Reflections on the first year

I’m at field orientation in Amsterdam, a funny thing since I’ve been on the field for a year now. Last year, Patrick went and I stayed home, helping the kids get settled into school.

Our group of missionaries, who represent many different countries in Western Europe, have been asked to reflect on our time on the field, so I’m reflecting with you as the audience. I hope you don’t mind.

The thing that strikes me about this year is my lack of presence. It’s like I’ve been floating above or below life, never tethered to actual life. Crossing cultures I’ve lost a bit of myself as well as an anchor. I didn’t realize how much American life grounded me, defined me. I didn’t realize how deeply I was addicted to convenience, and how selfish and impatient I was when things didn’t go exactly my way. It’s as if God had to pluck me from America’s culture of convenience to teach me how desperate I am for Him, how very needy I am in the midst of inconvenience.

I’m sad to say I haven’t always run to the Lord when life has slapped me in the face. I haven’t always been present with people. I’ve been distracted or irritated or distant. If you’d ask me what traits defined me a year ago, I wouldn’t have said distracted or irritated or distant. I would have said I was engaged, patient and present.

God has used the vehicle of culture shock to tear away what I thought was true about myself in order to show me how much I need Him in every moment. What is really true of me is that I can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus. I need others.

The person speaking us today reminded us, “God is aggressively pursuing the capturing of my heart, and He will use every circumstance, good or bad, to accomplish that goal.” It’s true, you know. Every irritation can be a springboard to deeper intimacy with the Lord, but often I’ve just seen it as irritation and nothing more. I haven’t seen the stress as a gift or a reminder to slow down, rest, and gain perspective by sitting at the feet of the cross.

Our speaker also said, “Sanity is a great victory.” So true, and I think you may resonate with that whether you’re a cross cultural missionary or trying to trudge through the minefield of life in your culture. Just getting through intact is a big victory. Just putting one skinny foot in front of the other is a victory. I marvel that my husband and I are still very much in love and my children are happy, settled and resilient, even after a very difficult cross-cultural year. We are sane. And that’s a victory. One to celebrate.

The last thing she said was this: “Give every perplexity as a sacrifice to God. It is sweet to Him.” She shared how having that one perspective helped her navigate her disappointments on the field. So, I can take my frustration with French bureaucracy and hand it to Jesus as a sacrifice. I can give Him my fear of doing something new as an offering. It’s a simple act, but one I have failed to do. Instead I grumbled and got angry.

Mind if I pray?

Dear Jesus,

It’s been a difficult but fruitful year in the soil of my heart. Thank You for the difficulties. In retrospect I offer them to You as a sacrifice. Help me to offer my perplexities minute by minute, hour by hour, worry by worry to You. I know Your hands are capable of receiving my little offerings. I know Your heart swells when You see my gifts to You. Thank You for being present. Help me to be present. Help me to be rooted to this earth, to the terra of earth I inhabit in France. Help me to engage in the moment instead of worry it away. Help me to engage in the messiness that is ministry. But mostly Jesus, I want to live a life utterly worthy of the calling You’ve given me. To be able to joyfully forsake my own agenda for Yours. To be happy to sacrifice. To place my selfishness beneath Your greater good. To risk again. To risk with a view to eternity. To understand the beauty of the adventure. To rejoice in my own frailty as Your strength undergirds bits and pieces of my inadequacies. To place people above tasks. I want my heart to be capture-able. I don’t want to be the independent child who runs away from You. Capture my heart again.

Yes, capture my heart again.

Amen.

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