Five Years

My passport was sitting out after a recent trip to the bank (where I need my passport as an ID) and for some reason I went flipping through the stamps that customs agents have pressed into the pages, marking entering and leaving as I hop between countries. And there it was – “2012”.

2012?! That was so long ago!

2012, this week exactly in 2012, I was on an Experience Trip in Haiti as Grace Pickerington came down. A new attendee at the church and so unsure about applying that I emailed the pastor asking if it was even allowed to. Someone that got to experience the first steps into Canaan as ORLA and Breathe – called CPR-3 back then – having no idea that these would be memories of many “first steps” I’d get to be a part of. Seeing the first gathering of the church with a woman full of songs and joy that I now know is also full of patience, wisdom, and a heart to do life with others (Pastor Samedy’s wife, Venise). Now the church is celebrating five years. I ate at Yolti’s local restaurant, rice & beans & red sauce with chicken – with no idea that rice would become a comfort food and I would repeat this meal much more than just six days in a row.

Now I sit and realize – that was five years ago.

While I haven’t been in Haiti that whole five years, it would be nuts to sit with that recent college graduate. Literally one week after walking out of Ohio State’s graduation I walking into the Port-au-Prince airport. I had no intention and no idea what five years would teach me and where five years would take me.

Some of the things I’ve learned…

As I ran full speed ahead with the “high” of lots of yeses, obedience – I was never told that there are lows (even in obedience). I have learned so much on the realization – like Peter’s as He denied the same Christ He swore up and down He’d die for – that this isn’t what I thought I signed up for.

This isn’t what I thought I signed up for. There are things I wish I knew and things I know no one could have explained. There are lows that I never considered – there are also ways of truly living that I never could imagine. I signed up with a yes – I had no idea of the good that God was inviting me to.

I was unaware of how deep racism cuts. Not cut, cuts. It is still so active as a force of darkness while we work for redemption. 

True justice is redemption – this concept that goes much deeper than coffee for good and much wider than Genesis 3 to Revelation 20. Our job is not conscious buying and good deeds but being a part of the world back to how our Creator intended.

True justice is actually painstakingly difficult, it’s a long haul deal, and it’s messy. I have literally told God, “I don’t want to do this anymore – I believe in the concept, I’m tired of attempting to live it out.”

God’s grace is ridiculous and His patience the same. He doesn’t take me out when I ask for it and deserve it. He teaches instead – or simply comforts instead.

I’ve learned more and more of a gospel that is separate from our American worldview. (The election hit and I was like “Y’all…this isn’t new news or surprising.” There’s a few of us that have been seeing these things cause God graciously brings us to spaces to teach us.)

How deep my refusal to accept God’s “like” of me was (and still is on many days)

The deep hurts inflicted. The deep healing poured out. Both by people.

Love starts way past landing. Yes – we love and we pour out and we give and we partner and we hug and we teach and we work hard. But then the feelings fade. And the kids fight over something petty. And the neighbors make fun of me. And the gospel turned out to be something some people are peddling for gain. And after that – am I still going to show up? The Bible told me this is when our love STARTS showing up.

I learned I’m a bitter person at times and a reluctant learner many times. Guess who is still reluctant to keep showing up on the point I JUST said, among other points?

A beach day does not change that God is God, and that He is doing mighty things. My afternoon spent getting an iced coffee in Port-au-Prince is being way too overthought. My electricity at night to keep a fan going is not something that I need to feel shamed for. My personal work of putting chains of guilt on in place of rest and care for myself is not helping anyone and it is not biblical. It’s a fight to take those chains off – but they’ve gotta come off.

This world is one big identity crisis…only complicated more by travel. Am I posting on social media for you? Is my blog something that should have a certain audience? Am I “helping without hurting” just right? I’m not doing it like her, or with half the fashion sense as her…what can make me better? Whose expectations am I supposed to fill – my neighbors, my supporters, my organizations, or my perfectionist ideal? Who has the right view of mission and how do I align? How do I apply this article in my life, right now – alongside of three other opinions I heard this week? What is home, anyway?

Jesus is peace. He is peace for my overthinking mind. He delights in me as I condemn myself with things He never asked me to. He is the purpose in my minefield of questions. He is the treasure of my obedience. God of the Old Testament uses my isolation and deep emotions to reveal Himself and only be sweeter over time. His justice reigns and His promises intertwine through every book. There are words I need today that are in books I’ve never even opened before. The Holy Spirit has been present through every. single. step. He is friend, counselor, teacher, and was not absent in the moments, weeks, and months when I insisted I was alone in this. He is everything. He is everything and nothing less, and my faith is weak and brittle but it has the hope to cry out to a Jesus that responded to the father that cried, “I do believe, please help my unbelief!”. The God that stitched Peter together and then aligned Him with Jesus’ path, knowing very well the journey ahead for Him – that is my God. The Holy Spirit that Jesus insisted was better to be with us than Christ Himself sitting in this room with me – that is my ever-present reality.

In five years, I have loved where I’m at and I’ve hated it. I’ve shamed myself, I’ve blamed others. I have taught in front of students and teams and I have hid from the world – either physically or behind shallow answers. I have loved others and fallen in love with the design of community and I have learned that I am capable of fierce anger that I never knew before. I have been sure of my place and I have been tossed like the waves. I’ve had ridiculous views of mountains with Caribbean trees and I’ve gotten the most refreshing jump into a clear blue waterfall – one that I still don’t have a life experience to top. I’ve been ugly with pride and I’ve felt trapped in a cage of apathy and grey, with no vision at all in any ability for myself. I’ve soaked up His word like a sponge and I’ve let my prayer life collect dust. I’ve seen miracles and I’ve wondered if I totally heard God wrong, or if I’m being punished.

And in five years – these are not the lessons. These are not the takeaways, the “Ten Things I’ve Learned As A Missionary In Five Years”.

He is.

Always and Forever, He is.