Losing My Life & Finding It
It was 3:20 am. The alarm clock blared and I jumped awake, already dressed for the day. I quietly and quickly got ready and looked over the house we were graciously allowed to stay in for the month of June. The church van arrived, and half awake children were carried outside to their car seats. We loaded up, prayed, and took off for the airport. I couldn’t believe we were actually doing it….we weren’t just talking about it like we had been for years…we were actually moving overseas to be His voice. I was a mixture of joy and sorrow and in awe that God was proving so very faithful in that moment. I can think back several years ago when I was pestering my husband to quit his job and be a missionary. He looked at me and said the famous last words: “We will NEVER be missionaries.” I remember the crushing disappointment of that moment, the confusion because I knew we were called to the field, and then the hopeful years of shutting my mouth and praying that God would still send us that followed. Pulling out of that driveway and heading for the airport was the very answer to literally years of praying. Years.
We arrived at the airport, endured the shocked stares of onlookers as we loaded 19 suitcases on a cart, checked in, and headed for the gate. Entertaining our children on the flights as well as changing terminals with 5 carry-on suitcases, 4 backpacks, 2 car seats, and our children proved difficult, but as always, He gave us the strength and grace to keep going. There was this hope and excitement that burned in my spirit. We were starting the adventure of a lifetime and I had no idea what to expect. We finally arrived in the country that we’ll be living in for the next several months for urban life training. We were met at the airport and our luggage was taken from us and sent to our apartment. We were given our first task – to find our way to our apartment using public transportation. We were a little overly confident I think….we’ve spent a significant amount of time traveling and in large cities. We were up to the challenge, so with very tired children, we set off on an adventure. I had these whimsical ideas of how wonderful and easy it would be to find our apartment, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were in the way on the train and the bus with our strollers and bags, and we were shocked at how different some things are from the United States. We couldn’t figure out how to swipe our card for the train, and we couldn’t find the elevator at the train station. As we were wheeling our daughter through the train doors, they closed on her seat (almost closing on her ankle) before we could get her all the way through, and THEY DID NOT OPEN BACK UP. In a freak-out moment as the train started to take off, we tugged and pulled, and eventually we got her inside the train. After the train, we took several buses and finally arrived at our apartment. After several attempts to get in the door, and a very helpful delivery man that taught us how to enter our code, we piled in the elevator and headed for the 6th floor. We were so tired and we were in shock at how different everything was (because we truly thought it would just be like back home!), but nothing compared to what we were about to find when we opened up the door to our apartment.
As we stepped over the threshold to our new home, we were met with heat. The city we are in is experiencing a record high heat wave and apartments here do not have air conditioning. We were hot, sweaty, and irritable. As we looked around our apartment, we were pleasantly surprised at the space we had been given, but quickly realized that we do not have a washing machine, a dryer, a garbage disposal, or a dishwasher. Each room has one small dresser with 4 drawers and that is not enough room to hold all that we brought! We were exhausted physically and emotionally, and we were in shock. I was both disgusted at the American in me who didn’t know how to live without the luxuries we were used to, and confused because I thought I had come to terms with not needing those things.
That’s when it happened. That’s when my husband and I looked at each other and in a very transparent and human moment asked “what have we done?” We had all the money we could ever need and a great job and our kids didn’t have to be hot all the time and I could wash clothes whenever I wanted. As tears fell and anxiety skyrocketed, our decision was questioned and our God-fixed gaze wandered, the Lord spoke so clearly to me….
“Don’t gain the whole world and lose your soul”
As we continued talking about how hot we were and about other challenges the day had held, that same phrase was literally on repeat in my mind. We had the whole world at our fingertips back in the United States, but what would have happened if we had decided to pack back up and go back? Disobedience is not an option. Following Jesus and living the life that He has called us to is our focus and so with sweat rolling down my face and still overwhelmed at the shock that this is our new “home,” I followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and looked up the scripture-inspired challenge the Lord had placed heavily on my heart.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” ~Matthew 16:24-27
I smiled as I read the scripture and I felt strength to joyfully continue on in this calling He had ordained before I was born. This is Jesus talking to His disciples, and in that moment, I remembered that I too am a disciple of Christ. He is encouraging me and challenging me with the same words He spoke to the men He closely discipled many years ago. Just like those men personally knew Jesus, so do I. I remembered that I have been crucified with Christ and that it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me. I am crucifying my need for things such as an air conditioner, and I am living fully in Christ who is all sufficient in every situation. I am dying with Him and living with Him and this is all because of faith. He has called us to a lost and dying world so that some may be saved and rescued from the grip of hell into life everlasting. It’s worth it. It’s hard at times, but it is worth it.
With each frustration of our first day here (trying to grocery shop without a car and carry our groceries back while trying to keep our kids from running into the busy street; trying to figure out why you have to pay to use a grocery cart; trying not to freak out at the high prices…..yes we paid about $13 for a pound of lunch meat…. trying to get wifi hooked up and realizing we wouldn’t have a phone or internet for several days to just Google what we needed to find, etc,) I was immediately reminded by the Holy Spirit that giving up my life and my pursuit of worldly comforts and desires was the secret to living fully alive! He never promised this would be easy and He never even promised safety, but He has promised to be with us always. That first day I felt His presence, and it’s in His presence that all strength and joy resides. In His presence is fullness of JOY!
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:20
“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11
While it took several days of wrestling with the fact that this is now our home and we aren’t going back to the United States for several years, we are loving living here!!! The city is beautiful and the opportunities to share the gospel are everywhere you look! We have already gotten used to not having all that we had before, and I’ve started really loving waking up to open windows with the cool morning breeze blowing through my room! He is so good to encourage and to challenge and to continually prove to me that He truly is with me every second of every day!