Monday, April 2, 2012

A Wise Sponge

“For the first year or so, I just want to be a sponge.  I want to absorb, taking it all in.”  Arriving in the DR at the end of September 2011, this was what I told the SI director, ministry supervisor and Daisy.

At MTI (mission training) and in the Perspectives course, I’d learned that a big mistake for cross-cultural missionaries is coming in with our own cultural bias and immediately beginning to evaluate (the ‘nice’ word for judging). 
In my career, I often went into situations that needed some ‘tweaks’.  I’m accustomed to making quick assessments and then identifying areas for improvement.  In my personal life, too, I tend to be a ‘fixer’. 

So, I wanted to begin my ministry with Students International with the attitude of a learner.  Spending time learning more about the rhythm of our Site, the different groups and personalities, understanding why we do what we do.  All of this before adding my own opinions, ideas, changes. 

Flash forward six months:
Shortly after arriving (actually, one week after) we had two one-week outreaches back-to-back.  Then our semester students, Site Christmas parties, Wedding reception, Christmas break, a trip to SI-California, a two-week team, February in El Callejon alone, a documentary team, and we’ve just finished a month of teams… 

While I still tried to do a lot of soaking in, I also had to plan Bible lessons, activities – and even crafts!  And then schedules for outreaches, translating, answering questions, sharing stories.
The best laid plans, right?!

It’s humbling (and, very honestly, a bit embarrassing) to think back to those first days, those first declarations.  Because, even in my apparent willingness to be a sponge, I wanted to do it on my terms, in my way.  I was trying to dictate with precision the methods by, and timing in which God was going to use me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s important to come into new situations open to learning what’s currently happening.  I still think it’s important to be aware of my own tendency to analyze and fix stuff. 

But, I’m also realizing that I need to hold even my ‘good and noble’ intentions loosely.  God works in His way, which is often not ‘my’ way.  That includes those areas where I think I’m being wise!  Oh, how much do I still need to learn! 
We’re studying James at La Vid (my church).  We’ve talked about considering trials ‘pure joy’.  Can I just confess that my first response to some of the past six months has been very, very far from joy, and pure joy at that? 

How many times over the past six months have I cried out, often whining about how nothing was going right?  Indulging in a ‘sanctified pity party’, feeling rather ‘righteous’ in the often-frustrating work.  But, I spent lots of time on these plans, they are neat and pretty and very missionary-like!  I tend not to consider the trials and obstacles as joy.
Yesterday, our pastor talked with us about what James 1 says we’re to be asking God for in the midst of them.  A way out?  An easy answer?  Nope. 
James tells us that in the midst of the tough stuff, we are to ask God for His wisdom.  I confess I haven’t often taken time to pray for this.  To pray for the wisdom that allows me to see His hand at work, not in spite of the hard stuff, but right there, in the middle of those very obstacles and trials.
Just six months in, I’ve already seen how leaning on my own understanding is just plain foolishness.  Exhibit A:  My plan to be a sponge.  If I couldn’t get even that right, surely I need the wisdom of the One who spun out not just the past six months, but the very universe itself! 
So, this morning I started my day praying for God’s wisdom.  Oh, how I need it!  I praise God for how He has been at work over the past months and years.  I praise Him for reminding me of my need for Him.  
I praise Him for not finding fault (even though I deserve it!), but instead being willing to give, and give generously, of His wisdom (vs. 5).  He alone can work in and through this silly little sponge.  To Him be all glory!

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