I’ve known this post was coming and it has been by far the hardest to wrap my mind around. The two year mark. I sit here, legs crossed, computer in my lap. The air conditioning blasting my body. It’s quiet here. It’s cold even. I mean, outside it’s 107 degrees, but you’d certainly not know it. My bedroom window faces the road, but the noise is blocked. Nothing escapes these double paned windows. Nothing escapes the barriers.
It’s been two years. And my mind is blown. How is it even possible? Time seems to be the only thing escaping these days. “They” say the transition from overseas missions to stateside living takes about two years to feel “normal.” I guess the reason why I’ve had such a hard time sitting down to write this or even think about it really is because it does hurt less. And sometimes, that makes it hurt more.
I sat in church this morning, and listened to a powerful sermon on discouragement. Our pastor preached on the life of Elijah and how in the matter of one chapter (19) Elijah, who was like the ultimate OT prophet went from being completely sold out to completely spent. He was in a battle with discouragement of epic proportions and while I am no Elijah, I found myself reminiscing my old life with a familiar emptiness.
I supposed it was about 2.5 years ago when I found myself utterly unable to care for myself or my family. I woke up and did not understand my life. I didn’t understand how I had arrived at that moment. I vividly remember preparing myself for the meeting that would put into motion a sequence of events that would ultimately change it all. This was the meeting, after the meeting, after the meeting that changed everything. This particular morning, I remember staring at myself in the mirror, going through the motions of putting on my makeup, straightening my hair, dressing myself (in all black, it felt like a funeral) and looking into my lifeless eyes fulling knowing what was coming. I shared in a room full of leaders, how I need a pause. I needed help. I needed a sabbatical or intervention was more like it. A restorative sabbatical was what it ended up being referred. Over the course of the next month, we would pack and leave for the US. We spent almost 200 hours in counseling in just 2 months. And then I resigned from the mission field.
The exact details and reasons aren’t that important, although some day I think my husband and I will be in a place to share more about what led to my resignation and how God has redeemed and restored our marriage, our faith, and has given us fresh perspective on ministry, missions, and purpose.
Those few days, weeks, months, and even the first year were abundantly painful. I tried to sit in the pain, push past the pain, ignore the pain, “delight” in the pain… but it all just sucked. I was confronted by my own lack of faith, fear of failure, and expectation of God to show himself on my terms. This morning our pastor said it so perfectly and gave me the words to begin unraveling this story. We are prone to discouragement when we:
- live in fear and not faith
- don’t take time to rest
- focus on the frustrations and believe a false narrative
- expect God to move in certain ways
While being discouraged is a normal initial reaction to say, my life’s dreams crumbling before my eyes, succumbing to it isn’t.
I was not only confidence deprived, my fear was crippling. Jesus was not the answer I was seeking. I wanted comfortable, calm, and normal. Jesus wanted obedience, humility, and trust.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For the longest time, I didn’t know what this truly meant. And then I lost a baby, and then another and then I almost lost my marriage, and then I lost the ministry I loved dearly. So many things had to die. I had been stripped of so much, and at last I knew what it meant to cling to He who gives life. Maybe you know this feeling to.
Slowly, giving myself permission to be vulnerable to the One who already sees all of my insecurities and weaknesses, he began to soothe and heal my wounds. Slowly, I began to step into light. Slowly, I began to feel his love return to my bones. Slowly, as I received his love, I was finally able to begin to love others.
Sometimes God empties us of ourselves so we can experience the unending power that is found in him.
And now, two years later (and a week), we have rhythms, traditions, patterns. It hurts less when I think of our lives in the Dominican and the unintended written ending. Sometimes, if I’m honest, that hurts more. But I’m learning to give even those thought to God too. I’m learning to rest. I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to find courage and strength in him. You can too, if you allow him into the vulnerable corners of your life. When your life hasn’t turned out like you thought, you can hope and trust in the one who has already authored our lives, and that is becoming our new “normal.”