Shauna Niequist told me, “If you allow yourself to be led by God’s spirit, no matter how far from home and familiarity it takes you, you wont have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You’ll be too busy living a life of passion and daring”. (When I say “told me”, I mean I read it in her book…. same thing, right?)
That seemed so great when I was sitting at home, planning for Malawi. It seemed so encouraging, so perfect. When you’re smack dab in the middle of home and familiarity, it’s so easy to fantasize about what it’s going to be like when you leave. A life of passion and daring?! Sounds fantastic. Not worrying about what to be when I grow up? That’s exactly what I want!
Except, the problem is, when you ARE far from home and familiarity – when you’re on the other side of the world with no one who truly knows you – and you’re having a bad day, you don’t really care about what you want to be when you grow up. You don’t even care about what you want to be next month. Because all you really want is to be one thing: home.
I want to back on the 5, driving in the fast lane, on the left side of my car, with a radio that works. I want to be sitting in the fourth row on the right side at Flood’s 8pm service – my usual spot – preferably with some Starbucks in my hand that I just walked across the street for, surrounded by my friends and my community and my church. I want to spend my Thursdays with Flood Youth, snuggled up on the couch with my girls as we eat fast food, talk about boys, and laugh at Mookie – then end the night with a trip to McDonalds for ice cream and some honest conversation at our table in the corner. I want to come home at the end of the day to a closet, not a suitcase. I want to wake up in the morning without a mosquito net covering my face. I want to shower – actually shower! – and not have to worry if there will be any water or flip a switch an hour beforehand or clean the tub of bugs before climbing in. I want to not need to coordinate who will have the car in the morning with Marco, or what we are planning on eating the next day; I want to have freedom to do what I want and be where I want, whenever I want! I. Want. To be. Home.
What I’ve learned, as I scroll through my Instagram feed and watch my friends live their ‘normal’ lives (without me), is that these wants can become dangerous – they can quickly snowball out of control. I find myself flying downhill fast, about to be flung headfirst to land somewhere between bitterness and despair. These wants aren’t bad, and they aren’t uncommon – of course someone living on the other side of the world is going to get homesick from time to time. I’ve realized these wants are simply surface level issues; the deeper desire here is I want to feel fulfilled.
Because, if I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, I don’t mind that our power is out and I have to get ready for bed by candlelight. If I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger purpose, I barely notice burning my hand for the 60th time because our oven doesn’t have a handle. If I feel like my time here matters, so many other things don’t: my insane amount of mosquito bites, how often I get stared at in the grocery store, my longing for frozen yogurt.
I think one of the best tricks the devil plays is getting us to believe when things don’t go exactly how we want them to, they automatically become completely useless. We don’t see the silver lining or the lessons learned or the small pieces put into motion. All we focus on is how messed up everything is. How we have wasted our time and efforts. And that it’s all useless. Lies, lies, and more lies. And, sadly, I often believe them.
I often believe that when Chisomo Idea’s outreach didn’t go as I had planned, that the whole day was a waste. I often believe that when Chipiku didn’t have the ingredients I wanted for dinner (again), I’ll never survive here. I often believe that when my time isn’t spent how I expected it to be, I might as well leave this country.
Do I sound depressing yet? Because what I always believe is in a God of hope. A God who does a lot of things I’ll never understand – including loving me more than I’ll ever fathom. A God who doesn’t explain to me all the details of His plans, yet promises to work everything together for His good. So maybe I’ll miss home, crave familiarity, and give in to despair from time to time – but what I’ll never have to go through is my time, in Malawi or back home, being useless.
Shauna was right – if you allow yourself to be led by God’s spirit, you will live a life of passion and daring. But she was also wrong. Sometimes in the midst of all that daring, you still find time to worry. And time to wonder about growing up. And time to miss home. At least I do.