I don’t know if this is just me or if this is a inevitable piece of human nature, but I’m not very good at thinking outside of now.
As I write that, I know I’m particularly bad at this, even if it does come within human nature to some extent. Stephen has told me.
If I am cold, it’s difficult to imagine being truly hot. I am reminded of this every time we return to the States and attempt to purchase clothing for here. There is just no possible way for me to stand in an air-conditioned dressing room, often after being cold in the store and wearing a sweater, and attempt to determine if this piece of clothing is good for Mae Sot: is it light enough? Is it dark enough to cover stains or whatever splashes up on you in the market? Is it modest enough for a conservative culture? I just never know. If I’m not there, I can’t even imagine it.
The same is true for most things. While we are Stateside I find myself wondering if I am crazy or dramatic: is the bed really as hard as I remember? While I sit on this incredibly soft bed, I think I must be remembering it wrong. It just can’t be that hard.
Or I saw ants in a friends home in America, and I thought, That isn’t so bad. Why do I feel so overwhelmed by the ants in Mae Sot? What is different? Maybe I am just crazy there.
Even over the things we see in the neighborhood: as we talked with pastors and friends, I wondered if we were just dramatic. Is it really that sad? It can’t be that traumatic. I must be just a pansy.
And then we come back.
Yes, our bed is that hard. The ants are that overwhelmingly horrible, along with the lizards and cockroaches and everything else. And yes, this is a sad place to live.
I might still be a pansy.
But those things are still true.
One of the things that Stephen and I have been mulling over is the line between helplessness and hopelessness.
We are pretty helpless here, if we’re honest.
On a practical level, we are working with people that are paperless and stateless, and we can’t change that. On a spiritual level, we can love well and live as Christ would love, but at the end of the day–we are planters or waterers at best (1 Corinthians 3:6).
And while that sounds depressing, I’m learning to be okay with this. On the whole, humanity is likely helpless in plenty of things we claim to know or control. And beyond that, we serve a sovereign God who I believe is good; and I’m learning to rest in that.
(Emphasis on learning there.)
The thing is, helplessness is a slippery slope to hopelessness. The only difference, really, is the subject: is it me or Him? We either hope in Christ while recognizing our own helplessness, or we give up on both of us.
Some days it is harder than I’d like to admit to stay on the side of hoping in that sovereign, good God we serve.
Just days before we left we sat across from our pastor as he asked how we felt about returning and what our church family could be praying for.
I told him this: I feel like we are desperate for God to show up.
We felt called to return, and we still feel called to be here. But as we look at what is front of us, we won’t make it without miracles.
We need miracles in our language study. We need miracles in our friendships and English classes and visas and finances. We need miracles to greet everyday with hope and grace and love and joy. We need miracles as we try to straddle two cultures and love on families that we see a few weeks out of the year. We need miracles as we try maneuver our futures. We need miracles for this entire experience, however long it may be, to make any eternal impact on this community we love.
I said I felt like we were walking into something so much bigger than ourselves, and if God doesn’t show up, we’ll just fail. Just miserably fail.
Isn’t that faith? I’m pretty sure that’s what we all concluded with at the same time: isn’t that right where we’re supposed to be?
When I thought that then, and when I write it now: it feels so light for just a split second. It feels so poetic and picturesque, as if its a new discovery, Oh! You go in faith!
And the poetry and beauty continues as you envision all the miracles, all the answered prayers, all the hope.
But shortly after that, I realize that it is my life, and it isn’t that picturesque. It’s still a mess of prayers and wrenched hands and questions and tears. It’s still plane rides and goodbyes and hugs and English classes and ants and hard beds.
It is still choosing to hope in the sovereign, good God of miracles we serve.
Will you pray with us?
I don’t begin these blogs with the intent of writing something heavy, but I suppose it is obvious that I feel it. I do feel keenly aware of our dependence on miracles; on God showing up, if you will. Not even in our lives on the whole, but in each day and each moment as we go forward.
We have returned because we believe He will be in this, and we are praying for it. We are begging it: His presence, His hope, His miracles, His grace.
And I guess I just ask that you pray with us.