Indonesia is full of baskets . . . some delicately hand-woven, others pieced together with large and gaudy strips of wicker. Some cradle colorful fruits in the marketplace. Others nestle newly harvested rice on the backs of highland villagers. Regardless, each basket is uniquely designed by its maker for a specific purpose.
While I was sifting through our furlough piles, I studied a hand-woven basket made by the Dayak people we served during our first term overseas. We had just returned for furlough and I was not looking forward to going back. A wave of deep loneliness washed over me as I pictured our Indonesian home, away from family and friends. My attitude now was far different from the exuberant desires I’d carried going to the field. I knew God had called me to it . . . but the last three months of our term I had unknowingly slipped into depression, battling panic attacks and horrible waves of anxiety and fear. No, I was not looking forward to going back and facing the place that had brought me into such emotional desolation.
And yet, even though it had been the bleakest time of my life, I was also beginning to see that God was using it to reveal many misconceptions that I had unknowingly harbored in my patterns of thinking, specifically about God and myself. I had allowed the original design of the basket of my life to become distorted, creating some holes.
The first strand that God began to weave into the holes of my basket was an assurance of His unconditional love and acceptance of me. Soon after the depression began, I sought help from a friend. We talked and worshiped together intensely, crying out to God for deliverance. On the third day, it was like a dark cloud over my mind vanished and in its place was an incredible knowledge that God loved me. I realized that although I had been taught that since Sunday School, I had never truly believed it. Somewhere I had picked up the misconception that I needed to perform in order to please God. I had believed a lie: that I was not good enough for God.
Ephesians 2:4-6 has now become a favorite verse of mine. It says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us sit together with Christ in the heavenly places.” Whenever I feel a doubt about God’s love for me, I remember this verse.
The second strand the Master Weaver inserted into my basket was the realization that I had needs, too. Somehow I had assumed that I needed to unselfishly give to everyone . . . my family, our organization, and the people we served, and put my own needs on the back burner. After all, isn’t it selfish to cater to your own needs? I thought. But after a term of giving and no replenishing, I was empty. The truth came sharply into focus. Meeting my own needs was not selfish, but essential for emotional health. As we replenish ourselves emotionally, we will be better able to minister to others, including our spouse and children. It is critical when we live overseas to identify our own needs and actively pursue meeting them. For example, some of my needs are: time away from the children, exercise, being outside, and sharing with other women. Your needs may differ with your temperament, but they are just as important in order to keep you going in ministry.
The third missing fiber in my basket was the need to share with my fellow global worker wives. Coming onto the program as a “rookie,” I was a bit prideful. After all, I was going to get this global working thing right. As frustrations with the nationals and their culture crept in, I didn’t want to share them with my new colleagues. If I put down the “perfect global worker” mask I was wearing, and actually admitted I was having struggles too, what would my friends think of me? They’d know I wasn’t perfect! And even worse, they’d think me unspiritual.
It took the whole term for me to realize how vital it is to have trusted friends to be real with. It wasn’t until the depression hit that I really opened up about my struggles, and as I began to share with my fellow wives, an amazing thing happened: They didn’t think worse of me! They actually loved me more. And as I was real with them in the struggles I was facing, they began to open up about their own difficulties, and God’s Spirit began to weave harmony in our team like never before.
The last thing God taught me had to do with my basket itself. A friend recently shared an illustration with me. She said that God gives each of us a basket, and He puts in our basket those things that He wants us to do. The problem is that our human tendency is to grab lots of other things and dump them into our basket, too. Then we wonder why we are so weighted down and weary. It isn’t easy being tenderhearted, and surrounded by nationals who are poor, uneducated, or ill. I tend to throw all of them into my basket!
But the challenge is to be close enough to God each day, and to have our ears attuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice each moment of the day so we know what God has placed in our baskets. We can’t possibly meet all the needs that are out there. And isn’t it a freeing truth to realize that we don’t have to? If we tried, we’d burn ourselves out like I did. But as we seek to know the Master Weaver better, we will become more certain of what it is He has placed in each of our baskets, and carry out those tasks through His enabling.
A Work In Progress
My basket isn’t finished yet . . . the Artist is still adjusting its threads. But thanks to His work, the gaping holes are skillfully being filled in, one at a time.
I hope that these simple truths will be as freeing for you, my fellow basket-carriers, as they have been for me!