This past week, I sat in a courtroom looking into the eyes of the two defendants responsible for breaking into my car, stealing my identity to commit fraud, and causing such stress, anxiety, and fear for me these last few months. While panicking, waiting for the judge to address the courts, I was reminded of the words Jesus prayed on the cross for the very ones crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
In August 2016, I had recently come home from a two-month mission trip to New York City. We all (overseas missionaries and domestic missionaries alike) had to return to the organization we went through before they would let us return home. The organization warned me of the reverse culture shock that I would experience when I returned home. I looked around me at all the people who had gone overseas for the summer and thought, “They can’t be talking about me, since I stayed in America this summer.”
I was in college the first time I visited the homeless ministry downtown. I felt nervous and awkward, not sure of what to say and not wanting to offend. I would find excuses to be inside the food pantry, stocking the shelves while I talked to the other girls I came with, instead of speaking to those who were receiving the food.
I never knew I could deceive myself so well. That I could take such a good look at myself in the mirror and forget to even deal with the condition of my soul. Maybe this sounds deep for a Saturday morning, but after last night, I feel compelled to write this. As though maybe the thoughts that are all disjointed can coalesce into something meaningful. That maybe then, I'll be able to say, “Yes, that's what I'm thinking, that's what I need to change, that's where I'm struggling.” Goodness, I've never looked at myself so clearly as last night.
Over the past few years, I have come to learn more about God and also myself. I have learned that I feel the most alive when I am outside and feel the most connected to God when I listen to worship music. I hear God’s voice and am reminded of how He feels about me when I read my Bible. Through my experiences, I feel like God speaks to me most predominantly through interactions with others or through my circumstances. I use this information about myself in order to have a deeper relationship with Christ–not to limit how God can work in my life. God has created each of us differently and, as a result, we connect with Him–just like with others–in various ways.
I think the older you get, the more shame is attached to the words "I'm lonely." But I was. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like I was dying. Several years ago, I thought it would start to get better with a new year. At the time, I was starting two new jobs and was involved in multiple volunteer opportunities. I figured somewhere along the way I'd stop feeling lonely. But I didn't. And I started to wonder why.
War is persecution. It is oppressive, it requires commitment to a cause and commitment to a side. War requires commitment even at the risk of death. I think it would be limiting God for us to assume the reason He took them the long way was because He didn’t think they were physically ready for battle. There are enough accounts in the Bible to testify that God can start and end a battle with whatever army He has on hand. So, what’s going on?
The church down the street from me is about to celebrate its 125th anniversary. My closest friend right now lives within 30 minutes of her childhood town, and she’s about to marry her high school sweetheart. This small-town sameness is new to me. I have moved over twenty times in the past four years. I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Denver, Nashville, San Antonio, Chicago, and I somehow ended up in a teeny-tiny little town in Northern Oklahoma. The friends I met along the way are mostly still where I left them, except now they’re just further along in their timeline: graduated, engaged, or married.