10 things I learned about myself at Cape Town 2010

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Of course when one flies across the world and meets believers from everywhere and hears speakers who challenge to the core, self discovery comes. Here are ten things I’ve learned about myself so far.

  1. When I blow my nose way too hard, my nose ring comes out and disappears. Now, I have no idea if I inhaled the thing and its happily (or scarily) napping in my lungs, or if it came out in a tissue and I didn’t notice. This happened after I listened to the widow speak (and if you say that fast, it can also sound like widow’s peak). Her lack of bitterness deeply touched me. And the sacrifice she and her husband made humbled me. And as I recounted here, the entire conference probably blew their noses and wept their tears too. (I have no scientific data about nose ring loss among other attendees.) Side note: I found a new one on Thursday with my friend Aldyth.
  2. I live my life in safety and have orchestrated it myself. I can’t be sure why I’ve been thinking about this during the conference, but during one session, the Lord clearly reminded me that when I was five and violated (raped) by those neighborhood boys, I was a victim of crime. I’ve never, ever put it in those terms that way. I’ve never categorized it like that in my mind. So when I heard stories of crime in South Africa from folks who live here, something inside me resonated and shuddered. I told one new friend, “I’ve made my life pretty safe.” Growing up feeling unsafe has made me make sure that I have a safe home in a safe town. I’m not at all saying that’s bad, just interesting. We tend as adults to compensate for our lack as children, don’t we? All this came to mind last night when I felt truly unsafe here. At all hours of the night, people in my hotel (several at different times) yelled and screamed into the central corridor. My mind raced. I thought of ways to barricade the door, then opted for prayer and sleeplessness. Yeah, I adore being safe.
  3. People continue to deeply fascinate me. Just meeting a new person from another culture makes me so happy. I enjoy asking questions, finding out about families, probing about how each met Christ. And even as I’ve been interacting with a man without religion on my facebook page, I find myself fascinated by him too. Maybe it’s because I adore stories, and each person represents thousands of stories. It gives me a foretaste of the new heavens and the new earth. We’ll be sitting around tables there, feasting, and sharing our stories.
  4. I’m learning contentment. I’ve been pretty hungry at the congress. The food, though well prepared, hasn’t always agreed with my system, so I’ve been cautious about what I’ve eaten, which has led to hunger. Usually I get irritated when my stomach growls. But somehow being among people who may experience this in their communities on a daily basis, I’ve learned to smile and work through it.
  5. I am an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert. This will make my husband happy to read because he finds it amusing that I think (wrongly of course) that introversion is somehow wrong. Although I am energized being in groups and continue to be fascinated by people, every day at the congress I have to pull away to sort myself out. I need quiet to do this.
  6. I find my own story quite common. I don’t mean that in a self-derogatory way, but that my past suffering is very common to people around the world. We all carry painful baggage. We all need healing. We all need Jesus to shed light on our stories to bring them meaning and hope and redemption.
  7. I feel small, yet energized. As an American Christian who has not suffered much persecution, I’ve been so humbled by people who lay their lives on the line every single day for Jesus and count it a privilege. There is a depth of growth I see in those folks. One of my prayers coming here was that I’d meet Christians like that. I have. And the result has been a desire in my small self to be willing to suffer for Jesus, and a deep admiration for those going before me.
  8. I’m actually thankful for my time France. Living there has broadened my worldview. It’s helped me become a listener. It showed me that the USA isn’t the center of the world. As Sophie said shortly after we moved there, “I learned God is not an American.” Because I learned how to take criticism of the government in a gracious, non-threatened way, I can now, at the Congress, listen intently to critical words and not be angry. We all have different views. And no one view is always right.
  9. God has called me to the broken of the world. I’ve known this a long time, but it’s been cemented here. Last summer when I wrestled with who my tribe was, the Lord was gracious enough to confirm this. I write so others don’t feel alone. I write so others will heal. I write to help broken people have words for their pain, and then heal.
  10. I’m coming into a new phase in my ministry, a more out-there phase. I’ve realized now that there are times when someone recognizes me, yet I don’t recognize them. This truly terrified me. I emailed a friend about it, and she told me to be more grace-filled with myself. Because my face is on the web and the back of books, if someone meets me once, they might remember me. But I don’t always remember everyone who has shaken my hand. Just writing this freaks me out. I want to remember every. single. person. I’ve. ever. met. Ack! But if God expands my ministry, I have to learn to exist in this strange paradigm.

Q4U: If you’re at Cape Town, I challenge you to write a 10 things post. If you’re not, what’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself in October? Be honest!

Stay tuned for my next post: 20 Things I learned about God at Cape Town 2010.

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