When the Honeymoon Ends

So far my entries here have been something like I imagine newlyweds to be during their first week of marriage: overwhelming joyful, full of excitement at the newness of it all and maybe even slightly obnoxious in their naivety. It’s only natural and it’s an enjoyable way to begin a lifelong commitment to someone…before you realize they have bad breath in the morning, and that they’ll watch you put on your makeup and burn your toast sometimes and hurt your feelings on occasion, and that you might throw dishes at them on a bad day (or whatever). Things get real, really fast, especially when you’re constantly in someone’s presence and are unable to run away (my normal response) and hide from the issue at hand.

I originally wrote out a very long and very dramatic post detailing all my inadequacies, failures, biases, bad attitudes, hang ups, etc. to fully convince you all that I’m not always the cheery Pollyanna-esque girl I appear to be on social media. It became a bit more of a pity party and more self-indulgent than I meant it to, and so beginning again I’ll be more concise when I try to explain myself. I look at my instagrams, photos, status updates that are just small flickers of light into what my life currently is, but it’s enough to receive kind words, encouragements, compliments or even occasionally a good-natured “I’m so jealous of your life!” comment. My desire to be fully known, with all my mistakes and issues laid bare, before I accept kind words is crippling sometimes and makes me the queen of TMI, as most of you have come to know. So I’ll refrain from going overboard and just say this as directly as I can.

I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a missionary. I don’t deserve to have people financially supporting me. I don’t deserve all the opportunities that I’ve been so, so graciously given. Everyone can only see my 160 character twitter updates and it must be easy to think about how great it must be to have my life, exploring and experiencing all these new, fun things. I cringe when I think of all they don’t know. This has been one of the hardest years of my life, and mostly because I’ve made selfish choices. I’ve taken advantage of people who wanted to care for me while holding them at arms length and not allowing them to fully know me because I don’t like who I am.

No one got to see me in all my glory this summer, running around doing what I felt like, when I felt like it; I have a few relationships I severed and I’m left with a sick feeling in my stomach because I know I was selfish, and I know I hurt people who never offered me anything but their best. I was the jerk I used to be so quick to denounce…all I have is ‘I’m so so sorry’ and it never feels like enough. My guilt and shame is crippling. No one got to see me hyperventilating my first day in my host home, crying to my mom on skype, regretting my decision to come here. No one got to see my hipbones jutting out the first week because I could barely gag down food or see me up late at night because my heartbeat was irregular and I couldn’t breathe (just a few side effects of the self-induced anxiety I’ve struggled with). No one gets to see me sitting during prayer being so exhausted I can’t even keep my eyes open. No one knows the doubts that creep into my mind, even ones I should have long ago gotten over, like “Is God even real? What the heck am I doing with my life here?”

I am the least deserving to be here and yet, here I am.

Part of our curriculum this week has been numerous intensive inner healing classes that forced me to look at myself, and it’s been rough. It’s a really embarrassing and humbling experience to realize that my entire existence has been blindly grasping at verbal validation from any and every source for the past few years, even during my time at Southeastern. Finding it all ultimately unfulfilling only made me reach further, grab quicker, pick up and put down relationships, activities, commitments…

Essentially, this is my posture in life now: I find myself sitting on my knees before God Almighty, covering my face in shame, tears running down my cheeks as He says, “Let me fight for you. Let me love you. Let me believe in you still.” I shake my head back and forth, my mind on fire with thoughts and accusations and the loudest of them says:

“You have nothing to give. Nothing to give means unworthy to receive.”

But this is my position. It’s always been my position, whether I do much or do little, whether I choose God or choose me. He has never wavered in His stance towards me. Not for a millisecond. I can’t handle that. I don’t understand it. “Why me? Why would you want me? Can’t you see me? Don’t you know me?”

Jeremiah 3 talks about God’s stance towards backslidden Israel. Right from the get-go in verse 1 He calls things as they are. He doesn’t make any effort to hide the reality of Israel’s unworthiness or indicate He doesn’t realize what’s happened. Take heart though, there’s the glorious “yet”, which is one of my favorite things about God. If a YET from God Almighty doesn’t excite us, we’ll never get excited about anything again.

