On my trips through South Africa, I came to places I could not leave even if I wanted to. Especially on the stretches of the East Coast, which attracted and fascinated young backpackers, I often felt completely out of place. Loud, bass-driven techno music and excessive drug consumption were not exactly my idea of an idyllic stay by the sea - even if the thought of a club holiday with an all-inclusive offer put me off even more! Often I tried to see the beauty and ignore what was stressing me. But 100 decibels are hard to dream away, just like the sharp smell of fresh marijuana or the animalistic yelling of teenagers in the mating season - even if you can see 100km away and the landscape is littered with lush green palm trees. Maybe it was also the contrast of society and cultures that bothered me: That travellers from all over the world came to this place to celebrate and enjoy their lives, while a few meters away from us stood the huts of the poor, who often had no choice but to drown their pain and hopelessness in alcohol. Two worlds: Rich and poor! But in both worlds, the consumption of alcohol and drugs prevailed - as if this world has nothing to offer if you don't flee into another: A transcendental one!
I did not want to be confronted with hopelessness. I had no solution to the difficulties in which our world finds itself. And I couldn't stand to surrender to 100db of ignorance. And because I wanted to run away, but I couldn't, I was stuck.
Stuck, not getting further, offending others (in this case fellow travellers) when I had extra wishes, these were topics that concerned me for a long time. It was hard for me to say no, but it was generally hard for me to express my own opinion. I wanted to please and be loved at all costs! This automatically made me dependent on the preferences of others and put me in situations that didn't suit me. I also had a very romantic idea of a perfect world, a bit like heaven on earth. I had experienced and absorbed something of this heaven when I first met the creator of the universe: God!
Since then I dreamed of a new Garden of Eden for all people and was deeply saddened when I came to places that reminded me more of the eternal Sheol.
The worst thing for me when I was travelling at that time was that I felt like I was being manipulated by others. I couldn't just keep on driving, because the next place was too far away and I couldn't be sure to find a place to stay there. Driving at night was not safe in South Africa. But the issue of lacking self-determination is not only for travellers in Africa, is it?
Sometimes our lives feel like that, don't they? We're stuck, but it's night all around us. "We got ourselves into this situation," we think then and wonder if God is still as gracious as ever to help us out. "Probably not!" is the answer the enemy whispers to us.
I chose this job, after all, then I'll have to endure the bullying too! What kind of Christian am I if I don't turn the other cheek?
I married that man, then abuse is probably part of it - the whole package! God will make me strong to endure it!
It's my own fault that the man touched me when I didn't want him to. I didn't have to get drunk!
For me personally and in relation to my South Africa trip along the Wild Coast, this is correct: It's true, I didn't have to go on the trip. I could have planned better, I could have chosen the club holiday! Couldn't I?!
Any "normal person" could have done that. Anyone with an intact soul and self-determined actions. As a victim of abuse, it's hard to make your own decisions. It's a vicious cycle that happens in your head. I want to do one thing, but I do something else. I let myself be determined by others, although I long for control. And often, I don't even realise that I'm being dominated by others. I think I am passionate and follow my heart! But if my heart does not lead me to Christ, then it automatically leads me astray! Then it becomes dangerous to follow.
Just as I followed my heart when I travelled through South Africa with a stranger and paid for the car - only to fall head over heels in love and later be left heartbroken when he continued his journey around the world. A year later I followed him to London to meet him again. My heart wanted lasting reconciliation and a new beginning, but his heart only wanted a brief meeting and not me as a wife!
If you also have this problem that you have difficulties doing what YOU really think is right, then I want to encourage you today:
Paul knows about this inner struggle too well. He writes in his letter to the Romans in chapter 7:19-20
I do not do the good that I want to do, but the evil that I do not want to do. But if I do not want to do what I am doing, then I am no longer acting myself, but the sin that dwells in me.
Wait - now I am suddenly sinful, even though so much has been done to me? And am I not already punishing myself by blaming myself? Does the sin now dwell within me as well? Take heart, we all live in this fallen creation. We all face our sins and the sin of others.
The sinful woman, a shining example
Moved by the first encounter with Jesus, she dared to enter the house of a religious when Jesus was visiting there. She gathered all her courage to go where she did not belong. She had to expect contempt. Not only because she entered the house of a Pharisee uninvited as a woman, but also because she was a whore, a nobody. But through one encounter with Jesus she had experienced an unusual love, and she could not help but follow it. To where her enemies sat: Men who claimed to be the religious leaders of Israel and knocked at her door in the night. She had heard that Jesus was near and had to see him again. Power had been released inside of her. A power, that drove her to serve Jesus free from fear of man and in humility with gratitude. She weeps over his feet. Moistens them with her tears and dries his feet with her hair. Then she kisses them and rubs them with an expensive ointment. "What a wretched creature!" think the scholars. "How she is sitting in the mud!" But Jesus looks at her with love!
Jesus explains: "He to whom much sin is forgiven, loves much. "But whoever has been forgiven little loves little." The woman has many sins forgiven, therefore she loves much.
It is time to return to the throne of grace and realize how much God loves us: “Christ freed us to live a life of freedom. So take your stand! Let no one enslave you anymore", we read in Galatians 5:1!
The only way out of the vicious circle of sin is for us to understand how much God loves us. So much so that He sent His only Son to set us free (John 3:16).
This love of God sets us permanently(!) free to love ourselves and to love others!
Therefore, when your heart once again takes you on a journey, ask yourself: "Does it lead me to Jesus? And if you get stuck in a dark night, call him and he will come to you! "Come with me," he whispers to you and takes you by the hand.