Well, I have been back from China for over a week now. As thrilled as I am to actually enjoy my meals, spend time with my family and friends, and sleep in my nice comfortable bed, it's also hard to just resume life normally again. I keep thinking about what life was like while I was in China. Some things were just a lot easier and simpler.
I didn't have time to think about myself a lot. I didn't have time to think about how I looked or what I wanted to eat or anything like that. I miss the reality of being so consumed with the Lord and so filled with the Holy Spirit that it left no room for self-absorption. I clung to the lyrics from various songs, such as O come to the Altar, which says, "I have come to the end of myself. I thirst for a drink from the well". I truly was thirsting for the Lord and being filled with His strength the entirety of my days there because I simply couldn't do it on my own.
In realizing these things, I specifically have thought a lot about how I dress and carry myself each day. I realized that it's not a coincidence that we all the sudden stop wearing our most flattering, most expensive, revealing, beautiful clothes when we are on trips devoted to service. It's true though, right? I mean think about it... How many people wear their favorite expensive shirts on Mission trips? How many people even wear makeup on mission trips? Isn’t it funny how when we are on trips that are devoted to serving others and spreading the Gospel and such, we suddenly don’t care as much about our appearance? It is funny how we all the sudden stop wearing makeup and wear really casual clothes that don’t necessarily make us feel like “stunners”, but we don’t even really care. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it is interesting and convicting that when our days are devoted to the Lord and our purpose all day is serving Him by serving the people around us, we forget about and become apathetic towards our outward appearance. It is the idea that we are so focused on other things that the importance of how we look drowns beneath our other higher purposes for that week. However, when we come back home, and we start thinking about ourselves more and if we are honest, our agenda’s become self-centered, we are reminded of how “good” we want to look all the time. We take more time to get ready in the morning because we become more concerned with ourselves and how we are perceived, rather than being concerned with the needs of others and how we can serve them that day.
Lord, I just pray that the attitude of apathy towards my appearance that surrounds me when I am on a mission trip would be an attitude I strive for each day. I pray that I would continue to be so focused on others and so focused on growing in my relationship with you that I would forget to be concerned with the “embarrassing” blemish on my face that day or how I look in a certain outfit or if I look skinny enough or if my eyelashes are dark enough. Lord, I just want you to consume me. I want my thoughts to be consumed with my love for you and my desire to serve you.
Another thing I have realized after getting back from my trip is that God changed my eyes while I was over there. I mean this so seriously, and I hope and pray I never lose it. What I mean by this is that He changed the way I see people and what I think makes someone beautiful. By the end of my two weeks in China, I was convinced that the disabled Chinese kids I was serving were truly some of the most beautiful people I had ever seen. While these are kids that most would look at and (at least subconsciously) think "yikes, they look kind of rough or kind of messed up", I was thinking (on multiple occasions) "wow, this child is so so beautiful". I don't say this to boast in myself, but rather to say that God really changed my eyes. I started seeing beauty more like how God sees beauty. When my little kids in China would smile, to me they were more beautiful than any American models or celebrities I had ever seen. I saw beauty in the innocence and joy and kindness in these children's hearts, rather than in their hairstyle or their facial structure. It was relieving and beautiful to realize what God had done in my heart. Francis Chan says that "It's impossible to be a disciple or a follower of someone and not end up like that person". It's amazing how after 2 weeks of truly following Christ each day, I became more like Him in small little ways like this. I pray that I will continue to serve and follow God with the same fervor I did while on this trip. I never want to lose the perspectives and realizations God gave me in China. I never want to let myself be the same again.
Lord, give me the strength and desire to continue to see things and people differently than how the world sees them. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Show me beauty like you see beauty, even here in America. Thank you for changing me and refining me through the difficulties of my time in China. I pray that the effects would be long-lasting.
2 Chronicles 32:7-8 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
The above verse is one that I read on a day in China when I felt no desire to move forward. I was very discouraged in the pursuit of disciplining and loving and caring for my little boy, and I was in desperate need of strength from the Lord. I simply couldn't do it on my own. I found this verse, and it brought me to tears. The Lord doesn't give us battles to fight and then leave us there to be obliterated by our enemies. He gives us battles to fight and He is faithful through it all. Does that mean it is going to be easy or go our way the whole time? Absolutely not, but it is much more beautiful than that because God grows us in the process. I "took confidence from these words" and found strength from God to move forward. I say this to say that this is a verse I need to remember in all aspects of my life, not just when I am serving overseas. God is with us and is faithful through every second of our pursuit of Him. Though it is not going to be a pretty pursuit as I wish it could be, it is a fulfilling and purposeful one. So, here's to the coming school year of trying desperately to seek God and the well being of others over my own worldly and selfish desires. My heart is burdened thinking of all the temptations and self-seeking tendencies I have already succumbed to in my week back in the states. O, Lord, give me strength that I do not have to follow you with everything I got. That's where real joy is found; in the tireless pursuit of Jesus.