(It is a sure sign of blogging neglect when my last post was a reflection on Year One on the mission field and this one is after completing Year Two…)
Not at all what I expected. I think I can honestly say that after two years of living on the mission field, even though I lived in the DR at LH for 9 months, even though I’ve done multiple short-term missions. God has both exceeded my expectations (immeasurably more than we can hope or imagine, Ephesians 3:20) but also made me surrender my expectations to Him. This past year cannot be wrapped up into a pretty package with a bow on top. It was a tough year for me personally, in the life of the LH ministry, and even our local church. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing and we experienced it the past year. There was heartbreak but also VICTORY and light and love and joy. Looking back, my word for the year seems to be PARADOX: something that seems contradictory but when looked at closer, proves to be well-founded or true.
In July 2017, I wrote out these 3:
Paradox Number One:
I am no one, and I am someone.
Paradox Number Two:
There is no condemnation, but there is conviction.
Paradox Number Three:
I can do all things, yet I can do nothing.
My identity in Christ challenges my Self-Identity on every account. It makes it all not about me. So yes, this past year was one of the hardest of my life…yet it also brought me into a deeper, sweeter relationship with Jesus. He continues to call me into something deeper and different. I don’t know what word or question He will give for this year. In Year Two, my question to God was, “Can I trust You?” He challenged me in my doubt and answered in His faithfulness. One of my personal struggles was seeing many women come into the house and program only to leave. They didn’t “make it”; they didn’t “succeed.” Based on whose standards? To the world, these departures were failures. But not to the Lord. If I was faithful to get to know them, share Christ with them, love them as He loves, let them know they have value – then it was a success. My job is to plant seeds; God does the growing and harvesting. I would love to have a harvest to show for the work of last year. My pride wants to be able to share how many women came to Christ and excelled and are continuing in the program. But the challenge to Self is to recognize I can’t change their hearts and I’m not responsible for how they respond to gospel truth. My circumstances didn’t seem like a reason for rejoicing; but my joy is not dependent on my circumstances. My JOY is my salvation; my JOY is my relationship with Christ.
Whether a woman stays or chooses to leave, I will believe the Lord is trustworthy and He is GOOD.
Paradox Number Three from my list has been especially impactful during Year Two. God has been building the pressure in my life, leading me to a place where I understand more fully how there is nothing good in me and nothing I can give in and of myself. ONLY in Christ can I surrender to what He wants to do in and through me. I can’t do it in my own strength. Moving into Year Three, I don’t want to miss out on an abundant Spirit-filled life because of strongholds and fear. I want to be a “who cares?” person in the sense of, who cares what others think about me if I know the Truth of what God thinks about me? As I’m studying Galatians, I’m challenged with this abandonment of fear repeatedly. As Tim Keller says in the book I’m reading (Galatians For You), when I care more about acceptance and approval from others, I’ve given them “the rights and power over my heart that only God should have” (page 33). The radical and freeing Truth is that my acceptance, position, inheritance, and blessing through Christ are just as secure as my salvation! God’s opinion of me will not change based on “how good I am” (because remember, I’ve already learned the paradox there is nothing innately good in me, yet I am righteous in God’s eyes because of Christ). How I am viewed by God is secure; when He looks at me, He will continue to see Christ. I don’t have to make myself worthy or lovable, because I am already KNOWN BY GOD (Galatians 4:9). His affections will not change or alter based on how many women stay at LH or how well I make a weekend schedule or how many emails I send to donors or how many times I share the gospel with a woman on street ministry. Out of gratitude for who I am in Christ, my desire is to glorify and please Him by giving my best in all areas; but I do not earn salvation, love or acceptance based on these things.
Moving into Year Three, this is the FREEDOM I want to live in. May the God of acceptance, freedom, paradoxes, and goodness continue to guide me, and each of you. I pray we each live knowing despite our circumstances, He is faithful; that regardless of our efforts, He is the one who works in our hearts. My identity is secure in Christ, and I desire to share that with each and every Lily who has and has yet to pass through our doors.
Adios, Year Two. Hola, Year Three.