Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The In-Between-Places & Clay Pots

Missionaries are human too.

Ok, time for some transparency again. God has been teaching me a lot and I can tell you it has not been fun, in a "oh let's do that again!" sort of way. It has been necessary though.

Here's the transparency part: People always say to me, "Oh wow! You're a missionary! I could never do that! Thanks for doing what so many of us could never do." Well, I think to myself, "Thanks, but I can't do it either!" 

I once took a pottery class. LOVED it because I got to shape new things out of these lumps of nothingness. I got to be all up in there as I formed the clay. I had to smack the clay on the palette and then add water as I kneaded it. Then I had to roll it and punch it. Then when just the right amount of water was in it and it would give to my slightest movement, it was ready for the wheel. Then when it was pliable, I could lovingly raise it into something more. It made me sweat and made my muscles sore as I fought with hard clay, but in the end a piece of me was alive in each pot or cup or bowl that I made. It was such a joy!

Well, now it feels like it's my turn to be that stubborn hard, dry lump of clay- again. Clay that needs to be stretched and smacked and molded and have water added to smooth out my rough bits. His water added to make my heart pliable. I feel like I've been here before. I was once this hard lump of clay that in no way wanted to give my life over to missions. I was a homebody, and frankly - I like my comfort level to be just so. Come on, you know what I mean. So God worked out these rough bits in me when I was about 14, and I was willingly subdued after some persuasion. Every so often He works out some more. My guess is that I am one of those pots that hasn't been fired in the kiln yet. He has multiple purposes for my life if I will remain pliable.

Being pliable - well it hurts. It's pretty nice to just be left alone and not be fashioned into something you're not (yet). It's dizzying to spin on the potter's wheel after you feel you've had the wind knocked out of you. Then again, there comes a point where you close your eyes and let go. You allow His rhythm to sway you. His hands to guide you - to raise you - to what He wants you to be: useful for Him.

Just a disclaimer here:
I do not think that God does things to harm us. I think that He allows the enemy to do things to us to see where our loyalty lies and to see if we will call on Him. We are not robots; He allows us to choose - to love Him. If we choose to dry out... He'll help us work through it.

Now back to transparency:
Being in France is wonderful, but I am unable to fully enjoy it all of the time. I have days where I can breath in the beauty of this gift of time here, and there are other days where I am distracted of the coming future. I enjoy certain comforts here (even though I have no dryer or air conditioning) I still have electricity and running water. I think of what it will be in Africa without those (at least for the starting term).  I tend to worry. I know it's wrong & I am learning to trust more. It's hard to keep from thinking ahead when your "job" (ministry) requires a lot of forward planning. Anyway, no more excuses - simply put, I do worry. My time here in France is often muddied by thoughts of "what if's" especially concerning moving on to Africa. I won't list them all, but I think about raising our children and the possibilities of health issues, isolation, war, hardships...blah blah blah.. the list could go on. This is why people think I'm a little crazy for being a missionary. They could never picture themselves or anyone else trying to do what we hope to set out to do. So I myself have moments of FREAK-OUT. I think how could this possibly work?!? We have such a hard time balancing family and learning language at the same time. How will we learn a third language - one that is unwritten? If I let one little worry slip through my defenses, I feel like the whole dam will burst. And then sometimes it does and that's when God lets in the water.

After my heart has been hardened by self-ish worry, God waters this clay again. That's really what is going on when I have those panic moments where I ask myself, "Do I really want to do this?" I am being self-ish. I've weighed the cost for me if I go, but I've neglected to weigh the cost for others if I don't go. It's selfishness. God is faithful to water this hard clay in the midst of my tears through the pouring out of other useful pots.

Pots like my faithful husband who hugs me and tells me I need to stop focusing on the hardships and look at all the great stories and testimonies from the field.

Pots like my dear friend who called me from the States to water my soul & told me to read James 1:2-3. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 
She also poured out a little water when she told me you can know that something is really a promise from God if God confirms it and if the enemy won't let you be. 

I begin to breathe and flex in this new space. I've been on the palette a couple times. I've made it to the wheel. Now, I hope to not fall apart while He raises me into His useful vessel, knowing full well that if the vessel tips during the spin, the clay is already soft and can be raised again. :-)

Prov 24:16a 16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again...

I can look back at the times I've fallen or I can look back at the progress I've made and keep going.

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