God Is Not Boring

God Is Not Boring

I have learned that God is not boring. Instead He is full of surprises. Some of these surprises I like and some of them I detest, but they all come out of experiences I wouldn’t expect and they send me reeling into an unknown world.

But this is life, isn’t it, to be in a constant state of learning and development? Just when we think we have a grasp on God and how He thinks, how He speaks, how He moves and what He expects of us, He throws us a curveball. We swing hard thinking that we know, that we can somehow predict His movements, but we miss the ball and we miss it hard. Then we start to wonder if we knew the rules of the game at all. It seems unfair. Why would He throw me a ball I couldn’t hit out of the park?

I hate to say it…but we aren’t returning overseas.

I’ve known for about six months now, but I haven’t wanted to write it out loud. Honestly, there is a lot of shame connected to the loss of overseas ministry after ‘only’ four years. I am now seen as one of those who couldn’t hack the reality of cross-cultural life.

I wanted so badly to return overseas to Asia. To return to the place I believed God wanted me. After all, there are pieces of me that come alive in Asia that lay dormant in America, pieces of me that I love and respect. I love travel and languages and the constant exposure to change and new ideas, yet, when God threw the ball at me, I swung and missed and blamed myself. It must have been my fault. I must not be good enough. I must need to be fixed because God couldn’t possibly be intentionally removing me from cross-cultural ministry. Why in the world would He do that? Doesn’t He know that the workers are few?

God is never boring and He isn’t predictable. When He throws us off balance we have an opportunity to settle in, wait, and see what He has in store to teach us. Not because we have done wrong but because He has blessings to give, blessings of peace, joy, rest and healing. Because while we consider ourselves mature in faith, we are still woefully in need of God’s healing on our souls. God’s curve balls remind us that He is still in pursuit of ourselves.

He wants us. He doesn’t want our work or our sacrifice, He wants us.  

Above all else, as our creator, He knows what we need. He knows how to show us love in a way that we can receive. He knows how to push us into risk so that we can grow. He knows when we are losing ourselves, dying on the inside and He hates it. He longs to see us made whole because He knows who He created us to be and He knows the pain we will incur when we act in opposition of who we are.

God is never boring and in this season I am learning to lean on a God who is foremost about healing and not converting. I’ve spent a lot of time believing that cross-cultural ministry is the pinnacle of faith. That selling all, moving overseas to the least reached corners of the world was the best God had for me. Yet, as I sit here today, in sunny California, I am reminded of what Paul said. He said he counts all of his accomplishments as rubbish in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ. All the learning in the world and all the doing and all of the letters he wrote to churches were irrelevant once he had tasted and seen God.

I’ve learned that my motivations aren’t pure and I’ve learned that I seek accomplishment over Christ. I can give it a nice ring, though, and claim that I am seeking after holiness or righteousness or that I am trying to serve God but really I am just trying to matter.

Today I am more broken than when I left for Southeast Asia but I am also more whole because God’s curveball has proven to orient me in a new direction. I’ve fought it, I’ve pitched fits, I’ve been confused, but in the end, I’m learning about God in a new way and I like this new God of mine. My Advocate. My Protector. My Healer. This God didn’t create me to use me but created me to partake in the beauty of a triune relationship embraced in love. 

What is God showing you about himself? How are you experiencing him in a new way in your current season?

Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

29 Comments

  1. Amy Young October 1, 2019

    JOY. I am standing here waving my arms so that you will turn and look me in the eyes. This shame you feel? You know, but I’m going to say it, IS NOT FROM GOD. This idea that you have “failed” after four years? I think our idea of “failure” and “success” are so different than God’s. So different. That you feel sad and disappointed? I get. Parts of me lie dormant in my passport country too. I do not understand why God has made folks like us to not be all alive in one place in the world. Maybe to point us to heaven, where we will be completely and wonderfully integrated.

    I’m sorry that you won’t be returning overseas for your sake. But Joy, here this — God is not boring and you, beloved image bearer and not boring either!

    And I love you. I love your writing. I love knowing you are in this space.

    P.S. The Global Trellis workshop about “recalculating to change” might be a kind companion in this season. HUGS!!!

    1. Amy Young1 October 1, 2019

      here and hear :)!! Heheh!

    2. Joy Smalley October 2, 2019

      Thank you, Amy! The idea of being fully integrated is a beautiful one and just knowing it will happen one day is delightful. It was a surprise for me to see that I had been believing a lie that I thought was the truth. I love that God is so persistent and never gives up his pursuit.

