In my previous blog posts, I always tried to convey one thing that I was learning, something that struck me the most and something I would hope would strike anyone reading this as well. This time, I am struggling. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything or God hasn’t shown me anything new, rather, how am I supposed to put all I have learned this past month into words in a single blog post. I can’t. There is a reason the bible is thousands of pages long… and God continues to go way beyond anything we can comprehend. When God’s mercies are new every morning and when he continually reminds me how small I am and how big he is every day, it becomes very difficult to convey, especially when I am still working on understanding it myself. So, with that being said, bear with me as I try to give bits and pieces.
As another month as flown by, I am realizing more and more how God is in the details. He takes care of everything, literally everything, in our day to day lives. He knows us better than we know ourselves and he allows us to battle on for him by turning our weaknesses into strengths.
This past month has been solely focused on students which has been both a blessing and burden at times. As the school year came to an end and we were able to watch many of the students we have come to know so well graduate and move on, we have also been blessed to know more students. Summer classes have started, and with that, a whole new group of Freshmen have come in to pass the college entrance exam. As part of helping the students pass the test, the organization I am working with offers tutoring sessions everyday for English and Math. Needless to say, I am back into teaching. I have never thought of myself as a teacher, much less a teacher in English. Again, God uses our weaknesses for his glory. My days now consist of teaching English (which has always been my worst subject) with Christine (my roommate) from 10:30-12:00 to a class of fifty students. I then spend the last portion of the day lesson planning, spending time with students and the other interns, finishing up what I can of the business plan, and just enjoying my time here.
Despite my weakness in teaching, God continues to remind me that my weakness is not about me, it’s about Him and letting his strength shine through. I have a new respect for the students as they take on learning English, in addition to the five languages they already know. I also realize how confusing languages can be, but also how being able to speak any language is a gift from God and a work of his creation. Listening to several languages daily and trying to understand in any way I can, it’s amazing how much languages have in common. There is similar structure and similar basic principles, but also it’s amazing how many similar words different languages have in common and it all points to having one creator! The fact that God even gave us the ability to communicate and how he orchestrated our bodies to be able to produce different sounds is quite remarkable. Think about it. Every sentence spoken requires several different actions to take place in the body before the sentence is ever heard. As the sentence is being said, the inner actions continue to take place, and the body remembers how to say certain things in a certain way. For example, in English, we use the “th” sound all the time and think nothing of it. Our mouth has been preforming the proper action to make that sound for years and it’s nothing to say, “this, that, these, and those” with perfection. However, in the Philippines, “th” is not a common sound and it is a struggle to say it correctly. In the same way, the Filipino language has the “ng” sound, which is something that we don’t generally use in the English language. I am still trying to say it correctly. Language is quite the work of art and it all points to the uniqueness, beauty, and creativity of our creator.
God also continues to convict me in areas which I have a hard time facing. To start, I am incredibly selfish. I think some of that is cultural, but a majority of it is my own flesh and will. I struggle to have a servants heart to people who have no appreciation for what I am doing for them or who could care less of the sacrifice I feel I am making. For example, teaching. It is a struggle for me to teach, as I said before. The way the education system works here is students generally run the class. Teachers may or may not show up and there isn’t a set curriculum that is followed. Also, I am teaching to a class of college freshmen, these freshmen are as young as fifteen and as old as twenty-five. Their level of English speaking is all over the board as some can use English correctly and fluently and others are too shy to even speak a sentence. How can I effectively give my time and energy to the students if I am so focused on myself and how I feel unequipped to teach them? How can I help them excel if how I “feel” and my negative attitude constantly get in the way? How am I showing them Christ by allowing my selfishness to take control instead of calling on God for a spirit of selflessness?
Another way God is convicting me is revealing my judgemental nature and how I take time for granted. Being in another culture, I have struggled with things that I never even thought to struggle with before. It is because of these struggles though however, that I began judging myself using the standards that I judge other people with. I am a horrible judge and it was extremely convicting as I began examining myself in the same way I examine others. It was hurtful and depressing. On the other hand, God was able to reveal to me a new compassion for myself and the people who struggle with the same issues I do. Let’s just say, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” came to life in a whole new way! Finally, Time. Something, that I take for granted everyday as if I can freely waste it. As if it’s mine to waste. I came across this quote the other day that seemed to hit my conviction spot on. “Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day… What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course? Each of us has such a bank, it’s name is time. Every morning, it credits you 86,400 seconds. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. The clock is running. Make the most of your time.”
