Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shades of Gray

It's not just in an English sky.

Ministry sometimes feels like a MASTERPIECE of the shades of gray.

Gray is a mix of black and white.

Black - I think? - is a color vortex...

White on the other hand contains all the colorful hues in the spectrum.

Even if it's a shade of gray so dark it's almost black, there STILL IS some color & hope in there...

AND the cure is shockingly simple, though difficult; like learning to lift heavy weights:

Keep adding more white and the gray gets lighter.

Keep deliberately adding God in, keep pursuing God with determination and your spiritual surroundings WILL get lighter & brighter...  It doesn't eliminate the Great Controversy at all; rather, it invites God's Companionship & Protection in closer...

I heard people tell me over and over again before I left that England is very secular.  One woman told me - though I didn't appreciate her tone - that she thought I'd fit in very well here in the post-modern environment.  To some I'll always be a black sheep; oh well.  People say stuff like that to those they just don't understand.  When I arrived here, the easiest places to fit in were the most traditional places.  I had to loosen up and step outside my bubble to begin blending in as a more useful, contributing SM to the alternative Sabbath worship service - Parallel - and especially with the teenagers of this church.  My first Saturday night social here in England with my teens (the 2nd night but 1st full day of my term here) scared me to death.  As soon as it was feasibly polite, I went up to my room and cried into my pillow.

I was not hip in high school.  Not only that, I was home-schooled.

I think my experience here - now that I'm far more comfortable-with and LOVE being with my teens and will miss them TERRIBLY - has given me the high school experience (among others) that I never had.  Here in England, from what I understand, the secondary schools where the teens attend are not private ones.  The environment in their school(s) is an eating disorder/body issues-ridden, smoking, drinking, sexually active, scholastically competitive, yet emotionally depressed one.  It might as well be a high school film, never mind that I LIVE in a Seventh-Day Adventist church.  There's the issue of broken homes for some kids and the shockingly traumatic stories laid on my heart from young people confiding in me, which sometimes means responsibility on my shoulders...  The human heart is simultaneously the most precious and most heavy possession there is.  It can take such a beating, but it still needs so much protecting...

My own faith took a bad beating before I arrived here in England.  I won't go into it, but I came to England feeling like a mess on the inside.  God came through for me, I'd lapse, and He'd keep helping me through...  Sometimes I'd glow with a spirit of gratitude, other times I just turned off inside to make it through the day.  I'm not a teacher.  I don't have a job that's easy to analyze & execute, though I have a high respect for the people and SMs who tackle teaching responsibilities.  As a temporary SM, I am either latched onto because it's my job to be a listening ear and ready embrace or in other cases, it's taken more than half my time here for certain teens to be willing to make friends with me since my stay here is temporary.  I'm a necessity.  I'm an option.  I'm here to serve, but I also have to know when to say no and when to push forward.  I'm a person, but I'm here to preach with my actions.

I'm exhausted.

I'm very thankful I'm taking a holiday in April...

I started typing this blog about a week ago, but then would not have been a great time to post it, because I was not yet on the other side of a spiritual crisis, and my message wouldn't have been encouraging or accurate.  It would have only whined and cried.  I still feel like I'm soaking wet and shivering a bit from the storm in my heart that's just begun to pass over.  I'm not "better" yet, but I'm better.  Gratitude is beginning - just barely - to become more constant, rather than an occasional pop-up.

Before I became a student missionary, before I even realized that the time had come to cash in on my "yes" to God about a year of service, I imagined the needs and struggles of a student missionary to be not having enough resources.  Not clutter.  In a culture more foreign to the US than the UK, it'd be easier to compartmentalize clutter because the differences are so much easier to pinpoint.  I can say that without ignorance, because I've traveled all over the world; not everywhere, but to many different places.  In the UK, it's different enough but still so similar, creating the need for a very delicate hopscotch on my part.  Just one example: yes, it's good to be able to hang out with teens & young adults and build the bridge for a relationship, which builds a bridge for sharing God's love, but if I become SUCH a good friend to them that I'll go with any flow around me, then where's my credibility when I need to call them to a higher standard in a specific situation or on our every Friday night teen vespers?  And if I over-focus on my credibility, I'm too puffed up or raised up to be on a serving level...!  There really isn't a specific formula, which is why being an SM can be exhausting: changing variables is pretty much the only constant, and most of it is either so hard or so new or so out of my control that I might as well be bruised for all the times I throw myself at God's feet begging for help on the inside, while maintaining a poker face on the outside.

Some people on my Facebook think because of all my posts that I'm SO spiritual or a huge blessing or a major example or the platonic soul mate they've been searching for.  The multiple posts and the majority being spiritual communicate my desperate need for God as I work, not necessarily that I'm a walking female Mecca of what a relationship with God is supposed to look like.  I'm passionate about having a relationship with God, because I've had so many crucial times when HE was all I had.  And I mean that literally.  I'm a very flawed person.  I'm learning more than ever, but a part of my environment I've adopted without meaning to in the time I've been here is the clutter.  More clutter inside my heart than I've previously struggled with.  Clutter and stress enough to make me emotionally eat my way to 30 lbs. heavier than I was in July as just one representation.  And it's quite the struggle, because it's clutter on top of a great deal of serious truth, making the fight a major clash sometimes.  A clash of opposites, counterfeits and look-a-likes.

Like I said, I'm exhausted.  By God's grace, I've overcome times like this in the past.

This is just the next & bigger one.

By God's grace, somehow I'll put this dark gray season behind me in what will be a praise of God's deliverance, not pressed away denial of what's been galling.

I would GREATLY appreciate the prayers of any & all who read this blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fact. Hypothesis. Guess.

In being a student missionary you'll want to be selfish a lot.
In being a student missionary you'll have the least room to be selfish.


9-12 months of choosing to be unselfish despite what you feel is why SMs come back changed - at least.


Those who come back most changed from who they used to be are those who tried hardest to embrace the grindstone.