My dad is in the field of construction. In my house growing up, there were just as many pictures of buildings in process as there were of us kids. Knowing my dad, I know why he is so amazing at his craft. He is meticulous. His attention to detail on the job site is unmatched. He knew the minutia involved in each phase of the project and was able to orchestrate incredible amounts of tasks and people until-BAM-a building appeared.
I recall attending an opening of a massive movie theatre he built. To me, it seemed to have come together so quickly! That is because I wasn’t involved in the intricacies of the process. Building is hard. Building is slow. The choices of building materials are endless. Once the walls are up, you need things like tile and paint, faucets and doors. And all kinds of other things I don’t even begin to know about. Each of those requires careful consideration and ultimately a choice. So to recap: building materials are a CHOICE, people. We’ll come back to that.
My husband and I lived in China for three years. I wish I could say that I was glad to be there and relished every minute. I wasn’t, and I didn’t. The truth is, I was going because my husband felt called. And I knew my calling was to follow him.
It wasn’t easy. We had just gotten married and my boxes had barely been moved to his house when the “For Sale” sign was in the ground and we were fundraising for our move to Asia. I had just moved into a beautiful home right next to a Trader Joe’s. I. Love. Trader. Joe’s. And now we’re moving to rural China? This should be interesting… and it was.
We raised our funds, sold our stuff in garage sales, packed enough shampoo for a year (why we thought they didn’t have shampoo in China, I will never know) and boarded a plane. As I sat down in my airplane seat, I gave myself a mental high-five and thought to myself, “Yay for me. I am such a godly wife. Most wives wouldn’t have done this.” I would live there, put on a happy face and deal with it until I could get back home. I truly thought my physical relocation via United Airlines was the obedience God wanted.
It gets better.
We wanted to start a family while in China but the kiddos never came. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had the privilege of spending time with a barren woman obsessed with having children but it’s a treat. I would encourage you to hang out at fertility treatment centers with us. We’re a lively bunch.
Sure. I kept up appearances like a champ but my heart was a mess. I was sharing God’s Truth to everyone, but myself. I had a regular talk with God called, “Really? I live in a rural land I never even wanted to visit and you can’t give me a baby? We quit an awesome job, left everything behind and I’m barren? Your word says children are a blessing and that You withhold no good thing from those that love You. I’m sorry, Lord, but this just doesn’t add up.”
I felt forgotten.
And apparently pretty entitled. Ick.
I’m not painting myself in a pretty light. I get that. I have found that raw is more helpful than polished so I’m willing to show you how jacked up I am.
So back to the carpentry choices I was talking about earlier. One winter day, sitting in my apartment in a down coat and gloves because the heat had not yet been turned on by the school, I was minding my own (frozen) business when God crashed my pity party with a Truth so convicting I’ve never forgotten it. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul cautions the church to build with care. He teaches that they are building upon the foundation, Jesus, and that the materials they use to build are vitally important.
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” 1 Cor 3:10-15
The test to “show it for what it is” is fire and that the fire will reveal the quality of each person’s work. We can use gold, silver, precious jewels or wood, hay and straw. This verse hit me between the eyes like a 2×4.
Long story short, I learned that apparently God desired more than just my feet on Chinese soil. He wanted my heart. Obedience was not a stamp in my passport but handing over the entire passport to God and willingly following Him through life overseas and infertility with a heart full of trust.
I know that my physical presence in China for the first little while was most assuredly wood, hay and straw. That business will be ashes. I am not going to enjoy watching that burn. When this verse pierced my heart I realized the rest of the China experience HAD to be built to survive the fire. It was simply too hard and sad to not ultimately count for eternity.
Ladies, we serve a faithful and gracious God. He used me greatly while we were in China. I can say that honestly and without concern about you thinking I am prideful because it was 100% NOT me. I didn’t even want to be there. And no, all my days in Asia were not perfect. It was a barren time for me in several ways that I can still feel in my gut as I type this. But it was a rich time of pruning and intimacy with my Father. The hard times usually are.
Maybe you can’t relate to this. Being overseas is everything you dreamed it would be and you are “happy everyday” like my students used to always say. For the rest of you who have some low moments in your overseas season, I would heartily encourage you to choose your building materials wisely. Remember that the Day is coming. You don’t want this labor to be in vain.
So has anyone else wrestled with having your heart, not just your feet on foreign soil?