As a part of our CBP class, we asked the students to write about: “why do I believe what I believe?” Not only were the responses thought provoking and caused me to ask myself the same question, but it’s amazing how God’s light shines through no matter what one believes. Satan’s reign is prevalent in our day to day world; however, instead of focusing on the sin, this caused me to stop and look and see where God’s light is shining through. It’s not always obvious, but when I stop and take the time to notice it, it’s glorious. More than half of the CBP class is Muslim, so I was eager to see what they had to say because I am quite curious. After reading through their papers, I was filled with compassion for them and in some ways a burden of sadness, but also a burden to show them the love of Christ more and more. In an assignment that could leave one feeling hopeless, God’s light is still shining through in the Muslim culture. As one student wrote, “I believe in the oneness of Allah. Nothing else has the right to be worshiped but Allah and Allah alone. I also believe that Eisa or Jesus is just a prophet of Allah. He has a mother named Maria, but he doesn’t have a father because Allah wanted to prove to humans that He can create a miracle.” This student believes they are a true follower of Islam and that Muhammad was the final Prophet given to us by Allah to proclaim Islam as the true religion. Through all the sin that has entangled them, right in the middle of it all is Jesus. Though they don’t believe the same things about God as we do, they know of Jesus and the miracle he was. God is here, he is present, and he is working. Even though that is just a single sentence, it is the beginning of the light that breaks the darkness.
This past month I decided to read Hinds Feet on High Places. Never have I read an allegory that applied so much to my life and allowed me to put a face to the sin I battle every day. This allegory is about a young girl named Much Afraid and her fight to reach the High Places where the Shepherd is waiting for her with the promise of an everlasting love. Much Afraid lives in the Valley of Humiliation with her Fearing family including Craven Fear, Pride, Bitterness, Anger, Deceit, and Jealousy who try to hinder her in her quest to the High Places. If her relatives aren’t enough to hinder her, she is also crippled. Living among the Fearing Family are workers of the shepherd and the Shepherd himself visits various times during the day. Much Afraid meets the Shepherd in the morning to ask him what he would have her do for the day, and every evening to talk about the day. As Much Afraid learns about the Shepherd more and more, she asks to join him the High Places. The Shepherd is more than thrilled, but he explains the journey will be difficult, but he must plant the seed of love in her heart in order for her to begin. This seed is a thorn that the Shepherd plants in her heart, though it is painful at first, the seed will grow into something more beautiful than anything she can imagine. As the journey begins to the High Places, the Shepherd chooses two companions to help Much Afraid reach the High Places, Sorrow and Suffering. At first, Much Afraid refuses to use the help of her companions, avoiding them, which makes the journey slow and more difficult. Also, her family is constantly sending people after Much Afraid to bring her back. As the journey continues, Much Afraid learns to rely on her companions to help her make the journey and grows in trust for the Shepherd as she calls out to him in times of trouble. Along the way, Much Afraid endures much hardship and questions if the Shepherd will fulfill his promise to her. There are many moments she begs the Shepherd to allow her to choose a different path to the High Places and there are times when she wants to give up. Despite her insecurities and doubts, the Shepherd continually reassures her, loves her, and encourages her to press on because he knows her better than she knows herself. During this journey, Much Afraid builds little alters along the way in which she lays down her fear, insecurities, doubts, and chooses to hold on to the words of the Shepherd despite her current circumstance. Before reaching the high places, Much Afraid must lay her entire self on the altar as the Shepherd pulls out the humanly/fleshly love she has once known and replaces it with His everlasting Love and his desires. As she enters the High Places, Much Afraid receives a new name of Grace and Glory. Her Fearing family no longer has a hold on her, and the companions of Sorrow and Suffering are now Joy and Peace. With that, the Shepherd introduces Grace and Glory to his everlasting Love, and prepares to send her back into the valley from which she came to allow others to experience the High Places as well.
Talking with one of the long term missionary’s here, she reminded me of a verse that I have heard hundreds of time before, however, this time it struck me in a completely different way.
“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.” Matt 11:28-30
These verses, probably some of the most well known throughout out the entire bible, came to life in a whole new way. Yes, Christ always provides us rest when we give our hearts to him. The “rest for my soul” is what I have always focused on when studying this verse. It doesn’t matter how bad anything gets, God will always come to my rescue. But there is so much more to this verse then just finding rest. This verse also represents the great commission perfectly! We become weary and burdened as we try to carry our sins on our own and Christ provides a divine rest. He does this by trading in our burdens for his yoke. As we rest in him and learn from him by studying him, talking to him, meditating on the things he says, we learn about his gentle and humble heart. In the process of this learning, we grow more in love with him and his love begins spilling over as he sends us back out with his yoke and his burden. Yes, Christ takes our burden, but he also gives us one. One that allows us to carry our cross every day and the burden and the desire to make sure the world know of his love! It’s a burden of selflessness rather than a burden of selfishness and it’s incredible.
Yes, I continue to struggle, but just when I think it is too much to bear, God provides and fills me with an inexpressible joy that I know only comes from him. He provides peace, motivation, endurance, and awe as I live each day here. He puts me in places where I need to lay myself on the altar and choose him. Yes, it’s painful and my flesh fights back with everything it can. However, that is what it takes for God to mold me. That is what it takes for God to make me what he wants me to be. That is what it takes for Christ to have all of me and that is a burden I am willing to bear.