BLOG: Life and Death
Sometimes I go to write and what wants to flow from my fingers seems like it may not be allowed. Like, if I say what's on my heart, I'm going to get kickback or somebody will misunderstand the meaning or motive. And oftentimes I allow those thoughts to temper what I actually write.
In fact, I probably allow those thoughts to dictate what I write more than I allow God to.
Today I'm going to say what I feel compelled to say because I've asked God to guide and still this keeps burning with me. So either brace yourself or click away; either option is perfectly acceptable.
Coming into the mission field, similar to any type of full-time ministry, has been a bit like slipping a bedazzled, two-sided bullseye over our heads and settling them across our chests and backs. The enemy literally never leaves us alone. That part probably doesn't surprise you but here's what you may not know.
Those dangers are only partly physical. Because sure, there are things like cobras and wild elephants (not in our region) and wildly flowing traffic and tropical diseases. But those things can only take our temporal lives. The real danger lurks in the shadows but it constantly stares us in the face.
It's the danger of becoming so consumed and so exhausted that you no longer have a grasp on God. It's the very real risk of thinking you're connected because you're busy at work for Him but realizing (or worse, not realizing) that you're not connected at all.
This has been my life for nearly the past year and I've talked about it and written about it. But I've always tried to make it sound like something I've overcome because I don't want to be discouraging. I don't want others to be put off of going into ministry or missions because they see it as spiritual suicide.
It's not, unless you let it be.
I have been drained for the past 15 months. Drained but fighting. Fighting but falling. Falling but being pulled back up and then falling again. It's embarrassing, upsetting, overwhelming, discouraging, and at times even depressing. But when life runs at the speed of 28 kids, there's no time to be any of those things and so you just keep squaring your shoulders so you can stay in the game.
Which makes it worse. But when there's not a way to have a real break to catch your breath and re-evaluate, you don't know what else to do other than show up and do your best and hope that the little bit of your time you're dedicating exclusively to God is enough.
It rarely is and you know it. I surely know it. There has to be a better way and yet I keep missing it by a hair.
I'm moral and ethical, although it's not always pretty. I adhere to Biblical principal in increasing measure. And I can be and do all those things while slogging through a ditch separated from God. Why is that? How is that? The dichotomy of Christianity is that it's totally possible for us to learn to be more like Christ without being like Christ, at all, because He lived connected to the Father. Head knowledge, and even heart knowledge, doesn't equal relationship.
My head and my heart are both in it, but I'm tired. Some might call it burn out but I think it's deeper than that. I also think it's simpler. Because at the very root of my disconnect is simply the fact that I've allowed myself to get in the way. I've allowed my service, my actions, my work, my words to get in the way of what God is saying to me and it's worn me flat out. All according to plan.
Just not God's plan.
But the enemy has me right where he wants me. In the crossfire running with my eyes down because I feel too defeated to look up. Listen you guys, because I see you. I know many of you are right there with me, afraid to admit it. Busy doing good, being good, speaking good, wanting good and yet walking it all out badly disconnected.
When your life becomes all about talking about God, when it becomes consumed with praying with and for people, when you talk about the Bible at every turn, and point people to Jesus every day ... when you do all those things on the daily, the weeks turn into months and the months into years before you realize you're on autopilot with nobody in the cockpit.
I can drive a stick shift, even on a van with a cantankerous transmission, without thinking. I can work the pedals, and manage the gears with the wrong hand (in Thailand you shift with the left hand) while dodging stray dogs and unpredictable motorbikes all the while carrying on a fluid conversation. I don't have to think about what my hands or feet are doing and I don't have to consciously tell them when to do what. Muscle memory kicks in and takes over. That doesn't make it safe that my attention is divided rather than focused, which is actually the entire point.
Because muscle memory carries us through much of our walk with God and that's exactly where we get off track. We stop being intentional and the slide is often slow. Much of our lives look the same while we're disconnected and so we often don't notice until it's been way too long.
I'm in Thailand serving as a full-time, lifetime, missionary as far as I know, and I'm in the battle of my life. But it's not the multitude of children or the attempt to survive in a language and culture I don't entirely understand. It's not the distance from home or the feelings of isolation (which is bizarre since I'm an introvert literally drowning in a sea of people!) that are threatening to take me out.
It's the assumption that I'm okay spiritually because I'm busy serving the Master.
The truth is, He's blessing here. We're seeing the result of His Spirit softening the hearts around us. We're seeing the impact of what He's doing and we know He's multiplying tenfold everything we attempt to do. He's busy using us to reach these people but He's also busy using these people to reach us. But that's planted us on Satan's radar and he takes continual potshots so we can never quite get our bearings.
And because we live in an age where we emphasize positive self-talk, we minimize the danger of living out of balance. It's just a season or God understands or I'm only human or I'm a work in progress are all lines we use to placate our pricked consciences. We've been groomed to believe the danger isn't real and that we need to offer ourselves all the grace.
Truth mixed with error is the most effective deception.
So I'm here to tell you that I'm not okay. I'm fighting and I'm not giving up. I know God sees me, hears me, and loves me. I've never in my life believed in Him more which makes it all the stranger that I'm having so much trouble connecting. But I'm telling you of my struggle in case it helps you see your own before it's too late.
We need Jesus. Every minute and every hour. If we're busy at work for Him that's all the more reason why we don't have time not to spend alone with Him. We need to ask the Spirit to teach us to walk in lockstep with Him. We may not always have long pockets of time in the morning and evening to spend in solitary communion but we need to prioritize Him above all else. And as we do, we must simultaneously learn to work in His presence so we don't end up walking right back out of it.
Because it's a matter of literal life and death!