Sunday, October 6, 2013

Behind the Missionary Mask

I was ready to pack and go back home, back to the good ol' USA. We would be back home just in time to see my sister at homecoming. I had it all figured out, but how on earth did I get to this point?

There have been times in my life that my quiet time was something I did just to feel good about myself. Besides, I was a Christian and it was something you were ‘suppose’ to do. I had heard that getting through a day without relying on God’s strength was not wise, but I had done it plenty of times over my life and nothing bad came from it other than guilt. Over the coarse of many years, I had the usual ups and downs in my fellowship with Christ. I went to church, and enjoyed learning more about the Bible, but the emotion, the depth was not as deep as I had hoped. I knew I was God’s child, that was never in question, but what was I missing? Older generations would stand to talk about the Gospel and would break down in tears worshiping their King. How do I get that? Maybe I was not ‘doing’ enough. Maybe I need to confess more sins or pray 10 minuets longer. I didn’t know what, but something was missing. Dont get me wrong, during those ‘highs’ in my relationship with Christ, I knew His power. During the death of my mother, I saw Him work in so many incredible ways that made me tear up in awe, but those were just moments and memories. It is like no matter what God did in my life, a few months later I would be right back to ‘doing’ my quiet time and the emotions and awe were gone. I speak in past tense as if that were ages ago, but it wasn’t.
We were far away from home and everything that was familiar .
When we moved overseas in 2012, I had heard that we needed to depend solely on God everyday. I hear from veteran missionaries that the most important thing I could do for that day was spend time with God. For our first few months on the field, I made sure that I put God first. I was away from family, friends, my culture and everything I knew. Everything was stripped away and I felt completely vulnerable and lost. Of course I depended on God, I had to! I am not sure what happened next, but I think God wanted to show me how important that really was. We had been on the field over ten months, and we had found a routine and were enjoying living in Africa. Then it happened. I guess it was slow at first and so I did not realize it, but God become quiet. I had continued my on and off quiet times, reading the Bible as if it was a storybook. But in December, something changed. I know our relationship with God is deeper than any emotion, however, the depth of my soul felt alone. Now I ‘know’ God will never leave us, and I am not saying that is what happened, but He became silent. Silent and distant is what I felt anytime I prayed to Him. I got frustrated and started going through my day without Him. Those months were some of the worse months I have ever gone through. It was like darkness was all around me. At first, I tried to continue the actions of quiet time, but soon it became so frustrating to feel abandon, and I just stopped. God still provided opportunities for me to witness, but I was overcome with my inability to do anything. I questioned why I was even here. I felt beyond inadequate.

Letters and emails of encouragement poured in, but I couldn’t even read them. If they even knew who I really was, they wouldn’t be sending these letters. People letting us know they were praying should have been a breath of fresh air, but it just made me feel guilty, like they were wasting their prayers on me. Jonathan did what he could, but he was feeling the abandonment as well.
I was stuck,  and I felt so abandon.
When I did pray it was, "God! I gave everything for you! We came out here for you, to bring glory to you, not us. We trusted you and you have brought us out here on the front lines, stripped us of our armor, and then left us. We are getting hit left and right and you do nothing but watch.” I was beyond mad, I was confused, and emotionally exhausted. This went on for months. The more I tried to seek God, the more distant He felt. I got angry when I would read the verses talking about God never leaving us. I didn’t know what to do. Everything I knew didn’t line up with what I felt and what I was going through. Jonathan took us on a spiritual retreat to refocus at Lake Turkana, which was a little over 4 hours from Loki. While that was refreshing, I just felt like I was doing everything to find God, but He couldn’t be found. Who am I anyway, God is big enough to do what He wants. Was it time to throw in the rag and go home? 
Our retreat of the Lake
I realized that I couldnt just come & go to God as I please.  Too long had I just come and gone as I rode the waves of this Christian life. Those months I was oppressed. I know Baptist don’t like talking about this sort of thing, but the enemy was coming at me with everything, and I had no protection, or so I thought. Those were such dark months that I never ever want to go back. I threw all my ‘tricks’ down and decided to stop trying to get God to answer. I felt I just needed to worship Him. For months that is what I did. I didn’t ask anything, didn’t even really pray. I just read the psalms, and created a folder in my Itunes of songs of adoration. I made sure the songs were solely about praising God. Not to ‘win Him over’ but that was all I could do. I was broken, tired and beat up. So, I tried to stand and brush myself off, but I got knocked down again. So I just worshipped from where I was, broken and beat down. It didn’t happened over night, or over weeks, but slowly, I felt my soul was being fed again. The more I poured out adoration and praise, the more I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t about getting that ‘feeling’ back any more, but it was just about doing the one thing I could. As weeks went by, my soul yearned to sing praises to God. God started waking me up 5:00am where I would get up put in my earphones and worship God for hours. I had heard for years about this, but I finally understood. In the mornings, my soul would not let me go on without spending that time worshipping God. As I read the scriptures, it wasn’t just about awesome stories any more, it became a deep, intimate time with my Father teaching me.

I had a reality check of just how weak, and vulnerable I am. I am not just saying this because it sounds nice, but I am terrified to go through a single day without the complete and total reliance on my Savior. Yes, He has made Himself known again, but this isn’t just an up and down of my Christian walk. God allowed me to see how important it is to worship Him. Those months were a blessing and have changed my life. The enemy still attacks just as fierce as he did during those previous months, but the difference is, I am now wrapped in my Fathers strength.
In June 2013, family came to visit-what a blessing!
Label me a missionary or whatever you want to call me, but don’t for a second think that I am anything more than I really am. I am a human, a weak one. I read cards and feel encouraged, but feel too inadequate to be receiving encouragement from all these warriors in Christ. It only takes a tiny pebble to make me fall, but I cling to my Father like I never have. I cant think about His mercy without getting choked up. He is my wonderful, glorious Majesty and I am determined to worship Him every morning, no matter what is happening around me. Im sure you have noticed by now we always sign our emails, ’To God be all the glory.” That isnt just some cool, spiritual, missionary phrase. Even through this event in my life, He is bringing glory to Himself. With everything inside of me, I know that God gets every single bit of glory and honor. Anything good that comes from my life is through Christ.

Just what the doctor ordered: Family, s'mores, and card games!

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