After we returned from our trip to Italy and Slovenia, we were encouraged to keep this blog current partly to help everyone stay informed as to where we are on our journey, but also to be a resource to others who may be considering or working their way through something similar. In order for this resource to be of any benefit whatsoever, I think it requires a certain authenticity and vulnerability about both the good and the bad. I mention this because not everything is going to be super cheerful, but please don’t take this to mean that we are in some sort of black space. We are simply communicating both the ups and downs along the way. When a downer post appears, I’m sure it will be more than balanced out by a positive one.
Anyway, this post, or at least what follows, is something Julia wrote for our church newsletter, describing some of what is going on in her right now…
…One morning a few days ago while continuing the process of getting ready for my life as an
overseas missionary, I picked up my Bible and began reading from Matthew 10, where Jesus gives
his final instructions to the twelve disciples before he sends them out. The words were very familiar,
I had read them so many times before. Nothing was striking me as I was lazily taking them in along
with my morning coffee, until I got to vs.38, which pierced my heart like a sword. “And anyone who
does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”, said Jesus.
Sometime ago when I said “yes” to this life of ministry, I assumed that I had already done
that, but why then was I feeling such turmoil inside of me, as if Jesus was speaking directly to me?
What other crosses was I supposed to pick up? Wasn’t I done already?
The next few days were spent trying to see from His perspective-not always the easiest thing
to do. When God gives me a vision, or should I say a dream, He always shows me the final
destination where He is taking me. As a diligent student, I immediately visualize the route from point
A to point B and come up with a feasible plan how to breach the distance. Isn’t that what we were
taught starting from elementary school? The faster the better, the winner gets the prize. Alas, if I
learned anything from my own journey with the Father it is that He does not value efficiency as
much we do. He is very fond of detours, and I have been sent on many of them in my life already.
They are often confusing, discouraging and even painful. I always get very upset and I always learn
something valuable in the end.
Phillip Yancey wrote a brilliant book called “Where is God When It Hurts?” He studied the
subject in detail, and gave a very eloquent answer. I in turn, studied his findings and found them
impressive. However, they didn’t speak to me except on an intellectual level until I was literally in
pain. I couldn’t understand what it was really all about until I faced my own pain and discovered
Jesus at work for myself.
Pain is often associated with something very negative like a disease or a natural disaster of
sorts. Very rarely do we think that pain can come from anything constructive. In this world our goal is
to eliminate pain, make it more like heaven. And why wouldn’t we want to achieve this? After all,
Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, so naturally we try to avoid pain and
A very different thought occurred to me four years ago while I was at the hospital waiting for
the arrival of Vika. There I was, experiencing the most intense pain of my adult life to the point
where my mind was playing tricks on me trying to convince me that I was dying…but it wasn’t the
case, I wasn’t dying. I wasn’t even sick. The pain that caused me to lose my mind was the result of
one of the most natural things in the world-childbirth! This is when I realized that God is not afraid of
pain. He doesn’t always shield us from it like we do with our own kids. He is a much wiser parent. In
fact, He often uses it to bring something absolutely wonderful and worth suffering for into the world.
You might start wondering at this point why I am talking about pain and carrying my cross so
much? After all, I am moving to Italy, one of the most beautiful countries in the world with arguably,
the best food in the world. Yes, it is my destination with so many possibilities and opportunities,
which makes my heart swell with anticipation and excitement, but the road to get there has been a
bit rough and bumpy.
We have been overwhelmed with busyness and anxiety trying to get our house on the
market, raising support, living our everyday life and so on. Then some devastating news about the
possible value of our house in today’s market scared us straight and brought us back to where we
started –the heart of the Father. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you
will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Is it possible that although Jesus is calling us to take up our crosses, He is also promising to
provide a way for us to carry them without feeling all bandaged and bruised? Or that pain is just a
part of life and we need to know how to embrace it and learn from it? Or both? Truth be told, I don’t
have all the answers. One thing I do know – I have learned my most valuable and memorable
lessons in the midst of pain and confusion.
About a year ago Janice Seney said to me that God is not so concerned with what I do, but
rather with who I am. A difficult word to process…especially when I am so focused on the
destination that I am more than willing to skip the stage “in-between”. Jesus is, on the contrary,
savoring the journey and teaching me along the way, testing my character, lovingly adding the
finishing touches- He can’t help it, he is an artist. He is creating in me something beautiful or rather,
uncovering the original beauty he had put in me.