I sit here in a bamboo chair owned, as is 95% of the furniture my family uses, by someone else, looking out at a tropical mountain and wondering again how I got here and, more to the point, when I will be going home.
The getting here bit is history, and so easily recalled. Basically, I fell in love. With a man who ‘worked’ in missions. Later I would learn that this profession is akin to ‘working’ in the military. It is more of a lifestyle, and it certainly is not a nine-to-five job. He did not then have any plans to go overseas and, at the time, it probably would not have made a difference anyway. I was in love, after all.
Before long it became apparent to us both that this was not just a way to pay the bills but a calling. A CALLING!!! He was called and thrilled, thrilled and called. Besides, for a crusader type, like my husband, a cause to spend your life on is the ultimate need. Nevertheless, while he was focusing on the word called, I was mentally underscoring the word HE. He was called. He was the one given the mandate. He would give his life to mission work. He would not be using those technical and analytical skills to earn the big bucks, with stock options, killer benefits, and a 401K to take care of our growing family.
No matter. God would take care of us; besides, had my husband not vowed that he (meaning, of course, we) would not be going overseas or raising support? Ever?! Okay. So our family will do without all the extras for the sake of the kingdom. We will be secure in the knowledge that there is a calling and it has been accepted (notice the elevation of nose and the extension of chest).
Except that it had not truly been accepted. We had accepted with conditions. God let us coast a while, and then He began planting the seeds of working overseas in both our hearts. The change was subtle and gentle. I began to think about it favorably. Then I noticed I had shifted from ‘if-we-went’ to ‘when-we-go’ kinds of thoughts. I warned my mother: “Don’t know when, don’t know where, don’t know how long, but we will be going eventually, Mom. It is for his career.”
And you know what? I was excited about it! I wanted to go! Little-Miss-small-town-homebody, holidays-and-vacations-spent-with-family was ready. Pick me! Pick me! Over here! I’ll go!
And, of course, a door opened.
For the sake of brevity we will skip many months. Months of informing children, parents, family and friends. A strange grieving process, mourning over the loss of the life I thought I had in front of me. Visiting our destination ahead of time. Seeing God’s amazing hand of provision. The birth of our fourth child. Selling off our things. Boxing up and storing so many memories. Tearful good-byes. The trip out. Introductions. Finding a furnished house. Settling in. And too many types of adjusting to count!
We have been through all the phases and emotions. Several times, actually. There was the honeymoon phase where everything was peachy and somehow funny and quaint. Then, when the newness was fading but not quite gone, we congratulated ourselves on having gotten past the rough 6-12-month phase without much of a to-do. Sure, there were times when we missed family, friends, and Walmart, but still we felt content. Then we started to realize that, though we did not know how long we would be here, it was going to be a while. Perhaps quite a while. That is when the rollercoaster really took off. One day (or one hour) we would feel exhilarated, accomplished, or in control, the next completely drained or depressed or irritable. I would be up and my hubby down, then I would be slumped and he soaring. Confused does not quite cover how we felt.
The great days we called (and still do) ‘I LOVE ASIA’ days. Days where the prices are cheap, the revelations come easily, and the awe of where, how, and why we are here is written in every tropical vista. There are ‘I HATE ASIA’ days too. Days where the heat threatens to evaporate you, the cultural environment is baffling, and you seriously question everything from your sanity to your very existence. And, of course, you feel so very alone.
I have had a string of those days in recent months. The honeymoon is definitely over. And yes, I have said, Okay Lord, can you just tell me when we will be going back? Back to one-stop shopping, sane traffic, seasons, and holidays with family? He has yet to answer. He probably knows I would behave like a child waiting for school to let out: Only 961 more days until I can go home! Not exactly living life to its fullest. I do so wish Paul had expounded on the being content in all situations bit.
Recently I looked up reluctant in the dictionary, and here is what Mr. Webster had to say:
Reluctant: to struggle against; feeling or showing aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness <reluctant to get involved>; also: having or assuming a specified role unwillingly
Ouch. Ouch because it is true. Somewhere along the line my, Pick me! Pick me! became, Awww, do I have to? I don’t wanna! Somewhere the calling, our calling, became less about the adventure and more about persistence. Less romantic and more of the daily grind. Historically speaking, perseverance is not my strong suit. I like the easy road as much as the next gal.
But one day, like a refreshing breeze soaked with grace, some things I should remember came to mind:
- I know that I know, as my dad would say, that we are called. And that ‘we’ is not just my husband and I but also our four children. Our family is supposed to be here. Right here.
- God has purposes for each of us to accomplish in this place. We are not here to soak up Eastern hemisphere sun. I do not claim to know every jot and tittle of what we will be doing, but opportunities abound! Opportunities to love, share God’s word, teach, mentor, bring peace, be an example, encourage, disciple, uplift, train…
- God will show us the what, who, where, and how of which opportunity to seize today. He has not left me floundering without resources. I have the Holy Spirit to guide me, a great team to mentor and encourage me, and God’s Word and its promises to lean on.
- I have to obey, but God has to get the job done. I am frail. Of this I am keenly aware, but God knows it better than I and He is still okay with me! He chooses the foolish, weak, lowly and despised on purpose. It is His power that must come through. It is His Spirit Who must open hearts to receive. It is His strength that must sustain. The yoke is easy and the burden light because He is pulling all the weight! And lastly,
- He loves me. He loves me! He loves me! In spite of me! Because He loves me, this time is also for my good. It may feel like a pressure cooker at times, but that is when the tenderizing happens. That is when I become more like my Saviour. Patience grows. Faith expands. Anger dims. Hope develops. Perfectionism lessens. Grace abounds. For God is working together all things for the good of those who love Him who have been called (CALLED!) according to His purposes.
So, you know what? I have been finding myself less and less reluctant in the light of His love. My sometimes smoldering embers are growing red hot again. And I find that I am willing to give all my days, wherever I am, to Him.