It’s the hundredth cup of tea in the hundredth kitchen with the hundredth new friend who wants to know all about me. I press my hands hard into the ceramic mug and feel the heat radiate to my arms. I mentally scan my life’s timeline for where to start.
Do I start with my shot full of lost childhood? Do I tell her how I met my husband wearing hiking boots and a 50 lb backpack? Do I share my passion for women’s ministry and writing? Do I dare speak about how my babies have split me down the middle and healed so much simultaneously? Do I crack the window on our life overseas, third world life, and the way we came home slightly cracked ourselves.
I take a deep breath and I dive in.
I crave authenticity, but I have found myself growing weary in recent years of the work it takes to be real.
True heart connection in community is beautiful. Walking in lock step with another believer who just gets it fills our souls full. Don’t be fooled for a second though because it is hard work.
Our lives overseas can feel like rotating doors of people. Some are there for longer than others, but all perched somewhere in close proximity to leaving. It’s the nature of the job. You might get a few years with people tops.
We have to swing our doors open for new teammates and neighbors, but our hearts? It’s easy to batten up the windows and keep them that way because the work of being open is all a bit much on top of the heap of other things we have on our plate.
I can’t help but wonder if Jesus wearied in this same way? Scripture tells us in John 11 that Jesus wasn’t known, not truly, by even his own people.
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 11:11-13 (ESV)
Jesus spent 33 years on earth and 3 years in close communion with his disciples yet they never really understood him. He spoke, they listened, but they didn’t perceive and it all had to be a bit wearing on the God-man.
Yet you never see him shrink back from engagement. He knows they won’t understand but he shares about himself anyway. Even when denial and betrayal are on the horizon he engages and goes one step beyond to wash feet and break bread. That is ultimate vulnerability.
If you were to sit down and write out the reasons you are living overseas it would probably be filled with things you do. The list might look something like this: teach, help, train, and build relationships. There is no harder thing on the list of tasks that an effective overseas worker does than build relationships. Relationships are a two way street and it requires a vulnerability that none of the other tasks on that list require of us.
It’s also far and above the rest the most important. If there is one work you wear yourself thin for let it be people. Let it be engaging even when your edges are ragged and you are dry to the bone from living the authentic life. Because let’s be honest, this is when it gets real. It gets real when you no longer want to be real. It gets authentic when you have to fight for joy and love when you want to retreat.
For some of us we hopped a plane to the foreign field with the best of intentions, but reality kind of smacked us in the face and we’re still feeling the sting. We don’t want to open up to one more team member who isn’t going to be on board with the vision. We don’t want to teach one more class or hold one more service where fruit seems nonexistent. We don’t want to write one more letter home to supporters who don’t understand what we’re doing.
But maybe that is what we’re called to do. We don’t get to decide how it looks. We just get to show up and keep showing up and living with our rough edges for the world to see.
I will stop here to remind us that even Christ had a few disciples that were his inner-inner circle. It’s unreasonable to think that we will be as close to everyone, but what you’ll never get away from with Christ’s approach to relationship is his desire to know people and be known by them.
The woman at the well comes along and he tells her everything she’s ever done. He also tells her everything that he is. We love because he first loved. We unhinge the nails and open the doors wide because he did it first again and again and again.
My prayer for you today is that you will dare to crack the door open for one more person to see Jesus alive and working in your life. Grab the mug, fold cold hands around it’s warmth and tell someone your story.
How are you doing with being real? Ready to dive in? Or tired? Wherever you are, it’s okay.