After four years on the field, a change of agency, working through finances, a change of house and the process of finding a suitable church to serve alongside, we started serving with a traditional, mainline church which values the Catholic roots of this culture.
The priest had a heart of outreach and wanted to disciple and pastor people from where they’re coming from. Despite many of our reservations about working in such a formal liturgical church setting, both my husband and I were convicted by the Holy Spirit and found ourselves in tears in two services on separate occasions. (And this is not a church which could be considered by many to lend itself to that experience naturally!)
With it came a sense of relief and the feeling that we could start the “real work” God had brought us here to do. We started to get to know people and worked with the priest on plans.
However, things on the field are ever changing. At short notice the minister moved away for family reasons. And just over a year into working with the new minister, there was growing concern that there are considerable differences between us; that there may be no way to work it out. I had a long conversation with my personnel director in our sending organization who suggested it might be time for me to move on. And I realized he’s right.
The pain of taking a step back. Of saying I may not renew my agreement.
How do I “give up”? It’s like losing my arm. “What are you doing God?” We thought we were in the right place, in a church I would pour my blood out for. Yet the same church I could see us working with for a minimum of ten years has become an arid, painful place. There is no space for me to flourish and grow now, or to nurture others.
Despite it being the right decision, everything’s up in the air again. Life feels unstable, moving to and fro. And I don’t know who or where I am.
My husband will stay working with the church. It will be better if we’re not both in the same difficult circumstances that are wearing us down. The personnel department will help him to work out an agreement with flexibility to allow him to keep working in the community as well as in the church.
There is raw anger, sadness at what will not be, and a sense of deep loss.
It’s a concealed loss, not obvious to people around me. People I see day to day won’t understand, even if I explain. It’s harder to be “without community” and with-out (outside of) community.
As I encourage and pray with my five year old, who has seen the strain on us in the last few weeks and months and is having nightmares, I think, “It’s okay, God is still there. This hard road you’ve trodden has made you stronger. It’s transition; we’ve been here before.” And I hope it’s true.
I try to model talking about what we are experiencing and it being okay to be sad. I try to model talking it through with God, and not holding problems with church against Him. I try to accept my own sense of chaos and anxiety and lack of “sense of place” as normal things that go with transition.
A friend and mentor in the UK encourages me that if we can’t use our gifts in one way they come out in another. Maybe God will use this experience to re-direct me again in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For better. For His glory? I hope so. “But is that just wishful thinking?” I wonder. “What do you want of me God? Have you forgotten me, thrown me aside?” I feel left on the edge of the path.
The definition of sanity is “the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner”. Often battling anxiety, I’m not there quite yet, but I know somewhere deep inside me that God hears me and allows me to panic. He copes with my emotions, I can be real with him, and based on previous experience, I’ll come out the other side of this pain more whole, eventually, even if it takes much too long for my liking.
Where has your sanity taken a hit recently?