Sometimes I begin these posts not sure if it will all come together, and this is one of those. And really, even if I consider it all coming together, there is a small chance that others be of the same opinion.
So you’ve been warned.
I’ve been processing through a verse from Philippians for some time now. In the first chapter, at the beginning of verse twenty-seven, Paul writes,
It’s been a challenging road. I suppose we knew that was coming in moving to a new country, right? True; but recent events have proven more than we anticipated.
There have been plenty of challenges in simply being here, adjusting to a new organization, and adjusting to dealing with a variety of cultures (Thai, Karen, Burmese, South African, Swiss, Kiwis, Aussies, British, and even Americans simply from other areas!); and perhaps most challenging of all has been the process of learning to love and learn from our closest neighbors. This has been heaped with challenges and changes in our own families around the world–babies born and growing fast, families moving, and sickness developing. And amidst these two worlds a great chasm has created itself in our lives, full of deep, theological questions that are demanding quite simple answers.
And laced within these taunting circumstances are my own worries, fears, and prayers. I tend toward people-pleasing anyway, unfortunately, and I’m often willing to take extreme measures to keep someone happy with me. This has been magnified in this new life between two worlds, and in this chasm. With family and friends, I want so badly to hold onto these relationships by keeping them happy with me. Within Partners, new bosses, and new co-workers, I want them so badly to see us as part of the team, as friends, and as contributing members. Or even within Mae Sot, I want so badly to establish relationships with the small percentage I can actually communicate with.
Wrap all this up in the example of Christmas. We’ve decided to go home, and that was no easy task. The simple decision became an additional weight on us for some time.
There were quite a few family events pulling us toward time with them, and turning this Christmas into an ideal window of time for us to be there. But at the same time, we want to be wise about cultural transitions and our investment here. Will it actually make it harder to return if we go back too early? But if we follow too closely to established schedules and patterns of adjustment, we can begin to ignore the circumstances and opportunities God creates for us. But if we envision us here long term, what if we don’t truly invest ourselves? Christmas is an important time for Partners, our offices, and our children’s homes. How do we fully engage here?
The money to go to America is so great; how do we take that into consideration and not spend lightly? How do we spend that kind of money on tickets, when that same amount could purchase years of food for our friends? And yet, how do we maintain the idea that we can go back, that it is all within reach?
And then comes the people-pleasing: what will they all think? Will everyone think we are pansies? Will our supporters think we are taking their generous donations too lightly, or will Partners think we are irresponsible? Will our boss think we are just too weak to stay or that we’re not all-in? Will people think we simply did what we wanted? How do we show them our prayer and consideration of these things?
Now take that decision, stretched out over nearly three months, and apply it to all circumstances upon us.
This is the over-analytical life I’m living. Perhaps I’m creating the chasm myself.
In Philippians, Paul is speaking to the church as a whole, that we are all called to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. And I think this is encouraging for me as a part of the body of Christ as well as individually.
As an individual, this verse reminds me that at worlds end, I’m accountable to One. And this helps me to breathe in some ways, but also to stand firm in what I believe the gospel of Christ is to me right now. If that is what I seek to honor, it takes priority over pleasing those around me.
But also as the body of Christ, we are all headed toward the same goal. And though we are all fighting our own battles and may see things differently in this stage, we can extend grace knowing that we share the same goal.
I’m learning more about grace. I am seeing the grace I need on a daily basis, and thus wishing to extend more to others. They are all aching and learning and questioning just as I am. And just as a gracious response or encouraging smile might help me swallow the day, perhaps the same is true for them.
As more and more questions arise, and as it seems, as we receive more sorrowful news, or face criticism from one person or another; I have found a great deal of comfort in this one verse. It has lifted more burdens than I could expect.