Remember This When You’re Tired of Being Real

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.

Photo Credit: Sarah Elizabeth Altendorf via Compfight cc

10 Comments

  1. Jodie October 11, 2015

    “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.” Yes! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the courage it takes to keep on being vulnerable. When all the cracks are showing.

  2. Brittaney October 12, 2015

    I loved this.

    Currently, I am on furlough in the States and am gearing up for talking one-on-one with lots of people in the next couple of weeks and months! I have debated about how “real” or “authentic” I should be.

    What and how much do I share? I will be relying on the Holy Spirit for exactly what I should share and with whom.

    I am hoping that in my authenticity and vulnerability, people will see Christ.

    1. Elizabeth October 12, 2015

      “Relying on the Holy Spirit for exactly what I should share and with whom.” Such a great idea, and such a great way to phrase it. Currently experiencing the same situation and it is hard.

  3. Tammy October 12, 2015

    I’m so thankful for the authentic overseas worker community I am a part of. Its easy to take it for granted. However, its when we in the States for a furlough that I realize it doesn’t always exist in America. What is it about overseas workers that dive right into the heart of life? Is it because we know there might not be time to take it slow? I think I’ve at time scared people back “home” with my deep questions. But even on furlough I know my time is short. So I would say that, for me, being authentic and real is much harder when stateside. And maybe, just maybe it is because other overseas workers KNOW we’re all not super spiritual and can cry when the power goes off…again. But people back “home” think we’re beyond that. Hmmm, something to ponder!

    1. Grace L October 12, 2015

      We were in the states for 3 months last summer and I kept looking for the person that I could be really honest and authentic with. I would share a bit her and there, but I don’t think I ever really opened up fully to anyone. Over here, the main person I can share everything (almost) with is my husband. I share with a couple of local sisters that I meet with and we take comfort in being real with one another (mainly in our weakness). We don’t have other expats living near us, so I am very grateful for having a husband that I can really be myself with. All this is to say, it is a lot harder to be fully authentic when back in the states on furlough, even though we really enjoy the love that is lavished on us.

  4. Devi October 12, 2015

    I think this is one of the hardest balances to strike when you are a foreigner overseas. I was an MK, but in the past five years, I’ve been an expat wife and mom to my businessman hubby and kids. I started in Switzerland and lived with an open home, got to know lots of people, stayed open, etc. but then I discovered that I was burning out, and had almost no one who was my friend, meaning someone to laugh with and someone to have the deeper, connections. It was soul-killing to keep connecting with lots of people when I had almost no one who was also pouring into my life. When we moved to Sweden two years ago, I made a decision to draw some boundaries around my heart, I waited to find people I connected with and could trust, and those were the ones I really let into my life. I still stayed open when I had the opportunity, but I think in that season, I also recognized I had a lot less to give and I needed to be with people I could trust more than anything else.. it was a healing, empowering experience, so let’s see what the next stage holds in this department (we are moving back to my sort-of-home base).

  5. Felicity Congdon October 13, 2015

    This was a wonderful encouragement to me and beautifully written, thank you for sharing truth with us Jessica!

  6. Anna October 13, 2015

    This can be hard for me, partly because I’m an introvert.  I love people, but lots of interacting wears me out.  Sometimes it’s not even that I don’t want to be open, but it’s exhausting.  And then there are the times where everything feels like “a long story.”  How much to go into?  Maybe you could put me in the tired camp. 🙂  I like the quote on the picture- we just keep showing up.  That’s what we need to do.

    1. Grace L October 13, 2015

      Hey, Anna. You are not alone. I too am an introvert, and I find it best to discern who to open up to and when. I am much more satisfied to open up well with a few people that God puts into my life here on the field, than to try to spread myself too thin. If I try to interact with too many people, I get exhausted and then need to get some good quality alone time to recharge. Yes, keep on showing up but be looking for the few that God wants you to pour your life into. For me, when I do this, I get energized.

       

    2. Elizabeth October 14, 2015

      I feel ya on the introvert piece, Anna! Just like you said, it’s not that I don’t want to be open, it’s just that it’s exhausting. The story is long and hard and complex, and sometimes I want to be with people I don’t have to explain myself to. But even on home assignment those people are dwindling, as our home church goes through transitions. My husband was there since he was 3, buried a baby sister at 7, welcomed a Downs baby sister at 12, buried his mom at 17, preached and led worship since he was 12, fell in love with me at 15 and married me there at 19, worked there 8 years, buried his dad during that time, we had 4 babies, lived next door, he led the youth and worship ministry every Sunday all that time, etc etc, and then we were sent out.

      Now, there are people there who’ve never heard of us, and he wants to tell people, “You see that playground out back? That was dedicated to my mom.” And my parents were at that church nearly 20 years too, teaching Bible class every Sunday and Wednesday, serving as both elder and deacon in different seasons. My mom was a Bible teaching legend. It was the church I met God at, healed from the legalism of my past, learned I could experience God in my life. We had so much history there. Now it’s changed and it’s not just us that’s changed. And it’s no longer that home base that knows my story, his story, our story. Those people have left it, and it feels weird and unexpected. Really mourning that lately.

      So yeah, I totally get your “tired” and not wanting to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start 😉 ) Because of all this, I’m more thankful than ever that my husband just “gets” me and I don’t have to explain myself to him.

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