Reflecting on Africa: The Baobab

Scattered across the desert in Africa are big, twisting, ugly trees. African lore reports that the baobab tree was once the most beautiful in the world, bearing delicious fruit. But the baobab grew too proud. So God plucked it up, turned the baobab upside down, and stuck it back into the ground. Where a beautiful tree had been before rose the gnarled roots.
Photo Credit: Justin Buck
When I was in high school, I was certain I had everything figured out. While I’m sure that’s an uncommon experience for teenagers (see: all pop culture, ever), I had it bad. I had been given a gift with words and an inquisitive brain…and developed a HUGE ego.
My success didn’t help the matter: I was selected over and over for leadership positions and seminars. I got to go to the World Leadership Congress and Boys Nation, where I met President George W. Bush, Senator Barack Obama, and several other dignitaries.
With all of this worldly experience, I had long decided that my path was through undergraduate studies to law school to a career in international law. I prepared myself early, following politics and learning what I could from interning or working part-time for law firms. I began to learn French, the commerce and colonial language for much of West Africa. It was my dream to transform (single-handed, of course) the continent from barely-developing countries into an empowered people, protected by strong courts and well-constructed Governments.
I was pretty high on myself, but such a big head lends itself to becoming top-heavy. Through a series of rebellious and frankly stupid decisions, I ruined my academic career and impregnated my girlfriend. It didn’t stop with high school, either. A window of grace opened up, providing me with a full scholarship to Henderson State University, where I ended my first semester with a GPA barely above 1.5. So long, law school. So long, Africa. I had been plucked up, turned upside-down, and planted head-first back in the ground.
Finally, under the influence of that same girlfriend (who eventually became my wife) and by the grace of God, I broke down, straightened up, and (with a few more bumps along the road) submitted to following a greater purpose. In the Fall I finished my B.A. in Political Science.
When we decided that law school was not a practical path for our family to take, it was honestly heartbreaking. How would I make a difference to people without access to the courts? After college, though, I’ve found my calling helping people through my work at our family’s Funeral Home.
Not too long after I found contentment with my service as a Funeral Director, I learned of a 10-day mission trip to West Africa. The trip would be subsidized so that young men could afford to go.
Isn’t it the perfect picture of God’s grace that, even through so much rebellion, even in a still-imperfect package, He would provide a way for me to go and build a Kingdom in Africa? He is building a Kingdom in me.
When have you had an experience that brought you great peace? Has there been a time when disaster shook out to be a blessing?
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