You’ve played the harlot with many lovers; YET return again to me,” says the Lord.
v.7) And I said AFTER she had done all these things, “Turn unto me.”
(v.22) “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.”

I think sometimes we think–or maybe this is just me–that God loves because He can’t actually see what we’ve done. We use the blood of Jesus like we think it’s an optical illusion that tricks God into somehow not seeing us as we fully are, sin and all. “Oh, it’s under the blood,” we say, “He can’t see it.”

When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,
creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God—
    “and yes, I will heal them.”
– Isaiah 57:20 – 21

I assure you, He can see you. Before, during and after all your less than shining moments, in all your best kept secrets. And miracles of miracles, He doesn’t look away, but steadily, kindly looks into our eyes and impossibly says, “I will heal you ANYWAY. I will satisfy you with my Presence”. I can’t possibly hope to understand this enough to feel comfortable accepting it, so I must learn to just accept it for what it is. I have nothing to say for myself. I have nothing to give. I have no accolades that make me worthy. There is nothing left for me to do but take this grace that is too wonderful for me to comprehend or condense into five steps; this is the joy of our salvation. This is the gospel that I’m supposed to be laboring to bring to the nations, to Tanzania. That God, in all His awareness and personal knowledge of exactly who I was and who I could be, looked at me and said, “I want her. She’s valuable to me. I cherish her. She’s small and frail and fallen and weak, but this is my glory: choosing the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the earthen pots with humble beginnings and endings, so that all men will look, know there is nothing to them when they stand alone and that all the world would see who I am and come back to Me.

Don’t think I haven’t been bombarded by my own thoughts day in and day out. I know all my failings and hypocrisies all too well and they nearly devour me with guilt and shame if I let them. I know myself. God knows me. Now that I’m fully known, I can take what I know I don’t deserve.

This may seem incredibly basic of me to post, but this is the paradox of our lives as Christians. We are unworthy children made worthy, through no means of our own. We are the fully known, and still deeply cherished. We are ordinary and small, but have fellowship with an extraordinary God who is bigger than life. We are nothing, but have everything simply because of the Presence of God. It is no sacrifice to spend my life on my Redeemer. What else is there for me?

44 days until Tanzania.


5 thoughts on “When the Honeymoon Ends

  1. Warning: Long.

    It’s a funny thing. I’ve been struggling with this for months. The abuse of my parents and upbringing, my own lack of self-esteem, failed relationships with others, mistakes I’ve made, my skepticism and cynicism… all of things have served as constant reminders that I am not perfect. This past year since leaving Lakeland after Leasha graduated from SEU has been a time of rude awakening. I’m out here in Louisville without family, friends (everybody has run off to Nashville, Orlando, & New York), still working at Starbucks, but, across the street from an opulent megachurch called Southeast Christian that has two squash courts and a smoothie bar… Hillsong came out last winter and played a show there. It’s been an environment, that despite my exposure to numerous cultures, different cities, and my education, has been very, very, very trying for me.

    It’s been my desert.

    I rail against the hypocrisy of, “If you’re so Christian, how can you sit here and speak down to my partners, order your five dollar sandwich, three dollar latte, not leave a tip, talk about Love, and then condemn me and others you don’t understand? How can you treat me like we work at McDonald’s?” I railed against them because I’m such a self-righteous, do-gooder, egalitarian, humanitarian, universalist that is holier-than-thou, so, of course, my frustration could only be one of love for an errant child or an annoying sibling, yeah?

    I just want to /save/ them, right?

    But, what have I done? Written articles on fair play and sharing is caring? Gave out food to the poor once? Emptied my pockets of the change I had left over from a $3 iced coffee to a homeless man who hadn’t eaten $3 worth of food in 3 days? I talk about living simply and wanting to change the world and then I drop 12 bucks on sushi when I have a fridge full of socially-conscious food at home. I spend more on food a month than the average Sudanese spends a year and yet, the last time I donated something was 5 dollars to Wikipedia over a year ago. Noble, maybe, but, definitely not changing the world.

