New look on the ol' blog. Like it? The picture? It's my Simpsons avatar. This is what I might look like if I were two dimensional. Oh, and drawn by Matt Groeing : -)
Wednesday I leave to join a short-term team living as researchers among a large Muslim minority in a somewhat-backwater country in Southern Europe. I'll help edit their report of findings and a 30-day-type prayer guide they are writing, then travel with them to Greece and conduct the ten 90-minute debriefing sessions we usually try to take our teams through. I may blog while I'm there, but it's hard to say. I will be busy. If possible I'll post some pictures!
Getting some time in the team's focus city is a nice reward after training this team and coaching them from afar. Now I'll get to see their town, meet their friends, eat what they eat, hang out in their house, and be part of their community life for a while. This will help me contribute to stuff like the editing that will no doubt stretch out for weeks to come, and give me a place in things like team reunions and reminiscing - half the fun.
I've never been to Greece... So, pray for some downtime to enjoy it, as well as strength, peace, and joy in the work-times too.
S., my good friend who is serving as the team's research coordinator, is eager for me to come. (See her blog if you are interested). All in all I'm a bit afraid the team will expect me to take over and give them all the answers, which of course I cannot do. But I do have a lot of relevant skills and experience which I am glad to offer.
I've had to fight not feeling like a momma bird about S., this summer. I knew I had to let her learn to fly, and trust her wings and the winds to bear her, but I didn't want anybody to hurt or frustrate her... and was especially concerned about the things she was going to have to do that she really reluctant to take on.
So I was very pleased to hear her say that in spite of the challenges, this summer she has felt more like =herself= than maybe ever before. She had confessed earlier that she was kind of enjoying being the leader - but perhaps I shouldn't say that as she mightn't want the word to get out! Well, go S! You're great.
The other thing S. said when we 'Skyped' today was that it was a really fun, funny team, and that they have great times together. "Hope I don't spoil it!" I said. "Oh no, you will fit right in!" she insisted.
Given the state of the MLC (mid-life crisis) I'm in, though, do you think I'm up for this? I guess I don't really question that. But the extent to which this is a spiritual battle, and that judging from the sickness and whatnot this team has faced, they have been on the front-lines as well - yeah, I could be walking into trouble. So I'd appreciate your prayers.
Speaking of Prayer...
I =did= get together with my friend who offered to spend a couple hours praying with me for inner healing. We identified some of the key struggles I've got - I couldn't quite take on the love-life questions, but there's one that's just as deep if not deeper and probably related. It's the feeling that God can't quite be trusted to do what's best for me, that he might ask of me more than I can bear, and that I have to rely on myself to figure things out. Or maybe that he has abandoned me. Certainly in recent months my own life and the ministry I'm part of both show signs of the Holy Spirit having left the building...
What really makes this a struggle for me is the knowledge that just about all the evidence (especially looking back a ways) points the other direction. So my heart is all whiny and childish and untrusting, and my head says, hey, get with the program, why don't you just believe what we know to be true? Hence: conflict.
In trying to find some inner healing for this thing, A. and I asked God to show us where it might be rooted. Like, when do I remember first feeling that way, that no one was going to take care of me adequately so I'd have to do it myself? A. said that those kind of thoughts function like vows and often start before you are 5 or 6 years old. You make a statement that becomes a promise, like, "Nobody can take care of me but me." Well, there are worse beliefs, but better ones too. So, is that what's really plaguing me, and if so, where is it rooted? What happened that caused me to first respond that way? If I can identify when I made that vow it would help me break it, replace lies with truth, and receive healing.
I cried a lot. And for me, thoughts and words spoken through tears tend to be less true, rather than more so. But maybe we got closer to the source of these things. We prayed for a long time. And I think I understand a bit more about how this inner healing thing works. I'll pursue this further.
So, what did God reveal? One thing, for sure, was that even if in these various situations I can remember where people close to me showed their blindness or failed me in some way, if I said OK now I have to take care of myself, God's mercy is there. I didn't know any better, I may have made a poor decision but I could see no other options, and God's mercy and compassion sweep back to those times. I don't need to feel like I did something terrible and irredeemable. What does God says? He says: grace. mercy. presence.
Later that day I was able to spend some time with another friend who went through some similar things two years ago and was actually staying with Deb and me for part of the time. I didn't understand what she was going through then. She came home and told me the counselor was going to be working with her on her 'ontological insecurity.' We laughed a bit over the term... but I'd forgotten it. Not quite the same thing as my MLC issues but similar. She didn't know who she was, didn't have confidence in her own perceptions (cross cultural living can stretch your boundaries to the breaking point) and didn't feel like she was even 'real.' As a kid and young teen I struggled with that, would lay on my bed just wondering if I was a character in someone else's dream or something like that... Is that where some of this began?
I hesitate to go deeper into this kind of thing lest I be accused of navel-gazing. One or two treasured friends - and my own logical mind - continue to suspect that too much introspection is a dangerous pursuit and I shouldn't let myself get sucked in, as if this will make me weak and ineffective, unable to be used by God. Yet the opposite seems more true: this seems necessary (if, oh man, tiresome!) So... I'll try not to give up before I find the peace, strength, and healing I seem to need!