Sixteen years in Uruguay has meant that we survive. We get just enough for us and then give away whatever is left over emotionally, spiritually, and physically, because the needs around us are so great and the resources are so few. It is normal to live this way there. So much so, that we did not want to see that we ourselves were suffering from spiritual and emotional malnourishment.
Last year we began a somewhat “forced” sabbatical because our daughter tanked and my husband’s father died; we knew we needed a time away. Our sabbatical coaches told us, “You have lived so long without your needs being met, that you think that is ‘normal.’ You have our permission to move out of crisis mode, get your needs met, and begin to thrive again.”
That was a painful moment of reckoning for me. Somehow I felt like all of this was our fault—like we had not cared for ourselves enough. To some degree I felt embarrassed, like there was something I should have done to avoid getting this desperate.
Then reason kicked in, and I fought that lie. We know about self-care. We teach self-care. During these sixteen years in Uruguay we constantly sought our own growth. We did everything we could to care well for our own and our children’s souls while staying engaged in Uruguay. We know we were in God’s hands, and that we were maturing emotionally and spiritually.
Our coaches were right: due to circumstances beyond our control, crisis had become our norm, and we were showing signs of being overwhelmed—and breakdown. We realized there was no way to get out of crisis AND stay in Uruguay. Patricia Miersma, in an article in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, compares global-worker stress with combat-related stress, concluding that global workers many times experience the same seven stress factors that soldiers in Vietnam experienced. When we were diagnosed with PTSD, it became obvious to me that one cannot stay in a combat zone and expect to feel safe enough to recover.
We needed more support than we could get while in Uruguay via Skype or short-term visits. It is no one’s fault that we got there. It is part of life, part of our growth, and part of our story. So many want to try to avoid this moment, but it is a natural and necessary moment: the moment when the emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources available within a system can no longer sustain it without reflection, more maturity, and growth.
We needed a rest. We needed a place that was safe enough for us to recover and reflect, a place where we could be broken and receive from others with more skill than we could offer ourselves. That literally did not exist for us in Uruguay.
Coming back for an extended time has allowed us to get much needed emotional, physical, and spiritual safety; we have rested and gotten helpful help. We spent much of our sabbatical receiving excellent counseling, incredibly helpful trauma-recovery for PTSD, and skilled marriage and vocational coaching—all with Christian therapists who are biblically and scientifically sound.
We are feeling externally stable and safe for the first time in our lives. We are learning how to sense Jesus giving us that stability and safety INTERNALLY so that we can take it with us wherever we go.
Feeling mostly safe, happy, and joyful is strange. It is different. At times I actually feel guilty! It is if I have been taught all of my life that if I feel this way, it must mean I am not following Jesus because following Jesus means sacrificing and suffering ALL the time.
When I get quiet and ask Jesus what He thinks, I can see and feel Him creating a safe soul-space for me. He longs for me to feel safe and secure. He longs for me to sense Him so strongly with me that even if I am being stoned to death like Stephen, I can see His perspective and be completely at peace.
Sometimes we need to experience a little external safety first, so that the physical body knows what that feels like. I sense God is preparing us for this type of “knowing” Him.
I am thankful for the time to recognize that we need more resources than we currently have in order to be a part of what God is going to do in Uruguay. Moses matured in safety for 40 years, Daniel for 43 years, and Paul for 7. I am encouraged that living a life with Jesus does NOT mean living without resources ALL of the time—it means following Him. Sometimes He leads us into the desert, sometimes into the battle, and thankfully, sometimes to safety where true healing and further training can occur.
Question to consider: How have you seen God use brokenness as a gift in your life?