Those Pesky Prepositions

I once read the book titled With by Skye Jethani. I had long heard my pastor quote Skye, and the book came highly recommended by a co-worker. I thought it sounded like something worth reading. And it was.

In With, Skye observes that often we try to live lives from God, under God, above God, or for God. He gives his reader a wide-angle lens of how each of these perspectives fall short and offers a new way, a way laced all throughout Scripture. We are invited to live life with God. It’s a powerful, beautiful shift.

An entire book built around prepositions? The grammar nerd in me was hooked at “go,” and I loved reading of how prepositions hold so much power that they can actually shape the most important thing about us: what we believe about God.

As an English teacher, I understand the grammatical power of the preposition. I have seen many many-a star student get tripped up by them. A word as small as of changes the noun that follows it from the star of the sentence (the subject) to a lowly object of a preposition. Small, but mighty, those pesky prepositions.

And small but mighty in our lives, too.

It seems as if the theme that With introduced me to a few years ago is now being fleshed out in my life off-the-page. I think the Lord wants to do two preposition shifts in my life, specifically as I settle into a new culture.

Shift number one: from to/from to through.

I am new to the field. I have yet to hit the one-year milestone here in my new home in South Thailand. I left my job of seven years as an English teacher at a small Christian school in rural America and headed off to pursue something I’ve always dreamed of: a place where campus ministry and English teaching and hospitality and international work (all things I love) collide. I love my new life. Although the rocky and rough are very evident, I often get glimpses of how well this new world fits with who God made me to be.

And yet, there’s this nagging thing: I miss my old life. I loved Christian education. I breathed it, watched its heartbeat become my own. It made me, formed me, changed me, grew me, and shook me. Sometimes I look in the rearview mirror and say “Why Lord?  Why did you lead me to it and then from it? That getting and then giving up? It hurts! Why?”

And then, I get hit with another thought. As my roots here deepen and my love for this new phase grows, I torture myself by thinking ahead to what this means. I will always be half-a-world away from something I love. If I ever return to Christian education in America, I will mourn what I leave behind here.  And yet, while I’m here, I will likely always miss my old life. I have created a monster.

And that brings it up all over again – why does God lead me to something and then from it?

Here’s what I’m starting to see: shift the preposition.

He leads me through it. Through seasons and through change. Through growth and through deserts. Through great joy and through deep sorrow. It’s not about the introductions and conclusions; it’s about the story line.

That shift is monumental for me. It helps me not lose so much sleep while second-guessing. It helps painful things not seem so misplaced. It assuages the ache of missing. It minimizes the act of coming and going and magnifies the process.

And it gives me great hope: no matter where I’m headed or what I’m leaving, He is leading me through that particular thing. Oh, that’s a lovely thought.

Shift number two: from on to with.

Wait is no one’s favorite word. It’s hard and it stinks most of the time. I arrived with flying expectations of what would greet me the first day on the field. Instead, when my feet hit the ground with great energy and fervor, I heard things like “We’re still waiting on the groundwork to be in place, and we’re waiting on God to show us in His perfect time.” I was again and again greeted with this four-letter word that I am not so fond of. Just wait, Maria. Wait.

Bleh. I don’t like to wait. I’m the girl who eats instant pudding before it’s set, even if it is so much better after as few as five minutes in the fridge. Simply put, I don’t wait very well. And suddenly, I felt like I had to wait on everything. It has neither been easy nor pretty. There are days when hot tears of frustration roll freely down my face.

One day I was out on a walk, podcast in my ears. The guest said something so, so, so applicable to my current waiting state. She advised her listeners to stop thinking about waiting on God, and begin to think of waiting with God. Because He is in this process. He is here, in the waiting.

I’m not waiting on God, I’m waiting with Him. 

It felt like I was being wrapped in a warm blanket of sunshine after a long winter.

What a beautiful shift. He isn’t the all-knowing benefactor who is holding the prize close to His chest, showing off his power by withholding, looking down saying “Just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait!” No, He’s beside me in this. Catching those hot tears of frustration in his bottle with my name on it that has to have filled a small sea somewhere over the course of my lifetime.

From to/from to through, from on to with.  Those pesky little prepositions sure are powerful.  And worth considering where they may need to be replaced.

What prepositions is God shifting in your life?

Photo by Jayakumar Ananthan on Unsplash

7 Comments

  1. Ruth August 21, 2018

    Wow, those prepositions do shift things in really helpful ways! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Heidi August 22, 2018

    Good thoughts Maria!

  3. Tina August 22, 2018

    Love this. It touches on what God is teaching me now as well. I’m learning that much of the internal angst and struggle I experience abroad is due to incorrect thinking about God and what he desires for me to be/do. This process of analysis and the reconstruction of thinking is vital for deeper intimacy with the Lord and freedom in this crazy life of ministry abroad. Thanks for your beautiful, thoughtful words.

    1. Maria Mullet August 22, 2018

      This is so true, Tina. And really sobering, too. A skewed view of God is really dangerous. Thankfully, He graciously gives us so many opportunities to know him more and to correct our perspective. Keep hanging on! Not only IS He with you, He WANTS to be with you. And that’s a beautiful thought.

  4. Phyllis August 23, 2018

    I have been savouring the book With lately, too. I love your take on this.

  5. David Lewis August 23, 2018

    Wow, Maria! I am thrilled that you have given such exposure to Jethani’s book. We use it all.the.time in debriefing global workers. And I love your reply to Tina: “Not only IS He with you, He WANTS to be with you.” Beautiful thought, indeed. This will be in my Casual Friday compendium for sure!

  6. Casual Friday Missionary Care Resources | Paracletos August 24, 2018

    […] Maria Mullet mulls over the four prevailing paradigms under which most missionaries conduct their ministries. (Is that enough alliteration?) This cross-cultural English teacher was recently captivated by a preposition. (That should pique your interest!) “I’m not waiting on God,” she says, “I’m waiting with Him.” Everyone you know of the mission field could learn something from this post. […]

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