I never wanted anything in life more than I wanted to be a missionary.
As a child, I would sit on the floor with a globe.
Niii… geeer… eee… ah
Uzzz… beck…ih… stan
I dreamed of discovering the places my fingers found on that globe.
In 2013, it seemed like that dream was finally becoming reality. Four years prior, I had left a good job, a good church, and a great community to go to seminary following my call and purpose. January 1, 2014, I had packed my bags and was heading to Kenya, walking into everything I believed God had for me.
Two years ago this week, I was back home after only 18 months in Kenya. I was hurt. I was angry. I was broken. I had no idea what I was doing or what was next, except I had to get home.
We rarely hear in sermons or studies or conference talks about how our greatest calling can also create our greatest pain, that our willingness to walk into our God-given purpose can lead us right into our darkest moments. I never expected missions to be easy. I didn’t walk onto the mission field naive and unexperienced. I expected hardship and difficulty, but I expected the good kind of pain, like after a really tough workout. After all, I was walking in the will of God; grace and faith would be enough. “The hand of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you” and all of that. I never expected or was prepared for the gut-wrenching, shattered on the floor kind of pain. I never expected to bring home depression and PTSD along with the souvenirs and pictures
One of my favorite Bible stories is the life of Hagar. On the surface, it might seem an odd choice. In Genesis 16, we see Hagar, mistreated by Sarai with seemingly no choice but to run away. As Hagar sits by a stream in the wilderness, she is visited by an angel of the Lord, and she says “You are the God who sees me… I have seen the One who sees me.”
We see Hagar again in chapter 21. Again, she has left her family, this time sent away by Abraham. Again, she sits in the wilderness, this time with her son. Again, the angel of the Lord visits her; this time she is told “God has heard.”
God sees. God hears.
Even when all seems lost.
God sees. God hears.
There were no magic answers for Hagar. The first time she encountered God, she was sent back to the place she had run from. The second time, God opened her eyes to see the provision that was already around her. Nothing about her situation really changed either time, except what she knew about God
Over the last three and a half years, I have seemingly gone from bad to worse to bad again. I have questioned decisions and relived painful moments. I’ve been brave when I had to be and learned how to be more vulnerable than I ever thought I would want to be. I have been loved unconditionally, but I have also been hated and literally cursed to hell. Like Hagar, there has been a lot of crying alone in the wilderness and absolutely no magic answers. Even as I type this, life is not what I planned or expected or wanted. But like Hagar, even when I want to lay under a bush and die and there is no foreseeable change in my situation, I have come to know one thing is certain: God is good.
God doesn’t cause our pain, God doesn’t even really allow our pain, but God is always with us through our pain.
God sees. God hears. God is good.