A friend recently told me I was straddling continents, one foot in the US, one in France. I’ve been mulling that over in my mind, praying about it, asking God for help.
On the one hand, I want to be fully here. Fully in France. Fully acclimating to the culture.
On the other hand, I have a writing career/ministry headquartered in the US. So I can’t help but stay connected–to publishing relationships, to writer friends.
So here I sit in France at a keyboard, knowing that most of you who read this live in the United States. Between us lies the mighty Atlantic . . . And my confused heart.
Two glorious thoughts have helped me live within this tension of having a heart in two places. One is the thought of heaven. There are times I just want to spend all my time with one friend and the thought of leaving her behind in the states makes me want to stay in bed and cry a river. My solace comes in understanding the reality of heaven. There will be a day when we all can connect deeply on streets of gold, where a deep, meaningful conversation won’t have to end. Those friends of mine who know Jesus, whether they live in France or the US or Macedonia, will have a glorious reunion on the other side. While we revel in Jesus, while we marvel that we no longer have the propensity to sin, we will also dance and celebrate our relationships. On this earth, we have goodbyes (and I HATE them), but heaven will be one long, blessed hello.
The other thought is something my friend Sophie wrote on the post below this one. She said: “Somehow I sensed last week at the staff conference that you were practicing being okay with who you are! I don’t know how I saw it but when I read on a post that you had that revelation whilst there, I knew I had witnessed that. You are quite a lady Mary. . . keep on being who God made you . . . its beautiful.” I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin. And the Lord has been teaching me that. What a gift that Sophie saw that! Thank You Jesus!
So many of us, particularly Christian women, are strangled by expectations of what we should be. Now that I’m a missionary, the list gets longer. I have to be Proverbs 31 on steroids to feel like I was normal or OK. Here’s my list:
- Missionaries must not leave the field the first two years; otherwise they’ll want to go home. I could not abide by this unwritten rule. One funeral and three writing trips necessitated me leaving the field for short periods of time. Someone asked me if it hindered me. To be quite honest, my answer was and is no. Because I hadn’t forged deep relationships yet in France (those kind take years, not months), I had nowhere to turn for relational feasting. Going home saved me. I reconnected. I was prayed for. I was better equipped to handle the problems of the first year because God met me through my existing friendships.
- Missionaries must always open their homes. I always thought I had the gift of hospitality, partially because I love to cook and have people over for dinner. Having folks for dinner and having multitudes of folks live with us is two different things. I have had to redefine what I can and can’t do in terms of long term guests. Have I felt guilty? Of course. Part of learning to be comfortable in my own skin has to do with learning to let that guilt go.
- Missionaries must always be spiritual. This year, I’ll admit, I haven’t always been spiritual. I’ve cried. I’ve pouted. I’ve questioned. I’ve dropped the ball. I’ve let others down in my own selfishness. I’ve come to terms with my own limitations and in a lovely way, God is meeting me where I am: as a confused, longing pilgrim on a tedious, arduous journey.
- Missionary women must parent and “wife” perfectly, so as to set an example. I’ve given myself headaches worrying about whether I am a good mom and a supportive wife. The truth is, I struggle. I have come to realize that people are not drawn to Jesus by my perfection, but by my blessed imperfection, when I can say “I am hurting. I am failing.” and still lean on Jesus. He’s the splendid power inside me. If I try too hard to be perfect, I’ll squelch that power. I don’t want people to point to me and praise how great I am anymore. I want them to see my struggle and see Jesus who supports me in that struggle.
That’s the short list. My hunch is that all of us carry around these lists like nooses around our necks. The truth is, no person is alike. No follower of Jesus is alike. We’ll all be doing things differently in different times, in different ways.
So, yes, I have a foot here and a foot there. But my heart is His. And He knows me. Today, I am OK with that, whether I fit the pattern I set for myself or others set for me. I can rest in Jesus. I am free, in Him, to be me.