Your year of service will strip away all your masks and false selves AT LEAST between you & God, AT MAX for everyone to see. Yes you'll go back home changed, but some will return home feeling reborn.
Service is against sinful nature. A year of it will lay open who you really have been all this time. Your familiar atmosphere that is SO MUCH of your identity's push & pull is GONE. You have to show 'em what you got, because it's ALL you got when you leave home. For all of us, it's not a pretty sight at first and for some, their fear of such nakedness makes the necessary stripping almost traumatic at heart. It's unnecessarily so, but they'd spent so long in bondage to lies rather than believing in the life God has to impart. Terror vs. trust... Oh the tyranny we choose to live in sometimes because of the fear of risk.
The beginning of this process is like when a medicine does exactly what it's supposed to: there's a notable reaction. And as is the case with much medicine, it's a highly unpleasant experience initially. It's the pain of healing from something that's recently been done to save your life. Like a surgical scar, and the more invasive or messy the operation was, the more painful the healing. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, because it's the pain of HEALING. We get distracted by the word "pain."
I think God gets us to give a year of service not just because of the effect we'll bring about but also for our own salvation that we're too blind to see we desperately need, since our self-reliant efforts and reinforcing environments make us think we've either got it made or that we're doing okay.
By God's grace, I pray that you'll be able to experience what I've been blessed to recently come into: I don't care about being right or clinging to pride. I'm over the humiliation of being humbled and I wish I could stay in this valley of humility where it isn't so world-ending to find out you're wrong, where being shown your mistakes can be rejoiced over because your desire for God's truth & love is so strong in comparison to anything else that the burn of confession, repentance and asking for forgiveness is eclipsed by God's grace and presence. I know what I'm feeling now is God's grace. It's not a plateau of my own, not a formula I've worked out. It's a gift, so while I'm living this gift, hear my praise!
This year I've been very weak at times. No, not like I've felt weak - I mean I made poor choices in my job here and in my life. In this year of service, I've felt the least spiritual and the temptation of the secular has never felt so strong and seductive even while I knew it would be my soul's swan song. There have been times this year when I felt incredibly alone. Mostly alone.
And I don't think God's ever been closer to me...!
Like when you can only see one set of footprints in the sand, you complain and then God explains, "That was when I was carrying you."
I think being a student missionary should, can, and will take you to the end of yourself. Everything that can be will be shaken. And if you'll let your walls fall to the ground - so your need of God isn't just an awareness you procrastinate on - healing can begin.
We're so used to being the walking wounded. Our deep desires scare us; we're so used to the shallows and the clutter that keeps it from feeling like a swim at all... Imagine what life being healed by God's grace, mercy & love could be!! Most definitely it would be more abundant!! But it seems too good to be true... No, beloved. Could anyone be more generous than God? It seems risky, wrong, or both to try trusting in a way that feels like spiritual hedonism, but I invite you - if you know while reading my story is yours too - to embrace what may feel like painful physical therapy at first, but the more you recuperate, the closer you are to re-entering TRUE life again! Maybe for the first, spine-tingling time :-)
There's a lot about my future that I don't have control over.
There's a lot about my future that I can't predict or plan for.
But right now, I'm living God's gift of grace that's helping me see again and get my muscles back. I'm getting my heart back at least between me & God, though who knows what's in my personal future. I have more joy each day. It's not like a drug, but like a currency from plugging into God deliberately after awhile even though I didn't feel like trying at first.
God's goodness is bigger than pain or pleasure; it pervades both... I read something like that earlier today. But if life keeps having these cycles of storm vs. springtime & summer, then why open my heart for God to do His thing if a storm is inevitable in my future?
I've got 2 answers - one of heart & one of logic (since the heart has reasons that reason knows not of):
1. Logically, each storm God has brought me through meant many LESS opportunities for storms in the future because of how He helped me grow, taught me & sustained me. Storms are part of the journey home. Each storm is different and harder than the one before, but that's because Satan has to fight dirtier to figure out how to hit you where it hurts because God keeps making His children stronger for the REAL fight of our lives right before He comes again.
2. Here's the answer logic would cynically sneer at:
When love and life and healing are being poured back into your heart a little more each day in ways that make you feel your most recent hell hole was nothing, in ways that make you not care about the upcoming storm, why wouldn't you bathe in it while it's there? Drink it in! Nothing made by the hands of man can do that. No human hands can make you feel that much out of this world. It's something only God can do.
Since these moments are God giving us more than the bread crumbs that puppies snap at, the least we can do is have that puppy mentality and gladly, heartily watch for what falls to us and grab it! God smiles when we do this. He didn't create us to be His robots or puppets. He created us for life, love & joy. So I invite you to pray that God reveals His heart to yours. It's a less practical and more personal prayer, but if you mean it and keep it up, not only will you not be sorry, not only will the soreness go away, but you'll one day soar again.