"How much for this?" I would inquire, holding up the African souvenir.
"For you, Lady," the vendor would reply, "I give you special price of 2000 francs." His English was halting, yet well constructed from years of practice on a myriad of tourists.
"Oh, that's way too much," I would retort with mock indignation. "I'll give you 1500 francs."
He would feign offense, turn slightly away, and say, "1800, my last price." I would begin to walk away, and he would run up to me, tugging at my arm. "OK, OK, Lady. Last price. 1600 francs." I would agree to the price I wanted in the first place, pay for my souvenir, and move on to the next stall.
The Cocody Market in Abidjan was one of my favorite places to be. I'm not a shopping girl, but this was not your typical mall shopping. It was fun to peruse the souvenirs, but mostly it was fun to barter.
Bartering. That's something I'm sure many of us have done with God. "God, if you'll just give me A, I'll do/never do B again." I made such a deal with God yesterday. And with Chris. Chris is the children's minister at our church and, incidentally, one of my former students. He has also been a minister to inner city kids and teens for many years. He has long been an integral part of Bright Futures Atlanta. Recently, he and the founders of Bright Futures have begun working to create another ministry: a homeschool-type co-op for those teens and pre-teens who take part in Bright Futures.
I took Chris to Learning Things yesterday to check out some curriculum because, well, someone had to make him aware of the Treasure Warehouse Full of Curriculum. In conversation, I may have mentioned to him how much I would love to be a part of this--if only for one day a week--and of course he ran with it.
Believe it or not, when I first began my education to be a teacher, my dream was to work with inner city kids. That dream has been clouded over the years by my complete immersion into suburban living and all but forgotten as I've thrust myself into the job of motherhood. And now here is this Opportunity standing right in front of me.
Back to the wheelin' and dealin'. The problem with this opportunity is that it is quite far away. The other side of Atlanta far away. And if you know Atlanta at all, you know it is a sprawling city with terrible traffic. Anyway, I told Chris if we could sell our house I would help out because we intend to move about a half hour closer to civilization if we can ever unload this house. I felt quite satisfied with my deal--quite like I'd just gotten the price I wanted. Chris said he'd have everyone pray and we'd have the house sold in a week.
While I don't doubt that our prayers can indeed get this house sold in a week, I don't think that God wants me to be making deals with Him. I think He wants me to take steps of faith without the bartering. This is very difficult for me. I have spent so many years in self-reliance, years of making decisions without bringing God in at all. Consequently, I have very little experience in knowing God's will for my life. I mean, those open doors...are they open by chance, because I've led such a charmed life, or because God wants me to walk through them? Are those whispers from His Spirit or my selfish desires? These are common questions that rattle through my brain.
I'm so not good at this. It's really kind of silly because we're only talking one day a week that I would go down and help. And, while I know that raising my kids is my primary ministry right now, I also know that part of that ministry is teaching my children that there is more to life than the little suburban bubble in which we live. This would be a perfect opportunity. So why am I hesitating? I know it is my own selfishness which causes the hesitation. And laziness. That would play a factor too, of course, because saying "yes" would mean some extra planning and organization. And putting myself out there to be involved in others' lives.
I think I already know the answer--that this investment is worth a sacrifice. Why, then, do I still keep wanting to barter?