    I talk about doing missions, saving Detroit, teaching the Eritrean and Somali refugees English, joining the Peace Corp., studying development economics, saving the world, but, I haven’t volunteered a single hour. I don’t go to church and yet, I just re-read Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” for the second time.

    I have all of these ideas all of the time, but, never follow through. I am afraid.
    I’m so open-minded, yet, I’m weighed down by prejudices towards those I label as ignorant.

    So, I’m not perfect. It’s been an awakening. My pride has finally given out and like it, my knees as well. For the first time in my life I think I’m finally asked for help… and I think it’s happening. I haven’t had any experiences like people talk about where I felt “the spirit inside me,” etc… but, I did feel a peace… and it’s a peace I hope will guide me out of the desert and into the fields so that I may sow the ground with the seeds of love.

    Yay for cheesy metaphors. Haha….

    So, with that awakening…

    Has come the realization that I have it pretty darn good. I’m married to a beautiful and intelligent woman who is considerate, patient, and loving. I’m intelligent, talented, and not too ugly (:P). We have a lovely apartment in the trendy part of town and two good jobs with full-benefits and stock options. Are we building skyscrapers and teaching at University? No, but, for now we are doing well. We have a fridge well-stocked with food. We have internet and a computer. We have a flat-screen TV and a tabby cat. We’re okay. We’re darn good. We’re doing great by American standards. By global standards, we’re filthy rich.

    So why me? Why do I have any of that? Why does some spoiled, broken, punk kid deserve such luck? I don’t. I don’t even have the courage to give of myself what I know I should. I get embarrassed to say I love Christ in public. Why do I deserve to have a cell phone and a subscription to the New Yorker?

    When I read about all the children that die of starvation, disease, water-borne illness, etc… I don’t understand why I have what I do.

    That’s where I’m at. You’re not totally alone in it all. Your post helped. Thank you for that Madame Elwell. Good luck in the field.

    May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind always be at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

  2. Stephanie
    My sweet Sister, perhaps your recent confusion is between feelings and your measure of faith. HIS joy is our strength, not vice-versa. The promises are Heavenly Father’s to us in Jesus Christ. You have begun your journey. HE has promised to order your steps, the understanding is HIS to give to you. HIS gifts in the Spirit to you are GIFTS. Employed or squandered-they are without repentance (HE won’t take them back),

    And perhaps because you have been blessed w/believing parents living and loving life for HIM- radically different cultures and beliefs have shaken your focus. ALL those foibles, weaknesses and fears may again be laid down and covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Our adversary cannot use them unless you voice them into renewed existence. We are gospel speakers, we say what HE says about us. There is no armor for our backs. No weapon formed against us shall proper.

    I know what it “feels like” to be looking up @a worm. Reach up to Him and rise. Easy no, simple Yes. You are becoming wise, little Sister. When we walk it out then we see. Like night driving- only as we drive into that stretch of road lit by headlights do we see the next bit of the road. And so is becoming wise–why Jesus leads, HolySpirit goes along side and Father-God’s desire for HIS family is fulfilled via Our Savior-Redeemer. Need to vent? Set the timer for three minutes or less. Tears are good-to clear our vision. Better yet if you “fall” literally or into feelings, saying aloud, ‘Praise God! thank you Jesus’ will leave your cup up to receive ALL the blessing in the storehouse just for you.

    Recommend fav read: The Power of The Blood of JESUS by Andrew Murray.

  3. Stephanie, I don’t know you at all. I was brought here through Tori and I had no idea what I would find. My goodness, your heart is amazing. The kinds of things that you are sharing are so honest and probably the same things dozens of new missionaries go through their first time on the field. But how you are facing it and the power of God in you is coming out clearly! Maybe I can have the privilege of meeting you when I go to over. Blessings! Our prayers are for you!

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