Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I'm Not a Missionary Anymore, part 3...

But, it was still a crash…

And crashing sucks.

I knew I was where I needed to be, but like I said before, I hated it. I was still grieving the loss of Brandon. I was angry. I was heartbroken. I had lost so much in such a short amount of time. In just a few weeks I had experienced a tragic death, loss of job, and the end of a relationship. All of this spoke a booming “NO” into my being. The rejection and pain I felt with each of these “NOs” I internalized as a “NO” from God as well.

And this is about the time that my “survival mode” kicked in. I had internalized enough of the “NO” that I, subconsciously, did some rejecting of my own.

I stopped praying. I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I almost completely stopped listening to music. It would come in small bursts that I would say something to God, but honestly it felt like talking to empty space. I felt disconnected from God. From myself. And I desperately wanted to be disconnected from anyone who knew me well enough to challenge me to engage.

This lasted a few weeks.

It’s strange that you can know something in your head, but not accept it. Somewhere in me I knew that God wasn’t looking for reasons to exclude his creation (not even former missionaries who were spiraling all over the place). But I did not accept it. I had taught my students for years that God loves them no matter what. I had spoken into the lives of friends convinced that they were alone and unloved that God ‘s love was without limit and they were never alone. I was convinced of God’s eternal and unending love for his creation, ALL of his creation, all of them except me. Somehow there were conditions when it came to me. Certainly all of the “NO” in my life meant something, right?

Then one day I took a drive by myself to the North Shore. For the first time in a month or so, I listened to this song that had come to mean a lot to me while in Peru called, ‘I Love Your Presence’. A couple notes into the song and I was crying. And with the tears came the yelling, asking why all of this had happened. I cried and yelled and cried some more. I said I pissed about everything that had happened, how I had no clue what I was doing with my life, and would really like for him to give me a break.

And that’s when I heard the one word I needed to hear more than any other.

this sucks.

you are allowed to be angry.

it’s scary.

I’m right here.

You are in my care.

You are loved.


God was speaking his love and affirmation to me in the middle of my North Shore meltdown. And here is what I’m learning as a result: sometimes we get so caught up in the “NO” that we cannot hear the eternal “YES” God speaks into our lives. I’m not saying that we don’t experience “NO”. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck. I’m not saying that the “NO”s don’t matter because God speaks “YES”.

What I AM saying is that in the midst of “NO” we can hold onto hope that “YES” is being spoken somewhere, even if only in small whisper in the middle of great torments.

From there we will grow and be changed...

To Be Continued (again, I know)...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why I'm Not a Missionary Anymore...part 2

In my mind, there was only one option of where to go when I left Peru. Although my parents were no longer there, Hawaii had become home and I was eager to be near the water. I was praying that those who had so lovingly sent me off on this adventure 8 months previous would be just as gracious upon my return.

Before making the trip to Hawaii, I stayed with my parents for a week in Texas. It was wonderful to have time with them and get through the worst of the reverse culture shock within the safety of two people who’ve seen me at my worst and are (like it or not) stuck with me for life. They spent every moment I was with them encouraging me that I would get through this and telling me that I would be okay, although at the time I did not really believe it.

Knowing that something is right and liking it are two very different things. I knew the right thing was to leave, but I didn’t like it. Correction: I HATED it.

That week with my parents, who’ve had their fair share of heartbreak in life and in ministry, was probably the most important time of my relationship with them (if you can even qualify something like that). My gratitude goes beyond words and I hope they know how much I love and (still) need them.

And, as if I could’ve ever doubted it, my return to Hawaii was full of ALOHA. My sister and everyone from my friends to church family to former students, their families, and my co-workers were nothing short of amazing. They asked me about Peru, but didn’t push, they let me talk when I needed to, cry when I needed to and have done nothing but pour out their love and support for me for the past 2 months. Which, has been another important lesson in grace: when you are wounded and spinning out of control, you need a soft place to crash. Yeah, that’s right, I said crash. Not land. Landing is a planned arrival, crashing is what happens when all your plans have gone to hell.

Between having two jobs immediately upon my return, a room back in my old apartment, and generous friends and sister who’ve driven me around and allowed me to borrow their cars…crashing has been as safe as a crash could ever be.

But, it was still a crash…

To Be Continued...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why I'm Not a Missionary Anymore...

I’ve struggled to write for a couple months now. In part because I wasn’t sure where to begin, but mostly due to the fact that I was afraid of what would happen if I let it all go. I am no longer afraid, so here’s what I’ve been thinking about…

2010 has been, by far, the strangest and most difficult year of my life. It began with my being a volunteer missionary, living in the Amazon Jungle in Peru, speaking Spanish, and building relationships with people I knew I would have for the rest of my life. It was a dream come true…and while the experience was extremely challenging, I knew it was also a tremendous blessing. There were days when I felt like I could live in Peru forever and days when I had no clue what I was doing there. I loved my Peruvian family, but there was a part of me that knew that my particular gifts and personal call weren't the best fit with the mission of the organization. I struggled with this a great deal, but figured that since God had provided the way for me to be there and given me great love for my team, I was going to stay the course.

March 3 changed everything. My cousin, one of my best friends, died of an accidental drug overdose and everything fell apart. I fell apart. I cannot think of another time when I felt that lost. I sincerely hope that you do not understand what I mean when I say this, but grief does violent things to you. I stopped sleeping, I could barely eat. I got out of bed only when I absolutely had to and cried more than I ever have in my life (and that is saying something). I was mourning the loss of someone I have loved for almost 27 years, but I was also grieving the pain he must have felt to have been that far into substance abuse and that none of us knew the depth of his suffering.

I wanted to go home that day because, honestly, I didn’t know what business I had in Peru “helping” anyone else if THIS is what happened to my own flesh and blood. However, I knew that I was in shock and could not make a sound decision quite yet. So I waited. I gave myself a month to let the shock wear off and see where I was then. A month came and went and while I was not convinced I was supposed to stay, I was also not convinced I was supposed to leave. So I waited some more. I was writing and reading and doing everything I knew to do to make it to another day but nothing was changing.

A couple more weeks passed and in a quick turn of events, I ended up in Arequipa for a few days. On a Monday morning I was sitting in a meeting with my boss and a consultant for the organization talking about how I was doing and how I truly felt about staying in Peru for another year and a half. As much as I hated to hear it, I felt this great sense of relief when they said they believed the best thing for me was to go home. I did not want to abandon my team, but I knew that I couldn’t go on the way I had been for the past weeks. As much as I wanted to love and support them, I knew that I was not going to be able to do that in the shape I was in. Despite my best effort to pray and read and serve and be in God’s presence, I was rapidly becoming a person I didn’t recognize because, like I said, grief does violent things to you.

Sometimes you do everything you can do and it’s not enough. This might be one of the most important lessons in grace I’ve ever learned. Because I did everything I knew to do, but it was gonna take more than just my will to get me through the darkness. It was gonna take time. And it was gonna take my being still and allowing God to speak healing into my life…

To Be Continued...