Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Post-Africa Reflections

The Congo Team
One of the things that I most enjoy about life is how in each season I often find myself drastically different than I was just previously. Sometimes the change is hard and sometimes the change is obvious, but more often than not, I suddenly look up and find that somewhere along the way I changed and I am not even sure how. There was no big moment or life crisis (although I have had plenty of those too). There are just slight changes of course and interactions with people both pleasant and troubling. Sometimes there are decisions you make without much thought. It is just a culmination of everyday things, some barely discernible.

While God has certainly worked in my life in big ways, I find that He tends to work in the minutiae of my life, changing my heart a little bit each day. As I sit and write this nearly a week after I have returned from Africa, I ponder His work in my life. I went into the trip expecting for my life to just implode. I expected that I would have some crisis of conscience where I would need to choose between academics and mission work. In spite of my best attempts to not have expectations of the trip, I found that I had certain ideas of how it would affect my life.

I thought I would put my feet on African soil and fall in love immediately. That didn’t happen. I thought I would spend a fair amount of time crying. I cried only once. I thought my life would be changed. But it didn’t really feel like it had. I worried that I wasn’t connecting to people like I should. I was worried that I was protecting my heart. I was worried that I hadn’t had some type of crisis where I evaluated every aspect of my life.

I returned to the U.S. and began to process. People asked me what the highlight was and I couldn’t answer. I hadn’t thought about it enough yet. Experiences don’t mean much to me until I figure out how they fit into my world. I had to think. I had to process.

I still have no highlight of the trip to offer people. There were certainly funny moments and overwhelming moments. There were moments of sadness and ones of joy. But that is life isn’t it? At the end of the day, there was nothing that special about the trip. I simply entered, thanks to God’s planning, into the daily life of my African brothers and sisters. The bombs and fighting are nothing special to them, it is just their life.

I remained perplexed about my reaction to the trip, but I also knew that I just had to let myself process. And yesterday, I had this moment where I looked up and realized that I am vastly different than the person I was a month ago. I have absolutely no idea how it happened, but per usual, God has slowly molded my heart in the small ways. It was likely each conversation, each prayer, and each story that made a small alteration in my heart. Before I knew it, those small changes had made a big difference. For me, it wasn’t one big moment that impacted me; it was a million small ones.

I don’t even know how to explain in tangible ways how I am different, I just know that I am. I feel like I am more myself than I have ever been. I feel more centered, I feel bolder, I feel closer to Jesus.

There is still so much processing to be done. I spend a fair amount of time processing in my own daily life and evaluating this trip will likely continue for months to come. I don’t even pretend to know what God is up to and what this trip will mean for my future.

But for now, I remain content to continue on, thinking and processing, and allowing God to continue to break my heart for what breaks His.