Nothing's easy. . .

I'm often asked what I find different about living in Guatemala.  After my most recent visit to the US I think I have some answers.

To sum it up, nothing is easy in Guatemala.

 I begin to experience this, after only two short weeks away, when I go to the restroom in the Guatemala airport, and almost trip over the garbage can.  Nope, can't flush toilet paper here, even in the modern airport. A small inconvenience, but an annoyance nonetheless.

As I leave the airport in the back of a taxi, I am startled by the motorcycles that so recklessly weave in and out of traffic.  I am grateful I'm not driving, though this was my "normal" only two weeks ago. And, though it's 11 pm, it is hot and stuffy in the taxi (it's unsafe to travel in the city at night with the windows open) since there's no air conditioning.  I want to grumble but don't let myself.  I want to be content in all circumstances, but sometimes it's not easy.

On the hour and fifteen minute drive home we pass no less than 11 vehicles (including one semi) driving without tail lights.  As we come up on them on the highway, my heart starts pounding more than once.   I often say the most dangerous part of living here is getting in a car, and to a great extent it's true.  I sigh inwardly, as I remind myself this is normal here.

And the list can go on:

  • the only hot water comes from the heater/shower head in the bathroom.
  • to cook I have to light each gas burner manually, which still scares me.  Don't ask me about the oven.
  • wash your dishes by hand in cold water with harsh soap that turns my hands into sand paper after one application.
  • don't forget to defrost the freeze which after only 2 weeks has turned into a solid block of ice.
And the noises.  The "bombas" (think M-80's) which go off almost every morning to announce someone's birthday.  Usually between 4:30 and 5 am.  The church bells which ring for 5 minutes at 5:30, followed by the loud speaker announcement from the Catholic Church of all the people who have died on this day.  And, of course, the ever present radio blaring from the shop of the neighbor, situated about 10 feet from my bedroom wall, as he begins his early morning chores.

Oh, and while I've been away, my phone bill came due and my service lapsed.  After unsuccessfully trying to pay it on line, this requires a trip to Antigua on a crowded chicken bus. (My car has a dead battery after sitting for two weeks.)  Might as well schlep home some groceries as long as I'm here.  This manages to consume 3+ hours of my day.  

So, life here is inconvenient, loud, slow and often annoying.

But as I pray about this, I come to identify the greatest challenge of living in Guatemala:

All of these (except maybe the cars without tail lights) are really only parts of daily life here which annoy me not because of their greatness, but because of my expectations.  After two weeks of living in comfort and ease in the US, my attitude has changed from one of gratefulness, to one of entitlement.  I have come to believe the lie that my life should be easy.  When life here collides with this unreasonable expectation, I struggle not to become down-right grouchy.

Now I must repent.  No where in the Bible can I find that God promises me a life that is convenient, comfortable or pleasing.  On the contrary, one of Jesus' last words to the disciples, and us, was:

"In this world you will have many troubles."
~~John 16: 33b

Somehow I missed  that when I signed up to follow the Christ to Guatemala.  Or I've forgotten it.  That's the bad news.

But, as always, Jesus has good news for me:

 "Take heart.  I have overcome the world."
~~ John 16: 33c


"I have told you these things that you might have peace in me."
~~ John 16: 33 b

So I must repent of my selfishness and self-centeredness.  Repent of my sense of entitlement.  Repent of my false belief that I deserve a life better than the thousands of Guatemalans who frankly struggle to survive each day.  In as sense I need to repent of being an "American" who believes God should bless me more than my brothers and sisters outside the US.

It's so easy to fall.  It's humbling to get up and acknowledge my attitude which is not pleasing to my Father.  Finally, it is with hope that I begin again, knowing that He is with me and will support, strengthen and sustain me no matter what I might face.

This is how I can begin to meet Paul's challenge to be content in all circumstances, relying on the fact that I can face even minor annoyances without complaint, if I trust Him to give me strength.