We have experienced our fair share of struggles in the last 5+ years, but I love the journey of growth God has us on. I’ve seen how God continues to work in us, not with the purpose of stopping with us, but in order to enable us to serve out of our healthiest places. Recently I was reflecting on a part of a final paper I turned in for my most recent Ordination class. It was the idea that to have true empathy means moving from being a “taker” to being a “giver”.
In the beginning, I was under culture stress as I learned to navigate the new system around me. No doubt I was self-protective during that time and probably a taker most of the time. I recently saw “culture stress” defined this way: getting your needs met in new ways. The hard part of culture stress is that we are creatures of habit, so we’ve learned to get our needs met in certain ways, in certain environments, and when we move abroad we have to learn new ways of getting our needs met, and this process is not always easy. I will admit that at times in these 5 years I have felt defeated. But I look back on those times now and have been so grateful for them, because they have led me to God, which often happens when we see the truth behind the myth; the myth being that we are completely self-sufficient creatures, and the truth being that we need to continue to surrender everything to Him. And in those times God has taught me powerful things: that my identity comes from the risen Christ, and that God has created me to be fearless in Him, and this has enabled me to understand how to move from just surviving to thriving.
And empathy, which is both the result of truly entering another's world and a catalyst for developing a true sense of belonging has helped with bouncing back during times of stress. One can make a conscious effort to leave their own world and be in someone else’s, but still have the danger of stopping and observing from the periphery. So, truly entering someone's world means we now see the world through a new lens that can only come knowing. Knowing others leads to a new understanding, but this understanding is not from my perspective in my world, but from within another’s world. We are seeing what others are feeling from their perspective. This beautiful step of understanding from their perspective gives birth to being moved by their stories, by their friendship, by their prayers, by their love, and opens ourselves up to be changed.
I still struggle quite a bit, at times, at being a giver. I’m trying to figure out the balance of healthy self-care which is necessary to fill me up and enable me to have something to give, not out of nothing-ness, which leads to resentment or burnout, but out of a fullness in Christ. I am learning and growing, and I hope I always will be.
So, as we leave this Saturday, please pray with us as we learn new tools and new “take-aways” that we can apply to our context that will help us build resiliency. We also have a goal of being able to host or help develop a Resiliency Conference in the future, so please be praying for this to develop!
*And don’t forget to pray for grandparents who will watch two youthful and energetic children while we’re gone!