This is a guest post from Maureen Henen - a undergraduate student in Australia who recently went on a life-changing trip to Kenya. During that trip, she met a woman named Mamma Freda who helped her connect with God in a whole new way. She tells her paradigm-shifting story below. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Meet Mamma Freda. Mamma Freda is an elderly woman that I met during a recent trip to Kenya. She lives with a crippling pain in her left leg, unable to afford medication to alleviate the discomfort. The pain is so immense that it prevents her from daily tasks such as cooking; in fact when we saw her, she hadn’t eaten in three days because of the pain!
Despite that, she received us with a most cheerful countenance. She struggled to greet us – using a huge wooden rod to steady her step, simply overjoyed that we were there to share a short prayer with her.
I wish I could find the words to express the blessedness of this woman – nothing I am capable of writing will do justice to Mamma Freda and her faithfulness to God. She lived with a debilitating pain in her leg, but despite that, she walked long distances every single Sunday just to make it to church. And she always did it with a smile on her face.
With Mamma Freda before me as an example, I had to ask myself: do I ever struggle for my faith? Do I ever seek Christ when it isn’t convenient and easy? Do I ever sacrifice my comfort to be with God or do something for God?
Realizing the answer to all those questions was NO, I made a choice – a difficult choice, but one I knew I needed to make…
I chose to struggle.
Do I want to live selflessly (ie, to struggle for Christ/my faith) or do I want to live selfishly (ie, to struggle against Christ/my faith). One struggle claims to bring peace on earth while the other promises peace in eternity. Which one would I choose?
But wait, before making my decision, I had to ask a question – a question that might be on your mind as well.
Why does God want me to struggle? Why wouldn’t He want me to live an easy life? And how on earth will I struggle and feel peace at the same time?
This makes no sense. The great C.S. Lewis refers to the choice we receive in life as the “Moral Law.”
“The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is ‘good’ in the sense of being indulgent, or soft or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do.”
THIS is the struggle for Christ! To do the right thing no matter how painful, difficult or dangerous it is to our self. To live as Christ did – to be selfless as He was. After all, there is no act in history more painful or difficult or selfless than bearing the sins of the world on the cross.
So if God (the perfect One) is able to sacrifice his Son for me (the far from perfect one), then why am I unable to make much smaller sacrifices for Him?
The answer is selfishness. In this selfishness we seek our fleeting comforts. And these comforts unwittingly unleash a struggle against our conscience and in turn a struggle against God. And we’re never truly satisfied by these comforts; our conscience is always left feeling troubled.
(that’s why we call them guilty pleasures)
We naively believe that by indulging our comforts we will receive rest. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
When I watched Mamma Freda struggling against her pain all I could see was rest. Don’t get me wrong, she looked utterly and completely exhausted every time she had to move. But while her body seemed tired, her soul seemed at rest.
This reminded me of the words of the late Pope Shenouda III:
“Conscience finds rest when it carries out its message, when it does its duty and completes it in the best possible way, without caring at all about the fatigue of the body in order to complete its job and achieve its good aim. And the higher the aim the more one gets tired and finds comfort in that.”
I hope to always be reminded of the faithful example Mamma Freda set when I lean toward my own fleeting comforts over a struggle for Christ.