Nestled between chapters 5 and 6 of Genesis, is a ripped sheet of notebook paper. Scribbled at the top are the simple words, “Quiet Times: The Story of Noah.” For the past year, that piece of paper has remained in my Bible so that every time I read the old testament, it peeks above the pages, reminding me of an important lesson I learned in South Africa.
Last summer, I spent a month in South Africa with MK2MK. One weekend, we partnered with a local church to host a youth group retreat. The camp came after an exhausting week of ministry and, though our team was so excited to hang out with local teens, we could barely keep our eyes open. They, on the other hand, could not contain their excitement and energy. So when bedtime rolled around, we were quick to snuggle into our beds, anticipating a peaceful night of much-needed sleep. Our new friends, however, did not have the same plan. They stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, chattering away in Zulu. I tried my best to block it out, inwardly wanting to scream: go to sleep!! please oh please go to sleep!
The next morning, I was awakened to the familiar zulu conversations of the night before. At 6:30. I wanted to cry. I just wanted to sleep, was that too much to ask? And then, one of the girls came over to my bed and told me I needed to be ready for quiet times soon.
The night before, one of the leaders had asked me to lead a small group and I assumed the girl was confusing the two events. I sighed and told her that I didn’t need to get up for that. She kept trying to tell me. And so, I finally sat up and asked her if she knew what a quiet time was. I explained that it was a time of reflection and prayer. Alone. Emphasis on alone.
I snuggled back in bed, only to be awakened once again, this time by my leader. She cheerfully asked me if I was ready to lead quiet times. Um, what? I just got through explaining that. It was then that I realized in their culture quiet time = small group.
And my heart sank. How arrogant I must have sounded, assuming she was confusing her English words. Yet, I was the one who was wrong.
I quickly got out of bed and dressed and put on my best smile. Through yawns and sleepy eyes, we read the story of Noah and I stuck the paper of questions I was given in my Bible as we went to breakfast.
And there it remains, a reminder to surrender my arrogance and humble myself.