Saturday, September 1, 2012

the paradox

I know this will not be the last time that I find myself in tears while writing. We have alot on our minds these days, and sometimes we fail to give as much brain and heart space to the things we'd rather not think about as much. But I have heard that that is damaging in the long run. We are, as you know, headed to Africa. (Eventually. in some capacity. with some organization ;-) Before we can get there, we have this intermediate step of living in Minnesota for a time (probably 12 mos), while Patrick works as a pilot/mechanic to gain the experience he needs. More on that later. But that is coming up really soon. We will be leaving our current home here in south central Kansas in January. So even though Africa itself is still a ways off, the changes are starting now. We will be back to KS as often as we can, as we still have family here, and our home church is here. But it will be different.

Someone asked me recently how long we were planning on being in Africa. Its a common question, so the answer rolled off my tongue, somewhat without thinking: we hope to be there career, which basically means until retirement. There is alot of coming and going, obviously. Every few years we would back for 4-8 months. The next question I had no easy answer for: does that make you sad?
Does it make me sad? I had to stop and think about it. Yes it makes me sad. The leaving makes me extremely sad. It will feel like someone is cutting off a limb. But is grief the only emotion we are experiencing? Well, no. At Candidate Week, we had a session entitled "leaving and grieving." there is an inescapable paradox: the deep grief at going so far away from your family, and yet the excitement of where you're going, and more importantly, why and for Whom you are going. How can these emotions, both so strong, exist at the same time? I dont know! I cant speak for Patrick, but I definitely would rather not talk about the leaving part. At least not with anyone I care deeply about. I will talk about the going, the getting there, but not the leaving.

We have been told that failure to express and acknowledge your sadness about leaving communicates to your loved ones that you are so consumed with getting to your new home that you arent giving them a second thought. that what lies before you is so "important", so life changing, so worthy of sacrifice, that the sacrifice doesnt even bother you. that your family rates down there so far on the scale of your priorities that you dont even think twice about leaving them. I remember the first time I left for Africa. My mom and sisters dropped me off at the airport, and i almost changed my mind. I literally did not think it would be humanly possible to walk away from the people i loved more, and who loved me more, than anything else in life. This time around will be infinitely harder, I know. We have heard testimonies on what its like for other people. Stories of mothers having to physically pry their children from the arms of grandmothers. Stories of pastors who now refuse to accompany outgoing missionaries to the airport for a send off party because the goodbyes of the families are too painful to watch. My loved ones: you dont hear me talking about leaving you not because I dont think about it, or because i dont care. Its simply because I cannot bear it. Or i might change my mind.

After all, what do those lost people have to do with me? I mean really? Nothing really. At least nothing personally. But the thing is, Someone left his home, and his family, to come here and tell us the Good News. More than that. He came to be the Good News. And He gave His life. And He has actually literally asked us to give our lives. Not unto death, at least not most of us. But to use our lives in the same way He did. For one purpose, and one purpose only: to be the hands, feet, and mouthpiece of Christ here on earth. Believe it or not, that does not always fill us with warm fuzzies. it isnt like we're always jumping at the chance. We like our life here. We love our home, we walk to the pool/library/park/downtown. Patrick has a good job where he can fly sometimes. We have friends in our church. We have family. Why would we want to leave? Honestly, we dont always want to leave! we often dont want to leave. We sit on our front porch swing on a nice evening and think, you know, let's just stay. its so nice here. it will be too hard to leave. it will be too hard to be there. Now now that i'm comparing Pratt KS to heaven :-), but I honestly believe Jesus probably wished he could have stayed in heaven. What waited for him on earth? Not much good. What waits for us there? We dont know. But He left his home, because believe it or not, He thought we were worth it. And why do we leave ours? Because we believe He is worthy.

How can I say I am incapable of following in His footsteps, because its too hard, or I dont like where they're leading? Like it or not, this is what we signed up for. There was no fine print at the end of the salvation agreement. It went something like this. Jesus gives me: eternal life, forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and a host of other things we cannot understand or know this side of heaven. I give Him: my entire life. I didnt just get heaven out of the deal. He's an all or nothing God. I cant insult Him by saying I want what He is offering, but then hold back when He asks something in return. So really, it doesnt matter whether i want to or not. (which is good, because that good be a logistical nightmare for visas, plane tickets, etc: one day yes, next day no, one day yes, next day no!)

I want to close with an excerpt from an article entitled "Pain in leaving, peace in going." "Matthew 19.29 Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Phil 4.19 And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4.13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. These verses challenged and spurred us toward the most difficult thing we had ever done: leave. Although we moved forward, confident that this was God's plan, the pain was grueling. This wasnt just causing us to hurt; we were causing pain to our children, asking our families to sacrifice, and leaving our friends and neighbors. Yet we believed then - and still believe now - that we would rather model obedience to our children and to those around us than grasp at all things secure and comfortable. As we cried through those last couple of days in San Diego, three words kept coming to mind: He is worthy. I reflected on the eternal life that was mine because of Christ's sacrifice. When pain returned, we would press through it, taking one step at a time and asking for His strength to carry us. Jumping in to the unknown was freeing. We all agree that we miss our loved ones and the comforts of home. But the prayers of the saints have carried us and we have a new, more vivid longing for Heaven. we know that we will be with our loved ones who know Jesus forever, and we'll never have to say goodbye again."