MISSION UPDATE: Faith over Feelings
(The photos in this post accurately reflect real-life here. Sometimes kids are exuberantly happy, other times they're a little sad. Sometimes they're just peaceful and content. I want to be careful to never portray thing here to be all highs without the lows. It's definitely a combination like in any normal family.)
A dense fog had settled over the rice paddies, obscuring them almost completely. The deep haze made the morning darker than usual, although the early breakfast hour means the sun is always still just at the beginning of her journey upwards.
I sat down at the table surrounded by the three of the little girls. Immediately it was as it always is ... competitive.
"Mommy, sit by me!"
"Mommy, can I wash your plate?"
All said in Thai and also in their best frantic, panicked, whiney voices. It happens every single day at every.single.meal. But it starts in the mornings, before the meal, as we walk from the house to the outdoor kitchen. They begged to be carried or to hold my hand. They want to be the one walking closest by my side or hanging onto my shirt. It makes walking hard and it also makes me feel claustrophobic.
We're trying to find ways to teach them not to compete for attention by making sure they're certain about our affection. But it's slow, sad work. Because their desperation is a side-effect of their young lives not being what they were supposed to be and we can't fix that. Some days I can roll with it and other days are harder. The feelings get all feel-y and I sometimes find myself struggling not to respond in a way that lets my inner battle make an external appearance.
I made it to the dining area, we had the meal while huddled in sweatshirts because "winter", and then the little ones all crawled into the van with Robbie to make the trip toward town so our high schoolers could be deposited safely at the door. The small people enjoy the ride and it also frees the rest of us up to get things done that are hard to do with so many in tow.
Once the rush was behind me, I returned to the house to clean. And that's where the battle really started. Because I'm human and I get overwhelmed. I suffer from sensory overload and want to check out and do nothing in order to recover. Sometimes the voice in my head screams so loud that it's fine to be immobilized by my feelings and I so badly want to obey the voice.
But then my phone rang.
My firstborn child, Micah, is now 25 and he calls regularly. Like with my other kids, these phone calls are often learning sessions for me as I glean from their wisdom. On this particular morning, Micah had the exact message I needed to hear, and he had absolutely no idea I needed to hear it. We were just chatting about life and his new job and his old job and his future plans. And in the midst of all that chatter we ended up talking about this trend, in cultures across the globe, where we're told to go with our feelings.
"If you wake up and want to do nothing, it's the universe telling you that you need to do nothing today." These are the types of messages we're being fed and they're served up in palatable portions with garnishments to make them most appealing. Micah isn't buying it.
He said when he wakes up and feels that way, he checks to see why he's feeling unmotivated. Once he identifies the source of his struggle, he acknowledges what's happening, and then does what needs doing anyway, irrespective of his feelings.
He said, "The way I feel has no right to interfere with me doing what I need to be doing."
It took me a second to realize I agree and that maybe the fact this is the opposite of what we're told on repeat is why so many people are paralyzed to productivity or to living the lives they were created to live. We act on feeling. We respond according to our feelings. We advance, or retreat, depending on our feelings. We look to our feelings to guide us when, in fact, the Bible warns us not to do this.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
The reality is, if I listened to my "heart" or feelings, without filtering that counsel through God first, I wouldn't show up most days. I'd avoid all the situations that take me beyond my comfort zone or outside my preferences. I don't like hard things and I buckle under pressure and I shrink from pain or disappointment. And yet, those things are part and parcel of nearly every one of our weeks here. God didn't create us a beautiful little oasis, insulated from heartache, when He sent us into the mission field.
Quite the opposite.
He has created seemingly endless opportunity for us to react and respond in opposition to the way we feel. He's offered countless times for us to choose to serve Him rather than self. And every single time I surrender what I want to do to what He's asking of me, those muscles which must be flexed to execute a complete surrender gain in fitness.
Those micro-tears to my feelings heal and strengthen in the process.
I am 46 years old and many days I'm flat tired. My carnal self is prone to protecting self. I am void of a natural desire to serve others when it crosses my feelings, but Jesus died to save me even from myself.
My feelings should never be allowed to direct me away from God and obedience to His instruction. He allows us to feel what we feel and identify what's happening, but we're to bring the burden to Him so He can bear the weight. We have no excuses ...
... but we do have a way of escape when we know where to run.