      1. Amy Young October 2, 2019

        Amen :). He never does. And even in these conversations with each other, he keeps pursuing us. I’ve been thinking about shame, which I do not think I have ever experienced — so I’m trying to nuance the distinction between shame, embarrassment, disappointment, hurt, and guilt. I have most definitely experienced embarrassment and when I left the field it was guilt I experienced. Guilt that I was leaving so much work for others. But today as I have been thinking about your post and these comments, God has reminded me that guilt is also not from him either :).

        1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

          It is crazy to me that there is no shame or guilt in God. It’s an amazing truth. It’s a beautiful truth. God is more rad than I knew.

  2. Michele October 2, 2019

    What Amy said. Including that I love your writing.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I found myself feeling guilty about leaving my family to return to the field this week. So whichever way we go the accuser will track us down, I guess. I love that we can remind each other of truth in this community!

    1. Joy Smalley October 2, 2019

      Thank you, Michele. The guilt/shame is so insidious, isn’t it, and the accusations steal any joy or peace there could have been. It isn’t easy to shake.

  3. Anna Smit October 2, 2019

    Amen: “I’ve fought it, I’ve pitched fits, I’ve been confused, but in the end, I’m learning about God in a new way and I like this new God of mine. My Advocate. My Protector. My Healer. This God didn’t create me to use me but created me to partake in the beauty of a triune relationship embraced in love.” I like this new God of mine too. Idols are breaking and giving way to the Living Breathing God. Thank you for being so open: it’s a blessing to know I am not alone in my experiences. Your words have truly blessed me.

    1. Joy Smalley October 2, 2019

      Hi Anna! I’m also glad to know that I am not alone in my experiences and in what God is showing me. Isn’t our new God so much better than the old one?! There is a ton less self-rejection in the arms of this loving God of ours. Blessings.

  4. Briana October 2, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing, Joy!!! I too am leaving the field after “only” 5 years and, wow, the pain and shame and grief is intense! But so is the reconstructing of my view of God. I resonate deeply with what you wrote and wanted to thank you for the courage you had in writing it and the courage you have to dig deep into the dark places and let God bring light and healing.

    1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

      Thank you, Briana! The grief is so intense, isn’t it? I’m praying for you right now as we both deal with loss and shame and a renewed understanding of our God. A God who is so much better than what I thought or expected. Blessings.

  5. Ellie October 3, 2019

    I resonate with this post too, Joy. I often think about something a friend said when we were overseas, that initially she thought God brought her overseas to reach other people but after a while she realised that he brought her there to work on her! And I think the same applies when we return to a passport country. While this new understanding might feel self-centred in some ways feeling that we went to help/reach others is actually more self-centred and in disguise, and the understanding of our weakness and our God wanting to work on and with us and never abandoning us is a greater revelation. I’m hoping and feeling we will be more naturally salt and light by that awareness, and I hope it spreads gentle honest compassion for others. (But also, in my weakness, sometimes it’s tiring, all this learning and *nuances*, and I wish for the black and white, wish I wasn’t “changed” and I struggle with wishing I fitted in with my ‘home’ church’s views! – Which is also a form of pride and needs to be worked through?! Gah!… 😉 )

    1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

      Hi Ellie, I resonate with what you have shared here. Thank you for sharing! I am finding that self-acceptance is a whole lot harder than being good and I agree that while we think God wants us to work, he is really wanting us to be loved and to love.

  6. sarah October 3, 2019

    Joy- you have always been one to put to paper what I’m wrestling with internally. Thank you….I am still wrestling with so much of this and dealing with the way we had to exit our country. I know I have connected with you before online, but thanks for THIS. Praying WITH you as we navigate it all.

    1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

      Thank you, Sarah! I am praying for you right now as you wrestle with loss and grief. It is a hard road we are on, you and I.

  7. David Lewis October 3, 2019

    I wept as I read your words, Joy. You have voiced what so many of us have felt after leaving the field. We “only” made it or 8 years, and still came back feeling like failures. Bless you for responding to the Spirit’s prompting in writing this! I am spreading this one around; I know many who will benefit as I have from your healing words.

    1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

      Thank you, David! It is so hard to shake this feeling of failure and loss of dreams. I am praying for you as you walk through healing.

  8. Abigail October 4, 2019

    This is SO good! It’s still sad to me how this idea of going to the least reached or hardest places is so put on a pedestal. Every sphere any of us finds ourself in is sacred, and has ways we can bring gospel transformation in it. <3 Hugs and prayers in this time that I can only imagine the challenges of.

