My husband and I have been busy mapping out the next year of our lives. Places to go, conferences to attend, visitors to welcome.
Life is different for us in Southeast Asia.
So I made up a sheet of paper with boxes for each of the next twelve months. Our goal was to have one thing to look forward to each month for the next year. To our surprise, the boxes started filling quickly.
I jumped on a Skype call with my parents and we talked about the potential for their first visit in our new home. When Christmas started to look like a possibility, I tried not to get my hopes up, but there was an obvious pep in my step.
We discussed travel dates, work schedules, and preferred airports. I quickly wrote our travel agent for a quote.
When her reply started with I was afraid of this, but…I knew the tickets would be too expensive. And they were, outrageously so.
I don’t blame everybody for wanting to hop on an airplane to spend the holidays with the people they love. I don’t blame the airlines for jacking up the prices. I’m just not particularly joyful about being an entire hemisphere and a $3,000 ticket away from my family during my favorite time of the year.
So I broke the news to my parents, and stared at the December box trying to ignore the fact that it was large and empty. I would need to put on my big girl pants and give myself the Die to Self talk once more.
I choked back my emotions a few times last week when friends asked if my family would be coming to visit. I smiled graciously when my neighbors offered to be my relatives here.
But on Saturday, I drove along our village road and caught a glimpse of a family relaxing, playing outside together in the heat of the day.
In a flood of nostalgia, I was in the back yard of my parents’ house, drinking sweet tea under the stringed lights still hanging from my wedding. We were stuffed after a huge spread of summer vegetables and fried pork chops. I could hear the laughter of my siblings as they poked fun at each other, and I imagined their joy as they soaked up the giggles of my one-year-old.
All the memories flooded my senses so vividly. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of crickets and pond frogs, the taste of summer squash.
I forgot that my life is now comprised of dodging potholes and smelling grilled pork intestine and cleaning up the mess of a leaking roof.
And in that moment, I hated it here. I looked at that family on the side of the street and felt an overwhelming surge of jealousy.
It must be nice, I thought. And my feelings bubbled over into a talk with God.
Why me, God? Why did it have to be me?
Why couldn’t I have been chosen to stay home? To live in the comforts of America alongside my family?
Are you REALLY going to do something here? Is it really worth it? Do you have a place for me?
What if this is all in vain?
It was honest, and I really questioned Him. I don’t think this was wrong.
But when you ask honest questions of God, you better prepare yourself for honest answers.
He took me to the book of Joshua.
The people of Israel had crossed the Jordan River. The walls of Jericho had fallen, and the Lord had been with his people throughout all of these triumphs.
But when Joshua sent men from Jericho to spy on Ai, they were driven out—defeated—and several dozen men were killed.
The Scriptures tell us that the hearts of the people melted and became as water. What a word picture for the fluidity of our faith.
Joshua tore his clothes and fell on his face before God, begging for answers.
Why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all? Are you planning to destroy us at the hand of the Amorites?
We were just as happy to stay on the other side of the river!
Will you keep us safe? Won’t the Canaanites surround us and cut off our name from the earth?
And what will You do for Your reputation here?
Then the Lord revealed to Joshua the sin that was amongst them.
Get up. Why are you groveling? Israel has sinned: They’ve broken the covenant I commanded them; they’ve taken forbidden plunder—stolen and then covered up the theft, squirreling it away with their own stuff.
The People of Israel can no longer look their enemies in the eye—they themselves are plunder. I can’t continue with you if you don’t rid yourselves of cursed things. (Joshua 7:13)
The Spirit’s voice was almost audible as I read this passage. He begged to carve out the disobedient parts of my heart and fill the holes with the Father’s loving care.
I must get up—stop falling on my face. I’ve broken a covenant.
I’ve been harboring what isn’t mine—the entitlement to comfort. And the Lord has convicted me to expose it and get rid of it.
I’m nesting in a tent of provision, but hidden under my mattress is a fear of pain and the grief of loss.
I have no doubt that my grief is justified, nor do I believe that I should squash my feelings under my heel until they disappear.
But my questioning has no place before the throne of the Almighty, for He has never backed out on a promise.
He WILL be present. He WILL provide hope. He WILL do something great here.
And He can’t continue with me until I rid myself of the entitlement to comfort.
It’s a lesson in settling my soul in His provision instead of the happiness this world tries to offer.
It’s a daily walk, of which I often fail. And tomorrow there will be something new to throw on the altar.
For now, though, I’ll close my eyes and dwell in the memories of those I love. Then I’ll recalibrate my focus on a vision of the Kingdom.
He’s brought me across the waters, and He didn’t do it for nothing.
After all, He’s got a reputation to protect.
To my family:
Daddy, Mommy, Ansley, Ryan, Meredith, Grant, and my incredible In-Laws, too.
Praying for focus and wisdom doesn’t mean I don’t ache for you daily. No amount of distance will ever take the place of the love I have for each of you. Thank you for supporting us; it would be unbearable to make this transition without having you on our team.
Love you, love you, LOVE YOU.