Thursday, May 21, 2015

How are you?

“How are you?” my friend Rachael asked.  I was surprised by the tears that leaked from my eyes when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to be asked that question.  Rachael is my dear friend who I have years of meaningful history with.  How am I?  “Holy lonely," I told her, “Most days I feel some new kind of lonely.  It's hard to describe.  Anyway, God is here with me so it is a good lonely.  Maybe a sacred lonely.  I have Him and He is teaching me so much through the new loneliness.”

In Indiana we had the most incredible community.  I lived in Grant County my entire life until I moved here.  I was the voice in the family who gathered people for holidays and sporadic cookouts. Being the extrovert that I am, my calendar would often fill up with dates for coffee, cupcakes or tea with friends. Our family was very involved in our church and community.  We did life together with others.  We only left them because Jesus told us to.  When we ache for familiar (the booth seats at La Chas, Joe Allen' strong hugs, snow in the winter and soft rain that lasts for days, Suzanne's warm smile, Uncle Luke and Uncle Micah's laughter) we give that longing to Jesus like worship.  Not like worship.  Worship.  And in our worship He is faithful to fill those empty spaces with Himself.

Today during my morning jog familiar pain and longing filled me as I sang to the Lord, “There is no one else for me, none but Jesus.”  I do not wish the ache away.  I've sung that song many times before but it means something different now.  Before coming to Uganda I think it was probably another song about idols.  "There are no idols...Jesus is my one and only God."  Now it feels more like a song from the desert.  "There's no one with me, just me and my Jesus."  It's a significant change but a good one. 

God is faithfully building community for us here.  In fact, we  spend more time with people here in Uganda than we were able to in Indiana.  He is blessing us with the meaningful friendships we have prayed for.  Much of the problem of loneliness comes from culture.  Much of what nurtures great relationships are the shared experiences between us.  While we are able to develop friendships that matter it is more difficult to sink into that comfortable sweet deepness that heals and soothes the soul.

The lack of shared experiences is both an exciting adventure of learning and an intimidating barrier to intimacy.  They are like little bricks that build a wall in the relationship.  And so, in that way, we missionaries have to be excellent climbers.  Missionaries spend much of their time in friendship scaling the walls of awkward cultural distance.  We throw ropes and hope the Ugandan wants to come half way.  If they don't then we stumble into their culture with wobbly legs hoping to take some shred of energy back to where we came from.

The point is this: in the midst of these hardships we feel things.  These negative emotions dot the landscape of our day to day.  Somehow we have to respond to them.  God brought us here and its great but not all great.  The good and bad are all in the same basket.  Our choice is in what to do with the bad stuff.  Our family has fought (really fought) to not settle for calling it 'bad'.  These negative pieces of life are regularly offered to Him as sacrifices of praise and worship.  Even the lonely hours.  We give these little bad dots in the missionary life to God saying, "Here Lord, take this because we love you."

When God called us to Uganda we did not take time to calculate our "yes".  The yes was a yes.  We knew we would sacrifice but we didn't know from what.  We knew there would be change but we didn't know to what.  Our yes was quite blind.  We've discovered that part of our sacrifice of worship in obedience is loneliness.  If it were something besides loneliness we would still give it.  If it were loneliness plus something we would give that too.  A yes is a yes and He is worthy of a life saying yes, yes and yes.

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