In the hardest moments on the World Race – when you get served mystery soup with UFO’s (unidentified floating objects) throughout your bowl, when you walk down the street and a putrid stench of rotting trash fills your nose, when you sweat so much through your clothes that someone asks you if you have just gotten out of the shower… in those moments I longed for America. America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where I could communicate freely and everything would be “normal.”
Yet here I am, and yet everything isn’t normal.These past eleven months have wrecked me. It’s been the most beautiful craziest mess of a year of my life.
Some people ask, “So, what did you learn?” And exactly twenty million things come to mind. Things that I’ve learned about myself. About the world. About God. And about these worlds colliding – myself in the world, and God’s kingdom coming to earth.
I try to explain, but words don’t come easily. Trying to describe the change that has happened to me is like trying to describe on paper the transformation that takes a caterpillar to a butterfly. It’s something that you have to see firsthand, in order to truly appreciate.
I came on the World Race wanting to experience the kingdom of God all over the world. I got that…and so much more. I started to realize that I had a formulaic boxed-in understanding of how I thought God worked – but God is way bigger than our worldly constructs of Him. The words on our tongue do not bring the kingdom of God; rather, what brings the kingdom most is the cry of a desperate heart.
I’ve learned to talk less, and to listen more. That the greatest ministry is not imparting our message to others but simply listening to what others are going through. Because what people need most is not another sales pitch, but to be heard. I’ve learned to be careful to judge, and eager to learn. You can learn something from every person that you meet. And when we take time to listen to others, they will also take time to listen to us.
I’ve learned that the world is a great big place, with an abundance of needs. But the greatest thing that you can give someone is not money or material possessions, but your time. I’ve learned that ministry is not an event, but a lifestyle. Put simply, ministry is an attitude of serving others, which can happen at any time, and any place.
I’m learning to go to God first and to listen to God before acting. I’ve learned to hear God more clearly, and to be bolder in doing what He puts on my heart, even if I think it sounds crazy. I’ve seen that His strategies end up being way better than my own.
I’ve learned that I’m not a do-er, but a daughter. Jesus calls us friends and lovers before servants. And things always end up better when we do things out of love than out of obligation or duty.
I’ve learned the value of companionship. I’m starting to understand the joy in having someone walk with you through life, through good times and bad. I’ve moved from a place of independence to interdependence, which will make me a better friend and wife.
I’ve learned that living in community can be intensely difficult but incredibly rewarding. In community, others can see many things within you that you would never see yourself. I’ve learned that the truth can hurt, but spoken in love it brings freedom.
I’ve learned how to receive, and how to be preferred. That others get joy from helping me, even if I think I can do the same thing better myself. I’ve learned to laugh more, and not to take myself too seriously. There are plenty of people in the world who are full of themselves, and not enough who are full of God.
I’ve learned that there are so many people in the world – millions – billions – who have never heard of the name of Jesus before. I’ve seen many places in the world where they have never experienced the love of Christ, and my heart cries out for those people to be brought from ritual to relationship with our loving Father.
I’ve learned the reality of spiritual warfare. You can tell me until you’re blue in the face that you don’t believe in demons, but I’ve seen women who are shaking and screaming cry out to Jesus and set free from evil spirits.
I’ve learned that I’m beautiful, inside and out.
I’ve learned to appreciate America – the uniqueness of its melting pot of cultures, the freedom to worship, the schooling, toilet paper, electricity, and hot showers that are available to all.
I’ve learned that I don’t need as much as I think I need to survive. I’ve learned to be content right where I’m at.
I’ve learned that there is no time like the present. We can’t do anything about the future or the past, so there is no sense worrying about it. What matters most is where we are right now, in this moment. Things which seem like a big deal at the time actually always end up turning out all right.
I’ve learned to be less concerned about time – to live like you have all the time in the world, because you do. After all, who stands in front of you is infinitely more important than what is next on your agenda. There is always enough time to do what the Holy Spirit prompts you to do.
I’ve learned to rest more, and to have more fun.
I’ve learned that God won’t always give you what you want, but He will give you what you need.
I’ve learned that adventures don’t just happen in the “bush” or jungles, but can take place every day, and that there are just as many unreached peoples in cities as in the most remote parts of the world.
I’ve learned that in tough times, my inclination is to look within myself for strength, but true strength comes from Christ. I’ve learned that I am absolutely nothing without Him, and that my brokenness must lead to dependence on God.
I’ve learned the reality of sin in our world. Our world is messed up and is in need of some Jesus. Sin looks different everywhere you go. Some places it’s very in your face, and in others it’s more hidden, but everywhere there are people desperate for love, doing everything they can to fill the holes in their hearts.
I learned how little I actually need to live on. Most things in life are just “stuff” – and although the world will tell you otherwise, stuff is never where our joy comes from. Even electricity & running water aren’t necessities in life. But it’s always good to have a chocolate bar stashed away, just in case.
I learned how to hang out. How to have fun. That not everything has to be about Jesus, and that doing secular things can still teach me a lot about God.
My understanding of worship has erupted. No longer just standing in pews singing, I’ve worshipped my papa with flags dancing on a moonlit field, with spoken words around a campfire, by drumming with spoons and silverware in a cabin on Mount Kilimanjaro, and in a dark room with fifty people each listening to separate ipods shouting our hearts out. I’ve learned that I have a good voice and I can, indeed, lead a group in singing songs to our king.
I’ve learned that what the world needs most is love. And the definition of love is simple:
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Here’s a little movie I put together about the love that we shared in the world these past eleven months:
So – have grace with me as I re-enter America. My butterfly feels like it’s just coming out of the intense shaking that happens as it emerges from the chrysalis – but I am beginning to settle and shake out the kinks in my body…
May Christ move each of us from glory, to glory, increasing to eternity.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)