Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Copied Post

I try to be original in my writings, but there are times when someone else says is so succinctly that there's just no point for me to try to rewrite it. The following is a (long) blog by Tara Livesay, a missionary in Haiti, who has opened her heart in her writings for the whole world to see, literally, as her blog has been used by CNN and other media agencies to tell the story of the tragedy in Haiti. She and her husband are missionaries in Haiti who jumped in with everything that they had after the earthquake. Her blog is definitely worth following:

Her latest entry (below) says so well what I've been struggling with. Unfortunately, missionaries have gotten a bad reputation in so many minds around the world, so much so that I often cringe when I tell people that I'm planning to become one. I often want to come up with excuses or explanations, when I should be eager to share. Tara's blog tells about the struggles of missionaries in a way I never could, and yet it's SO true. When I was doing the flood relief in Manila last October, many of her thoughts were mine...though I didn't see the same extent of tragedy that she has. Please read it...the blog's amazing!

I grew up listening to and watching missionaries. Each summer we would go to a missionary conference where they would come from around the world to speak and share. That label, "missionary", has a different meaning for each of us. I don't know what it means to you, but based on your own experiences, it means something.

As an adolescent and even into my early adulthood, to me a missionary was an older couple that liked to talk and tell stories. Some of their stories were interesting, others sounded like Charlie Brown's Mom giving a long lecture. They wore clothing of the culture they lived in (and they looked dorky wearing it). They wore large, outdated glasses/frames. The woman had longer hair and wore it in some sort of bun-type style. They looked sun-tanned and weathered and veins popped out of their hands as you shook hands to greet them.

They talked a lot about how God provided and how joyous it was to serve Him. Sometimes they even told stories of death and war and destruction while still saying flowery things about God's plans and God's will. The missionaries almost never said that things were hard or that they could not hear God. They always knew where God was and what He was saying and they even seemed to understand why God allowed hardship in the lives of the people they were serving. They were packaged, holy, perfect people. They did not seem to have many questions. As far as I could tell they never felt lost, alone, afraid, or angry.

That was how I perceived them anyway. But that is not who I am. That is not who Troy is.

We've come to realize that a "missionary" is 100 different things to 100 different people. The label means one thing to you and one thing to me. Sometimes we don't want that label and other times we do.

Some missionaries still tell you that everything is perfect and that nothing is ever confusing or hard. Some will tell you that they love God but they don't understand the suffering and hardship that parts of the world continually experience. Some have head coverings and long skirts and some have tattoos and ripped jeans. They look different, they act different, they approach their work and faith differently. Labeling with this one word just doesn't work any longer.

As I have spent three (count them - three - Sunday - Monday - Tuesday) solid days wrestling with God on everything there is to wrestle with Him about; I've been all over the place emotionally.

In a period of an hour I've wished for and thought totally opposing things. I've told Him I love him, told Him I don't know if I believe in Him, told Him I have no faith in His power, told Him I trust Him to walk me through this. Thanked Him for redeeming me - for loving me, asked Him how He can be love when such suffering is allowed? I've begged Him to show himself, to speak, to become real to me - or better yet- to become real to the hungry, desperate, and dying Haitians. My anger has scared me and my thoughts have been frightening. I've ended up in the place where I began. I've run in circles. I've found my words and questions hollow and empty and maybe even immature. The distance I feel between my God and I scares me ... I want to sense Him close and yet I know whether I feel Him or not - He has not left me.

The lyrics of this song ('Faithful' by Brooke Fraser) came to mind-

When I can't feel you, I have learned to reach out just the same
When I can't hear you, I know you still hear every word I pray
And I want you more than I want to live another day
And as I wait for you maybe I'm made more faithful

All the folly of the past, though I know it is undone
I still feel the guilty one, still trying to make it right
So I whisper soft your name, let it roll around my tongue,
knowing you're the only one who knows me
You know me

Show me how I should live this
Show me where I should walk
I count this world as loss to me
You are all I want
You are all I want

coun⋅sel ing
Today I made some phone calls and sent a few emails seeking some help for Troy and I and the kids. On some level it bothered me and even felt a little bit absurd. The whole idea of trauma counseling is so very first world. The Haitian people would laugh out loud at this notion of "talking about our feelings" --- they have no time to think about how they feel, let alone the luxury of sitting down to discuss it with someone at 100 bucks a pop. Haitians suffer emotional trauma after emotional trauma without processing, without stopping, without grieving. How can you grieve when you've got to survive? When I think about this in light of my desire to stop having nightmares or my desire to go talk to a professional about things ... Well, it's just kind of humbling and embarrassing ... isn't it?

Troy was recently asked, "As a man of faith, why do you think this happened?" He did not like that question very much. He only answered by saying something along the lines of, "That's not a fair question. (In other words - what the heck?!?!?) He wishes he'd been quick enough to answer "Plate Tectonics." When Isaac asked Hope a similar question tonight after dinner, her answer was pretty good. He said, "Why do you think was there an earthquake Hopie?" She looked at him, shrugged and said, "To shake things up?"

There is no "reason" for this earthquake - well, other than some tectonic plates moving around. That's all. It was not so a bunch of adoptive parents could get their kids home (like God loves them so much He sent an earthquake to get their kids home on Humanitarian Parole). It is not so the world would recognize and learn about Haiti (although I suppose that is good). It is not because God is punishing Haitians for something that happend 200 years ago in some Voudou ceremony (sorry Pat Robertson). The reason it happened is simple - uninteresting - laws of geology. We don't need theologians to tell us. We don't need to debate.

The things God might do as a result of it is an entirely different debate. I don't pretend to understand any of that. I am not the variety of missionary that understands everything God does or does not allow ... I am just the variety that tries really hard to trust Him while NOT understanding it. And while I don't understand, I can still pray. I am asking Him to write a new story of redemption, to bring hope to the hopeless, healing to the hurting, and beauty from the ashes.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Have You Ever Wished...

This may seem like a very odd idea, but have you ever wished that you could tattoo a visible reminder on the inside of your eyelids that you and only you can see every time you blink? If there was one thing you wanted to be reminded of at least a dozen times every waking minute, what would it be?
If I could choose a word or phrase, I think I would want "THAT moment." I was reading through Paul's letter to his disciple, Titus, this morning and chapter 2:12-13 really struck me: "training us to renounce ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (ESV). How many of us consistently live for THAT moment of Christ's return? How about an eternal perspective? I know I sure don't. There are so many moments, probably most moments, that I would be very ashamed to have God walk in on me doing or thinking; moments where I KNOW I am not pleasing God, but do it anyways.
If I had "THAT moment" tattooed on the inside of my eyelids, I would hope that the constant reminder would give me perspective for all my thoughts and actions. The truth is, even though it's impossible to have something like this work, we DO have something, Someone, infinitely more powerful than a little ink on the eyelids; we have the Holy Spirit. Just like we would very quickly become desensitized to a tattoo, we can become desensitized to the Holy Spirit. We reduce Him to some sort of insignificant idea instead of Someone who is the God of this universe, a very real power in our lives if we just give Him precedence (Jn 14:26, 1 Cor 2:13). He CAN be that constant reminder, but I for one all too often forget about Him and try to live for God on my own.
Just a little something to think about...