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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Know Your Calling, Know Your Limits

My boss called her Mother Teresa. While other compassion workers burned out after three or four years, she survived through 12 and hasn’t quit yet. It was my first missionary interview of my internship, and my boss wanted me to find out her secret to perseverance.

We scheduled to talk over lunch, walking down together to the conference center’s dining hall. The line extended out the front door. Just returned from Africa, the missionary wrapped her arms around herself as she shivered from the cold mountain air. Inside there was a cacophony of voices and clattering utensils. I had to raise my voice with each question and hoped that my recorder could catch the missionary’s answers. Over hot dogs and tater tots, she explained her diagnosis of compassion organizations’ cause of death.

From studying the book of Luke, she realized Jesus knew his mission and wouldn’t allow anything to sidetrack him from seeing it to the end. Her own organization, focused on education for poor children, was tempted by distractions and almost drowned under them. Providing medical care proved to be outside of its capabilities. One student’s treatment for tetanus racked up $20,000. With hundreds of children in its care, the organization could easily fold under such financial strain.

“It comes down to: ‘Do I trust God with the life of the students?'” she told me. “We can’t provide everything.”

The organization’s limitations have forced her to learn to say no. When a child she has watched grow up falls ill, she cannot take the organization’s resources to save that child’s life. A single mother from outside the organization’s service area pleads for her children to be helped, and the missionary can only listen to the mother’s story, recommend other ministries that may serve her neighborhood, and pray for God’s grace. She knows to help one child might endanger the rest.

Credit: Pierre Holtz (hdptcar), Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/2pjxNf)

Credit: Pierre Holtz (hdptcar), Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/2pjxNf)

“These needs are so pressing, and my heart is so full of compassion for those who are in that situation,” she said. “It’s just breaking for them. I will take what I have and go do that for them. That’s why organizations fail.”

They collapse under the burden God alone can carry. So the missionary turns instead to prayer and struggles with God. She asks the hard questions that may never be answered.

Confronted by intense injustice and suffering, she said, “I found myself more and more driven to prayer than I had ever been before, even while a part of me was saying, ‘It doesn’t work. Why bother?’ And yet what God was teaching me was that my relationship with him was more important than the answers to the questions. But that wouldn’t have come without the struggle.”

She is limited, but she continues to follow her calling to bring hope to hurting children, doing what she can and trusting God to do the rest.

 

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

My Antidote to Feeling Overwhelmed

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The view from Meadowlark trail near Littleton, Colorado.

It was two days into my internship, and I was already overwhelmed. And perhaps a little depressed. It had been three days since moving to a new house, a new city, a new state. There were no familiar faces. Every conversation meant introductory questions. “What’s your name? Where are you from? What did you study? What are your life dreams? Who are you?

For an introvert, the burnout was inevitable.

Usually I hide away for a day or two and feel better. I retreated to my basement bedroom, yet I knew all the new-ness would just be waiting until I ventured out. The only solution would be to grit my teeth, push through, and work the unfamiliar into familiarity. Down there in the basement, I began to feel lonely for the people who already know me intimately. I missed the people who can sit in a room with me, and we don’t have to say a word.

While I was wondering why I had ever left home and questioning my life’s direction, a simple verse came to mind.

Be still, and know that I am God.

I took a deep breath, and the stress began to dissipate like steam. This verse from Psalm 46 has often been a balm for my soul, but its power intensifies in context. Open the psalm in a new tab, on your phone, or in a leather-bound Bible. It only takes twenty seconds to read.

The two-second summary would be this old worship song says God is big, powerful, and in charge. He’s called our refuge and fortress, and he puts an end to the world and all its violence. After taking the world by the shoulders and shaking her up a bit, God announces in verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.”

This isn’t the God we’re used to hearing about in our modern worship. We sing about God’s wonderful love, not his drive to be known throughout the earth. But when I’m in trouble, it does me no good to hear I am loved.

What I want and need to hear is who loves me.

So when I remembered, “Be still, and know that I am God,” I heard, “Be still. Quiet those anxious thoughts running circles in your head. Don’t you know who I am?

“I am the great I AM, the eternal one, the all-powerful King of kings. I am unchanging and unmovable. I can destroy the world in a breath and recreate it again with a word. I am in all places at once and see all things. I knew you before your birth because I am your Creator and Father. I have not and cannot forget you. I care for you and your concerns because I am love incarnate. You belong to me, and I will ensure your best good.

“Calm, child. I am God.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:11

 

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Uncategorized