DISCLAIMER: I am not sure if this is the kind of thing that one should hit the publish button on ....or even write, but here it goes anyway. This, after all, is my safe space. I have been wrestling with this for a long time. I am so, so human, and sometimes this call on our life feels too big. Sometimes I just wish that I could blend in again and be that wallflower that I once was. I am praying that as you read this, you do not read self-righteousness into my words, but rather the wrestling of a human girl's heart. I don't have it all together. I may not even be doing this following Jesus thing right, but I want to. I have to try.
Once upon a time she was a high school student with a crush on a cute, freckle-faced high school boy. It was first love. First dates. First kisses. She lost her heart and he lost his, and they were the perfect, adorable couple. They complemented one another - his strengths band-aided her weaknesses and his weaknesses were masked by her strengths. They went to Bible college together, and talked of serving Jesus. They walked around the pristine housing developments in the area and held hands dreaming of their white picketed fence future, of their blond hair blue-eyed babies, of their vehicles, of vacations and dreams and security.
The best was yet to be.
The wedding day was all they dreamed and marriage was good and young and sweet. Camp ministry called them back home, and they were happy to be near family and to begin building their dream. They wrote out a ten year plan and worked toward buying a house and adding those blond hair blue-eyed babies. Life was good, predictable, safe, and easy. A house, two well-behaved children, a dog. Everything was so tidy. So picture perfect. Money was good, and spending it was fun. New clothes, shoes, bags, sports memorabilia and sports games, and plus they served Jesus at camp.
And then God whispered to them to leave camp, and for a bit the dreams crumbled and confusion set in. But a pastorate was next, and all seemed to settle. Pride set in and they patted themselves on the back for taking such a giant leap of faith, and they thought that surely they had sacrificed and surrendered to a life of following Jesus. And then God pointed to Ethiopia and a special needs son. A son who may never be able to leave home or live alone, and things got more complicated. And the dream began to shatter beyond recognition. And money looked different. Following Jesus looked different. Ethiopia changed them. It changed them so much that the house and vehicles and clothing and shoes choked them, when they realized the idols that they had all become. The book of Luke began to mock them as they realized how twisted they had made discipleship out to be, and how they had swallowed the lies about easily and comfortably following Jesus.
They came home from Ethiopia, shell shocked, with a very needy tiny son. They came home with eyes wide open, and they came home different. They couldn't mask the new people they were becoming, and they struggled to live in the excess. They could no longer pretend to be the people they once were, and it cost them. It cost them relationships. It cost them reputation and image. It cost them carefree-ness and ease and comfort. It cost them date-nights and freedom and a normal life.
And then He pointed them to a street boy, and surely that would be as much as He required of that now bone-weary, depleted couple. It was an impossible chance that he could ever come home, but God excels in the impossible. The same couple who had so many dreams, and who used to whisper into the night about cruises and beautiful homes were entirely different people. And before they knew it they were knee-deep into parenting four children, one with severe special needs, two who had been displaced, and one who as a teenager had no idea how to live inside of a family. Nights were long, sleep seldom came, and the four walls of their home held so much knowledge of trauma, fears, healing and redemption. The couple desired to follow Jesus, but in their exhaustion they also desired a village to hold up their arms. Yet they found too few. Their family was stretched so thin and so lonely. The once, young, starry eyed couple fell into bed each night older than the night before, and the sweet whispers that once entangled them both became silence and tears and exhausted prayers. They were counting the cost, and realizing all they had given up and away to follow Jesus, and all that was still required.
And that's the thing, following Jesus is costly - He asks for everything.
But they thought they had given everything. They were grasping for some security and comfort and solidarity. So they put their house up for sale, the one they had painted and carpeted and dreamed of growing old together in. They stomped the dream out, and decided to start over in a new city, with new people, and new friends. A city who didn't know how strange they were. A city where maybe going out together as a family would not make them a spectacle. And they would plant a church - a church that they had been dreaming of - where apathy was non-existent, where people were passionate followers of Jesus, where worship was free and prayer was authentic, where relationships were the heartbeat, and where messiness and transparency was embraced. But it didn't work. Security got ripped away when a promised job was taken back. And the house didn't sell. Depression was real, and the couple stopped dreaming and just tried surviving. Only they were trying to survive by controlling everything - only everything was swirling out of control.
And then he whispered, this is not the plan, it is Ethiopia.
She screamed and cried, and she begged God to leave her family alone to look to another family. I just want that house with the white picket fence, and nice kids, and a husband with a secure job, and the Sunday morning church attendance kind of faith - the kind that requires little but nice clothes, a smiling face, and a few hours of my time once a week. I just want to be normal again. I don't want to look in the mirror and see eyes that were once so vibrant sag and dull with lack of sleep and trying to figure out how to be a mom of a teenage boy. I was supposed to have years before I had to ease into the teen years. I don't want people staring at us in public anymore, trying to figure out where we got our kids from and what exactly is wrong with the drooling, wiggly-eyed, non-verbal one. I wish that I didn't know what I now know, and that my heart didn't break for the injustice that I saw. I wish that I could go on pretending that a Christian American dream is enough.
And then He whispered But I gave everything for you. Isn't that enough? Ethiopia is where I want you. It's where I have always wanted you from the beginning of time, when I created you. I was grooming you, refining you, breaking you down until their was nothing left to cling to. I will be your comfort. I will be your safety. I will be your solidarity. I will be your confidant, your peace, your guidance.
I will be your everything, and your everything is exactly what I require from you.