Thursday, October 14, 2004

Geckos Are Our Friends

One feature of African life which is taking some time to adjust to, is the fantastic variety and abundance of lizards. There are the large red-necked reptiles, which can be seen outdoors underneath trees or lazing in the sun. Another lizard type is smaller, with a green neck and body.

But perhaps the most common version is the tiny gecko. They are usually found indoors, climbing up walls or across ceilings.

You can imagine the shrieks and screams that accompanied our first indoor gecko sighting! Chloe and Mallory were not happy to see the tiny visitor in their room. They wanted me to get rid of it, but I insisted that geckos were a good thing to have indoors. “They eat spiders and other insects that are truly dangerous,” I said. “Geckos are our friends.”

They were not immediately convinced, but they are beginning to get used to the plain fact that geckos are a constant presence in the house. There’s no way to get rid of them, nor do we want to. Geckos are our friends. Every time I see one, I remind all the girls (including Leah!) that geckos are useful, harmless, and even sort of cute.

In fact, "Geckos are our friends!" has become a catchphrase in our house.

There’s an object lesson in this, I’m convinced! And this is the lesson, I think: there are all sorts of annoying, or even distasteful, things in life that can end up becoming our “friends,” if we will only let them be transformed by the Spirit of God.

Life in Africa is comprised of a series of minor and major irritations and annoyances, any one of which can drive a Westerner to distraction. Part of the challenge, I am finding, is finding ways to let these disturbances become aids to spiritual growth.

For example, the dogs that our neighbors own, often wake me up in the middle of the night with their howling and baying. I could let this really bother me – I could muster up all the courage and all the French I’ve learned and march down to their door and make a scene … Believe me, I’ve been tempted to do this. But recently, I’ve taken a different tack. I decided that if I am awakened in the middle of the night by those dogs, instead of cursing the dogs, I will spend some time in prayer. And not only a “God, can you shut those dogs up?” prayer. I pray for those whom God brings to my mind, until I drift back to sleep.

As I have mentioned before in this blog, time moves at a slower pace here. This is frustrating for someone like me, who likes to make “Things To Do” lists. I just don’t feel satisfied unless a number of things have been crossed off the list. But when you simply can’t get things done because … the electricity is off, or the internet connection won’t take, or it’s raining too hard to go anywhere, or the person who said he’d meet you at 2:00 isn’t there at 2:30 … then what can you do?

Well, wasted time can be useful, you know. It forces you to take time to smell the flowers, to play with the kids, to watch the rain make puddles on the tin roof next door. It can prompt a conversation with God. It can allow you to sit on the balcony and watch the huge black crows with white vests strut and play.

You might even notice a gecko crawling across the wall.