Right now, we’re stateside. It’s a very different world than the one we left 5 months ago. We were radically different people when we arrived on these shores and we’ve continued to change after spending time here. I’m glad I’m not the same person I was 5 months ago. I was fragile and felt as if I might shatter into a thousand pieces. I remember swallowing the lump in my throat as I tried to sing hymns on Sunday morning but God seemed so far away and I didn’t want the floodgates of my own confusion to spill over in all of its uglyness. I’d run out of mental space for all but the most menial tasks. And honestly, I didn’t really want anyone to ask how I was doing because I knew they really wouldn’t understand, mostly because I didn’t have the right words, nor the mental stamina to weave them into something understandable.
I thought that rest and sleep would solve it, but rest seemed very hard to come by. There was also a little person who was in culture shock and needed me, usually in the middle of the night. I also had a head full of muddled thoughts that didn’t seem to every get sorted.
I thought after moving countless times and living with countless people in the 9 years we’ve been married would make me better at it. I was no better than the first day we’d ever moved into someone’s basement. I was better at packing and logistics, but not better at uprooting and adjusting.
I thought that maybe the conveniences of modern America, like deli meat and bagged salad, would lighten my load so I could get some extra time to clear my head. They were lovely, but the fog didn’t lift.
This past Sunday, Pastor Hans spoke about God’s interruptions, the birth of Christ being the foremost of these. God interrupted people’s lives, plans, political ventures, and so forth when He enacted His plan to rescue mankind. We looked at several individual’s responses to these interruptions, from Mary and Joseph, to Herod and the wisemen. Pastor Hans challenged us to look at how God has or is seeking to interrupt in our lives as well. I think he said something about how some of the most valuable times in our lives are when God interrupts things. How very, very true.
And then I started reading a little book by Amy Carmichael called “Rose from Briar.” It’s a collection of letters written to those who are hurting or in pain. She said about the letters,
“…reading them through I am troubled to find them so personal and sometimes so intimate. It is not that I think the personal or the intimate interesting or valuable, but that I did not know how to give the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted without giving something of my own soul also. If I had waited till the harrow had lifted, perhaps a less tired mind would have found a better way. But then the book would have been from the well to the ill, and not from the ill to the ill, which I think is what it is meant to be–a rose plucked straight from a briar.”
So often I have hesitated to write because I assume it’s best to write once things have passed, but after reading Amy Carmichael’s words, I wonder if writing in the midst of the turmoil might somehow yield a different kind of fruit. I’m not talking about the verbal vomit and grumbling that sometimes grabs hold of me and wants to whine about the “onions and garlic” back in Egypt, but writing while you don’t have it all figured out–a healthy wrestling. I usually don’t have things figured out when I write, but more often than not, I’m 85% of the way through the valley and I can see the clouds lifting.
Back to providential interruption. As Pastor Hans brought this theme to bear, I was instantly thankful for one particular interruption, one which I thought I should share with you, especially since I don’t feel like I’m quite 85% out of the valley yet.
I remember it vividly. I was in a noisy coffee shop with a veteran missionary. We’d emailed back and forth on the field after some rough patches, but were finally able to meet in person. By the end of the conversation, she said, “Grace, you’re very close to the breaking point. There’s no need for you to continue like this. You need to find someone to help you through all of this. It’s really not an option to continue down the path you’re on. You don’t need to end up like a burnout statistic.” And so, it was like she gave me permission to ask for help. She swept alongside me in all of the grace and wisdom of everything that Titus 2 is supposed to be and pulled me away from the edge of a mental breakdown. It was the first breath of hope I’d had in a long time.
She followed me home and talked with Payton for bit. Together, he and I emailed a few contacts we had to see if we could find a counsellor. We were already scheduled for a week-long debrief time at a place called Shelter Pines. They connected us with a counsellor who had herself spent many long years overseas. Not only that but the missions team came alongside us with their full concern and support. And am I ever so glad God chose to interrupt my confusion and brokenness and swoop in and show me a better way.
I met with Karen twice a week for the remaining time we were in Colorado. With every meeting, a little more light was shone into the darkness, and a little more hope was infused into my soul. She didn’t pity me at all, but depth of empathy and understanding that she had was a God-send. I didn’t have to explain what a home assignment was like. I didn’t have to explain living cross-culturally. She got it. And she took my hand and began to walk me through all of it.
We’ve uncovered a lot of un-truth in our sessions. We’ve begun to replace those things with truth. I have begun to better distinguish the voice of my Father from the voice of the Accuser. God is changing how I define myself.
I’m still meeting with my counselor long-distance and will probably keep it up while overseas. I’m aware of the progress that has been made and also how far there is to go. But, in this moment, while I’m not yet out of the valley, so to speak, I will rejoice at God’s merciful interruption in my life as we celebrate the Greatest Interruption this season!