I just counted the number of days we have left in our ministry contract in Ambato, Ecuador and here it is: 36. 36 days. Last night we officially handed over our last Bible Study to a leader and we shared words of gratitude for the last two years and tears as well. Well, everyone else shared tears. I was as tear-less as they come, even though everything inside of me was crying. Emotions don’t often make sense, and I am discovering in this whole good-bye process that they often come at the most inconvenient times.
The only constant I feel is chaos inside. It’s not because anything is wrong; it’s all just a part of the process of walking out of something and into another. Sometimes I walk around and look at everyone else in my house acting normal and think, “Am I the only one dealing with this stuff?”…then a moment happens with someone, the tears (or other random emotions) come, and I realize that a lot more is happening on the inside than any of us can figure out how to express. Part of me hates the fact that this is such a long and drawn-out process, but it couldn’t be any different. This phase of ministry is important as well.
One emotion that I feel consumed by often in this whole process is fear. I am afraid of the final words shared, especially between team members. What if I find out that they thought something totally different about me than I expected? During the two years, I guess I always assumed without stopping to think about how irrational it was, that we would all keep in perfect communication after leaving. However, the truth of the matter is, probably a couple of us will…but it will be different (for better or for worse), like all big life changes do to relationships. I am reminded that on the other side are new treasures to be discovered and enjoyed; however, that doesn’t take away the pain of realizing that I have had such an amazing two-year opportunity to know some of the most incredible people there are. Laying down what has become my “normal” and my “reality” for something that will look suddenly and vastly different is proving to be much more difficult than I expected.
It’s a scary thing to think about going back to the context from which I came. I’m not nearly the same person I was when I left, and I find myself fighting the fear that I will fall back into old character habits that I used to have; that I will become content and comfortable in my relationship with God instead of the passionate person that God has been making me to be. I used to be the fade-into-the-background wallflower that never wanted to stand out, and I recognize in myself the tendency and temptation to do that often. However, God has called me to something different, and I am afraid that I will not have the strength it takes to rise up and be the fiery and passionate girl He has called me to be. Here in Ecuador I am a leader and I am pushed into that role; in the States, I will have a different job description that won’t necessarily put me there naturally. I don’t want to settle for anything.
When I think about this whole fundraising and speaking in churches and groups and meeting with individuals process of four months that I am stepping into when I first go back to the States, I am honestly terrified. I am not afraid at all that God will provide for me financially; I have seen Him work enough miracles that this honestly doesn’t even worry me. I am afraid that I will not have what it takes; I am afraid that I will crumble beneath the pressure; I am afraid that I will come face-to-face with my weakness and inability to give all that is needed of myself to have a successful fundraising process. What if I am standing in front of a crowd that wants to hear a missionary speak, and all they see is a deer in headlights? What if I fall flat on my face at a big meeting? What if I back down when I should have fought? It all comes down to: what if I don’t have what it takes to do all that God is calling me to do?
When I think about Boise and about how much I don’t know how to do my next job, I am afraid. What if I’m not smart enough to figure out the technology? Sometimes when people are explaining technological things to me, my brain goes into white-out mode and I don’t even hear what they are saying. No-doubt it will be hard and a huge learning curve. Voices of times that I have failed in these areas in the past seek to haunt me once again. What if I fail at my responsibilities? What if I’m not good enough?
All of these things flood my mind and try to tear me down. Then I remember that I’m not stepping into these things by myself. This same God who boarded that flight with me to Arequipa, Peru on September 20, 2012; this same God who walked with me through language school and training in Peru and Colombia, down the foreign streets of Ambato, Ecuador and helped me speak to people I didn’t know, into each new Bible Study, onto the stage each Sunday to play on worship team and each time I preached in this foreign language, into each difficult conversation with a wayward disciple, through the fire of team tragedies and change, through a broken heart and a tired spirit…this same God who not only walked with me through all of this but also brought restoration in every way…this same God will board that plane with me back to the States, will walk with me onto each stage and into each individual conversation, will step with me into my new apartment and into my new job and into each new challenge that I don’t even know about yet. This same God who has always been faithful in the past will be forever faithful in the future. I know what you are thinking: that was the longest run-on sentence that you have ever seen. However, I think it’s well-deserved, because we’re talking about a God with the longest track-record of faithfulness; not just in my life, but in all of our lives. And even in our failure and our weakness, He is strong. Even in our greatest disasters, He is glorified. Even in our greatest fears, He is at peace.
I have to stop and realize that if this God who knows everything that is going to happen to me is not worried about my future, what am I so worked up about? He knows exactly when I will fall down, and He knows when He will pick me up. He knows where my strength will fail and where His will begin. He knows exactly when I will not have what it takes, but He’s not concerned, because He knows that He does. Even though my worst fear may take place, He will still be there at the bottom to pick me up, brush me off, and carry me on. To Him there is no surprise; there is no disappointment; there is no, “what the heck, kid?” There is only love. There is only grace. I don’t get it, but I don’t have to get it completely to walk in it. I’m not going to do any of this anywhere near-perfectly, but it takes the pressure off to know that I don’t have to. I just have to be surrendered. I just have to be humble before Him. I just have to…how does that song go…let it go?
He says to me, “Don’t be afraid.” But God, that’s not rational! Did you read the first two-thirds of this blog? “Don’t be afraid.” But God, I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, about ready to tumble off…I don’t even know what sharp rocks there are on the way. “That’s true, but you know what lies at the bottom: Me. Don’t be afraid.”
So I jump. So I focus on His arms that are waiting for me; those arms that have always carried me through; those arms that are so gentle and tender with this broken child. Although I may need to remind myself of this every five minutes through this emotion-filled and prolonged transition time, I will choose to not be afraid. I will choose to trust that He will be there to catch me. I will rest in the arms that have ALWAYS caught me and have never let me go…and they never will.