Beth Lutz, a friend of Rich Mullins, gave this account of something the late Christian musician had once said:
"...he was very emotional. He was crying. He said, 'I don't want to run from the experience of the pain because I would miss what God is trying to teach me through it.'"
I'm not going to write about pain, although I can CERTAINLY relate to what Rich Mullins was talking about there. Pain has definitely been a gift in my life, but I'm going to talk about a different gift. I'm going to talk about how God has used weakness in my life to teach me and to lead me to trust Him more.
I've noticed lately that I've been a little more on edge than usual. I don't want to say that I've been anxious, since I don't feel particularly anxious unless I'm right smack dab in the middle of something that typically causes me anxiety. For example, being around unfamiliar people might cause me to suddenly find myself unable to form coherent sentences--or even speak at all without getting visibly agitated, but I'm not sitting around worrying about this sort of thing when I'm not actually dealing with it. At least, not usually.
I have been extra jumpy lately. Since having a panic episode (wasn't quite an attack) back in May, I've noticed that I've had to work harder at keeping calm at work when the kids get loud or when they make multiple demands for my attention. I am rather tense when there are sudden noises.
So while I don't think "anxiety" is quite the right word fit what I've been dealing with, it is fair to say that I've been struggling lately.
And with my trip to Romania now less than two weeks away, I've started to become legitimately anxious about that. With as tense as I've been lately, I am even more fearful of what could happen on the trip. I'll have to talk in front of strangers, in front if groups of people, have to initiate conversations, and all with a translator. Knowing me, knowing the way I can get sometimes, the world would tell me that I have every right to be anxious.
Some of you might already know this, but the thing about me is, when I get nervous and anxious right in the midst of a situation, like when I have to talk in front of people, or interview for something (no really-yikes), sometimes my nervous system goes really crazy and I start crying and/or just generally freaking out. I'm not sad. I'm not emotional because of subject matter. I'm just really, really nervous, and the way my body copes is by turning me into a teary, shaky mess until I can go find a quiet place to calm down for a good half hour or so. With chocolate.
Now that I think of it, that sounds almost like one of my panic episodes.
If you had asked me ten years ago, I might have said that there was something wrong or sinful with the way my body reacts (sometimes) when I get nervous. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said that it would be a blessing for God to take that anxious reaction away.
I did pray for that.
God said, and apparently is still saying, "no" to that prayer I used to pray.
Only, I'm not praying it anymore.
I've blogged so much about weakness lately, but I keep coming back to this point. I am weak. I am so very weak. I don't know what to say or how to say it, and sometimes my body shuts down so that I'm unable to say things even if I do have something to say. And people wonder why I say I communicate so much more clearly in writing....
It's absolutely terrifying to lose control like that, in front of people, with everyone misinterpreting the situation, because apparently it's not normal for people to just start hysterically crying in the middle of a speech. And in losing control, in realizing I'm never truly in control, that at any second I could be reduced to a sniveling, shaking, small little girl--well, I have no trouble realizing I'm weak.
But here's the thing. God is not weak, and God has given me something to say. This mission trip has changed in so many details since I originally signed up for it, but one thing that hasn't changed is that God called me to go on it because He has given me something to say.
I've had some frustrations in preparing my salvation story in a way that won't offend people in Romanian culture. That's just one more obstacle, one more thing that should deter me. But I'm not deterred.
Because if God has called me to go, then He will give me words to speak, and knowing how He usually works in me, it will be right when I (and others) need them and not a moment sooner.
I am planning. I am preparing. I am praying and praying and praying. Because in the end, it's really not going to matter how many preparations I've made (though the better prepared I am, the better things should go). The thing is, if God doesn't go with me, then I might as well not go. Because if I have anything to say, it's got to be from Him. Why? Because I'm weak; He is strong.
And honestly, it's really freeing to know that. It's so freeing to know that there's nothing I can do. It takes the pressure off me. The choice I have is to just go off somewhere alone and wallow in my worthlessness, or to accept the worth my Father lavishes on me, and go out, trusting Him in faith to work through me. I'm not important on my own; I've just gotta trust Him and be willing.
God never promised to take away the thorns in my flesh. He just promised to provide me with sufficient grace, and that's a HUGE promise. And honestly, having panic episodes and basically just being a basket case has been something God has used to help me trust Him. My weaknesses have been a gift. I'm grateful for them, for being awkward, for struggling, for just HAVING to rely on Christ, because I surely can't rely on me. I can't do this on my own, but His power is made perfect in my weakness.
If you're just hearing me say "I'm weak" and not hearing the BIGGER, MORE IMPORTANT, INFINITELY MORE AMAZING NEWS that "HE IS STRONG," then you are missing what I'm saying.
Because I'm not wallowing. I'm not hiding. He's given me something to say, and somehow He's going to use me to say it-even though I'm not at all good at speaking.
Neither was Moses.
Look what God did through him? It wasn't Moses. It won't be me. It's always God.
Please continue to pray that God will do great things on this trip, that He will go with our small team. I won't ask you to pray that He'll prevent me from breaking down crying in front of a church so that the translator can't hear through my sobs (though I really hope that doesn't happen-unless there's a reason for it that I can't see) but I will ask you to ask that He gives me what I need when I need it.
But He's pretty good at that.
Pray for those we'll meet. Pray for clear communication of both truth and love. Pray that God changes hearts and lives. Pray that He will be glorified.
Soli Deo Gloria!