee children who already had the belly dance down pat; and ice-skating at Christmas across frozen canals in the Netherlands after a typical Dutch oliebol and coffee.—All these adventures with just 40 euros to call my own. God is good!
I was thrilled at being my own travel companion throughout my dream month, which was now wrapping up. I’d enjoyed my independence and the opportunity to adapt to each new and different destination. My journey was coming to an end, with my last stop being Amsterdam with an overnight stay at a hotel and an early morning flight to return home.
It was early afternoon when I settled into the hotel and went for a long walk to look around town. I then purchased some dinner on the way back as the sun set over the canal. I got back with my takeaway dinner and was savoring every bite in the hotel room, when a panicky thought pierced my brain. Where did I put my wallet after buying the food? The thought detonated a frantic search throughout my backpack and pockets. My wallet, which contained all my travel documents, was nowhere to be found. I started suspecting the snack bar server, the man by the phone booth, anyone, really, whom I had come in contact with over the past couple of hours. Stories I had heard about Amsterdam suddenly seemed way too close for comfort. I eyed my delicious food suspiciously. What if someone slipped in one of those drugs they use on tourists? How stupid of me for not watching it when it was being prepared. I had already eaten half of it! What if I fall asleep in a drugged haze and miss my early flight? I couldn’t afford the fees to reschedule the flight if that happened. I’d be left stranded with just the remaining 10 euros in my wallet—oh, wait, my wallet was lost too! The panic crescendo grew into quasi paranoia.
As a last resort, I tore through the contents of my suitcase, and sure enough, I had slipped my wallet into one of its many pockets; it was safe and sound. Phew! But the many “what ifs” of this situation had worn away at my bravery and replaced it with a shameful cloudburst of tears. I felt so alone, and though relieved at discovering my wallet, I was frightened at the realization of what horrors could have occurred as a consequence of any one of the stupid mistakes I knew I was more than capable of making. It made me scared to think of facing those consequences alone.
In this most delicate and courage-bereft state, I sensed that familiar presence. It was the same presence that encircled me when I was rushed into emergency surgery at age 18; the one I felt shielding me when the armed thieves who were heading straight for me on a deserted road inexplicably ceased their pursuit and took off in another direction; the presence that surrounded me like a comforting hug during a recent heartbreak. I had so quickly forgotten all He had done for me and how well He’d cared for me during this unlikely trip. I had despaired, but He was faithful and happy to take care of me anyway. It was then that I remembered Paul’s wise words to Timothy: “If we believe not, yet he stays faithful: he cannot deny himself.”2
It made me wonder what made Paul write this to Timothy. Maybe Timothy was going through a time where he questioned his faith. Or maybe, since it is believed Paul wrote second Timothy while imprisoned, he was sharing his experience about God’s faithfulness despite the times his own circumstances might have tempted him to doubt it. Or possibly, after first urging Timothy to stay true to God, Paul added that bit to encourage Timothy that, “Hey, we’re all human and will sometimes lose faith, but we’re lucky God is God and He doesn’t suffer from the short-term memory loss that often seems to cloud our reasoning when things go wrong.”
What I just love about that verse is that, though at that moment in the hotel I could take no credit for trusting Him or having any great faith (much to the contrary!), it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to pick up and leave if I messed up in the faith zone. He had made me promises that He planned to keep, whether I remembered them, believed them, or trusted in them at that moment or not. Promises like:
I will never leave you or abandon you.3
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.4
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.5
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.6
Taking this a bit further, the fact that God stays faithful to His Word even in times when we have a hard time believing gives me peace about people I care about who are questioning their belief in God, or who seem to have altogether lost their faith in God, or who haven’t yet discovered God’s love for them and His caring involvement in their life. If God’s unfailing love for them won’t be shaken even when “mountains are shaken and hills are removed,” I can trust that He’ll keep on loving and caring for them through every step of their journey of life—always involved in their life, rooting for them and being there for them in times when they need Him most, whether they are looking to Him or remembering His promises right now or not.
It reminds me of a conversation I watched in a movie. I don’t recall all the details, but the point remains. Two women are in a train. The first one is an African American Christian who is talking to the second about God’s plan and involvement in a situation. The second woman sighs and says, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure I believe in that kind of thing.”
The Christian woman responds, “Well that don’t matter. It’s there whether you believe or not believe. It don’t care.”
That’s how I see God’s love. “It don’t care” whether we believe in it or not. It remains unchanging, perfect, and unconditional.
And in case you were wondering, yes, I did make my flight!
1 A traditional Dutch pastry
2 2 Timothy 2:13 AKJV
3 Hebrews 13:5 ISV
4 John 14:18 KJV
5 Isaiah 54:10 NIV
6 Matthew 28:20 ASV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International