Part 1 – because I was feeling ridiculously long winded and now I am not sure anyone has time to read this in one sitting. Just know that even though I leave blog 1 at a teetering precipice, God once again redeems my mess in the end.
Pre-Blog note to say that since Jacob wrestled a angel (who some scholars believe was Jesus) we should be nice to me, even though I was snotty to the God of the universe. OK, as you were.
Have you ever obeyed God when He asked you to do something? Yes? Me too. Even Stevens. That’s all the call to missions is. A yes. There is a lady who writes a blog called the worst missionary or something along those lines. Can I reference her? Is that taboo? I have no idea and I also have only read a few of her blogs (which are great) but the title resonates with me right now. I am the worst and I relate to the apostle Paul when he says in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” I am just the worst. Did you know that I was sarcastic with Jesus the other day? Let me recap our convo for you. I was at a retreat with other missionary ladies in Haiti and we were participating in a exercise where we imagined ourselves in a particular scripture. As the scripture in Mark was read we were to close our eyes and imagine the scene and place ourselves inside of it. The story is included here for context. I would also note for scriptural context that the disciples and Jesus were absolutely spent at this point. Ministry had been coming at them full speed and even Jesus, i.e. God in a human body, was worn out.
Mark 4:35-41, Jesus Calms the Storm
“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
So, before I let you into this little kerfuffle I have had with Jesus, let me give you some personal context. Our 3rd anniversary of moving to Haiti is May 7 and in many ways living here is my absolute joy and quite normal. I have noticed over the past 6 months something building inside me. I had never experienced anxiety like this, but now I know that anxiety was starting to creep up into my heart and mind, robbing me of all my peace. Anxiety that is mostly rooted in where God’s call on my life has me living, Haiti. My call to mom here, serve here, and live here has for a short season been overwhelming my spirit and choking my joy. It was a slow, sneaky slide into this place of tension and before I knew it, I was being swallowed whole. Here I am, a missionary, full of the knowledge of the power and authority of God, and I am terrified. I am going to let you in on a secret, missionaries are a mess. No for real. Actually had another missionary say to me 2 weeks ago, “We were such good Christians before we were missionaries.” Ouch. Where did I go wrong?
Let’s get back to the exercise on the retreat. The lady is reading the verse and asking us to imagine getting into this boat with Jesus. I imagine myself as a disciple because, word, I would follow this guy anywhere. The boat pushes from the shore and I can feel calm settle over me. Any boating aficionados here? The sun warming and soothing tired muscles and the spray of the water gently hitting my arms. I close my eyes and enjoy the rest. Then the winds pick up, and the sky darkens. A chilly breeze begins to touch my skin and I can sense the danger. My spirit, accustomed to the storms now, braces for a fight. I am acutely aware that I must act. Jesus is asleep and I know how tired He is, so I want Him to rest. Weird, right?!? Jesus, I’ve got this…you siesta. Take the wheel, Lord. As the storm rolls in and begins to shake us violently, I get to work. I have a job to do. I must keep the water out. I must bail. I must do all I can to keep us all safe. I cannot sit on my hands and watch this happen. I have to FIX THIS! Then Jesus is awoken and he DECLARES Peace! The peace is instantaneous and I am left standing exhausted and on edge like I have just fought with a lion for my life and the lives around me. Then Jesus looks at me and says, “Why are you afraid?” Now I wish I had responded as many of my friends did, with “Lord help my unbelief”. Or “oh yea”, as if reminded, “I should have known he had this covered”. How did I respond? “What kind of a ridiculous question is that Lord? Um, there was a terrifying storm and I was just trying to stay alive and keep you all safe too!” Then Jesus and I were left in what I can only describe as a stand-off. Now, In fairness to Jesus, who I happen to think was not ruffled by my sarcasm, The stand-off was of my making. My eyes held all the fear, all the anxiety, and all the anger. His eyes were patient and kind but unwavering, as if to say, “I asked you a question?” “Yes, I heard you Lord, and I answered already,” So, there we stood, in the boat, on water as calm and smooth as glass and surrounded by some “Oh, no she didn’t” disciples. The exercise ends here and I am left with this spiritual conundrum and I am not quite sure what to make of it. I don’t remember ever feeling so much fear and anxiety in God’s presence. My spirit knew that He was all I needed to have peace, but my mind also refused to let down my guard.
I moved to Haiti across a miraculously split sea of God’s provision! I survived the first year here solely on His grace and the power of His Holy Spirit! If I had completed this exercise in our first year or before we moved, I feel certain I would have been dancing in the storm! Somewhere along the way, things became bearable here and I believe I started to live here in my own power. Maybe this is where all missionaries, broken like me, go awry. I was just plugging along. Barely stopping to breath, much less to really feed my soul. Let me recount for you a couple things I had forgotten. Maybe these things will help you too if you are struggling to really trust God with YOUR circumstances, your storm. Are you struggling through Divorce, Depression, Sickness? Schooling my kids here is the hardest and I can feel SO defeated and ill equipped. My stress level is perpetually at defcon 1, because the 3rd world life and I wonder sometimes if God can use this messy offering to make any difference at all in peoples lives. All that, and I am battling with the idea of living in a different country than my children, as they grow and fly the nest. It is 2 years away for birdie 1 and my heart is already lurching in my chest. Lord, I agreed to move my 12, 10, and 6 year old here, I do NOT remember agreeing for them to move back for college without me. It really was/is a trust issue for me. Do I trust God with my babies? Side note: Yes, they are babies. Only a 191 month old, 167 month old, and finally my newborn a 104 month old. Just ask my mom, I am a mere 516 month old.
God has had me on a journey the last 6 weeks. People have prayed and poured into my life. God backed my fear and anxiety into a corner, and I was forced to wrestle this with Him. So what was I reminded of that has me pointed in a better direction?
Read Part 2 tomorrow to find out what God is speaking to my soul and how He is redeeming my little emotional mess.