    1. Joy Smalley October 4, 2019

      Thanks Abigail. I completely agree that every sphere is sacred even while those that go to the least reached are placed on pedestals. Comparison is a dangerous game that I didn’t know I was playing. Blessings to you, Abigail.

  9. Darcie Inkpen October 4, 2019

    What you wrote, all of it, this is my story. Leaving Asia after 6.5 years. We’ve been back in our passport country for 7 months now. I think, deep down, when we were told to return “home” last Nov, we knew it would be for longer than a year. In May, we decided it would be until July 2020, an extra 6 months. And at the end of Aug we spoke it out loud that we will be staying indefinitely. We are staying for our children. Long story, but they need the supports here.
    We will go to our “other home” in 6 weeks to pack up everything we left there last year. We still feel called to be overseas ministry, but it has been put on hold. Through all of it, we know this direction is from God and we are at peace about it.

    I hope the image shows up here. My friend sent it to me when I was having a rough time processing this (still a lot of grieving, even if we are at peace with it). It says “sometimes you have to make a decision that will break your heart, but heal your soul”,

    1. Joy Smalley October 5, 2019

      I love that quote, Darcie, it’s a beautiful image that conveys the truth of many decisions we make in life. As an MK myself, I admire you for staying stateside so that your kids can receive the support that they need. It is a Godly sacrifice and a powerful representation of Christ’s love. Blessings to you as you grieve.

  10. Maria October 4, 2019

    Joy – I read this post the other day while I was walking down the street – not a good idea, but I did it. And you stopped me dead in my tracks. Your words, your honest confession, it touched something deep within me – I, too, am looking at leaving – of coming to grips that I’m a “one-termer” – and the swirls of emotions and everything that comes with that – thank you for putting words on it – thank you for reminding me that HE is the promise, that it’s all to be counted rubbish compared to knowing Him!
    Virtual hugs sent your way –

    1. Joy Smalley October 5, 2019

      Thank you, Maria! Virtual hugs back at you. I’m praying for you now as you discern where God is leading you and as you wade through and feel the emotions of grief and peace, shame and confidence, despair and hope. Blessings to you.

  11. Kimberly October 6, 2019

    Oh, Joy! I sobbed as I read your words and the comments from others that follow them. I’ve been praying about whether I should stay in the field or go back to the states for weeks now, well, really for about a year and I’m in the process of talking with trusted counselors about it. It’s a scary decision in so many ways! When I arrived in my current country, I felt like I would be here long term, but now I’m feeling like I’m supposed to go back to the states, but I’m not ready to really admit it yet! Thank you for sharing your struggle, for naming emotions I haven’t wanted to deal with. Thank you for reminding me that I can still trust God in the process and that He loves me and desires the best for me!

    1. Joy Smalley October 8, 2019

      Oh, Kimberly, I am praying for you right now. I’m praying for wisdom and peace with the decision that you make. No matter what you choose I know that you will meet God in a way that will surprise you.

  12. MG October 6, 2019

    Yes to what you said, and what the others above said! I think the big rub is that saying goodbye to abroad means saying hello to something in the States…. and, at least for us, that’s not been a smooth transition. It’s been moment by moment looking at our bank account and our tiny amount of world possessions and saying, “God, we sold off everything to follow you…. and now we are desperately in need of everything, with no way to provide.” Lamenting this, He gently whispered, “How else will I teach you to truly pray to me?” He is God our Provider. The other rub is that the next “hello” might be someplace and some work that I wish to have no part of. And I must guard my heart when it goes the “I don’t want to!” direction, because honestly (whatever our assignment) it doesn’t compare to Christ’s loss of heaven to inhabit Earth, loss of the Father when He turned His face away, the pain and suffering of the cross itself, and the bitter taste of death. I am reminded to (when the FAIL rears up) that we didn’t go abroad to be successful, we went abroad to be faithful. So there was no option to fail, just missed opportunities for faithfulness if I didn’t grab them. Hugs to you girl. Thank you for your thoughts. Walking in it with you.

    1. Joy Smalley October 8, 2019

      Oh my gosh, yes, MG. On Sunday our church spoke on generosity and I was feeling so sorry for myself. At this point, I’d have to give the clothes off my back because that’s all I have left. I relate, praying that you see God provide something beautiful this week.

  13. Sarah M. October 7, 2019

    Thank you for putting into words what I have struggled with for 1.5 years. I left Asia in Feb 2018 after 18 years there. What you wrote is very much what the journey has been for me these many months. Thank you again.

    1. Joy Smalley October 8, 2019

      Thank you, Sarah. I’m praying for you as you continue to process the loss of home. Blessings

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