Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ministry, messytry

When I was on the plane last week heading to the conference, I almost started crying thinking about how everything would be in English. I don't think we'd even left the runway yet. When we landed in Birmingham and I asked people in the airport for help finding the train station, I didn't actually cry like I expected, but to hear my language, to speak in it... there's a sort of ownership there--there's another word I can't think of at the moment but it conjures up the image of being 'on my turf now.' And to have polite small talk with strangers! I don't know if it was English or England, perhaps both, but it was wonderful.

It's a strange feeling. In one sense, I still wasn't in my culture. The language gave the sense of it being a sort of cousin culture, but on the other hand, there was a feeling of being home in a way I haven't felt in these last six months. It keeps coming back to this, no? Writing about feeling at home. Snatches of it in Romania, in England. You catch and lose it and run after it again, elusive as always. All this longing, and it's one thing I'll never doubt: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." And, from this amazing song:

I am a pilgrim, a voyager
I wont rest until my lips touch the shore
Of the land that I've been longing for as long as I've lived
Where they'll be no pain or tears anymore

But doing this sort of work changes you. I am not Romanian, despite the things I've picked up. And while I'm American, I suspect I won't fit as well when I go back. And so in a group of people who are all living and working cross-culturally, who are learning languages, loving and teaching students, you find people who understand. It's a sort of sub-culture, even, a culture of cultures. And I didn't want to leave.

It sort of hit me the day before we left. We had some extended time to go off on our own and pray and as I sat down to read my Bible, I felt so ornery and aggravated that I was arguing in my head with everything in the passage. So I finally put it down, thought a minute and came to this conclusion: I'm really going back tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be in Romania. And oh man I did not want to.

Weird, right? Sara loves Romania so much, she loves working there and the people and the language and so on. True, but something about it wears on you in ways that are hard to pinpoint. The obvious things--being away from friends/family/more prone to loneliness, the general frustrations of cross-cultural living--all these things are bearable and certainly the life God has led me through has prepared me very well for this sort of thing. And you think, yes, I am handling this well, no? You feel like you are. But it weighs, it is heavy here and it pulls on you in subtle ways and then suddenly you find yourself on a bed telling God you're not ready to go back. Despite the assurance that 'you are in the right place,' despite loving it, even.

Well. I'm back, so there's that. I know this is normal, so there's that too. And the awareness that we have one gracious God, one who waits patiently while his petulant child throws a fit because she doesn't want to do the thing that she really wants to do. So then there's the sucking it up, the shouldering-in even when it's not flowery and easy and even now there's some thankfulness in being back. And enter grace: he works despite the ways we mess it up, despite our attitudes, despite how what we want changes as often as the weather. And there in the mess of it he's teaching us, teaching them, transforming and redeeming and so far it doesn't seem to be any easier but I am grateful. Or I'm being taught to be--a little of both.

One of the people leading at the conference, one I knew was a pastor before I found out just by the way he prayed, led a seminar on grace and he said something that seems to have stuck. He talked about the unforgiving servant, how he had no idea how huge his debt was and therefore just how much grace he had been given. I could write posts and posts on this, but for now I feel like God is showing me in small pieces the grace he's giving me. How that relates to coming back here and doing my job and his work here, well, we'll see.

No neat ending on this one. Just lots of thoughts. The messy work of it all and a God who came down here and got his hands dirty, if that makes sense. Well, if he did, guess we ought to too.

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