Thursday, August 1, 2013

Benefits of Living in a Pressure Cooker

I've been whining again.  Yes, again.  We are a few days from a trip to the U.S. (first one in three years) where we'll travel like crazy and visit as many churches and friends and family as we can pack into these short two months.  This is a catch-all trip, to touch base and reconnect but also to raise funds for opening a youth center in the city where we live.  I should be giddy, and I am quite excited, but I'm finding a whole lot of ways to whine.

Why do we only get one suitcase this time?  How will I bring back homeschooling books and underwear and socks and supplies for two or three more years in ONE suitcase?  Are we ever going to get everything packed up and ready to roll?  Why can't I settle on some perfect "partnership" trinket to take back for those who've stuck with us?  How will we fit everyone in? Why can't we afford to take longer furloughs like the cool missionaries?  Can't you kids just get along and let me think straight?  

And I realize that my mouth is speaking from the abundance of my heart.

photo credit: <a href="">mr.donb</a>
I have said a trillion times how uncomfortable it is to live in the pressure cooker here, where the goal is just survival at times.  To acutely feel the lack of extended family and friends and a support system to fall back on when the going gets rough.  But tonight as I listened to myself whine, I realized that life in the pressure cooker has its benefits.

In the US, I found it much easier to camouflage my flaws, those places inside that weren't quite lovely.  It was so easy to take on another responsibility at church and feel justified in my ugliness, or take a trip to the thrift store and fill my emptiness with a giant bag full of cheap but fashionable finds.  I could call up a girlfriend and "express my righteous indignation" to have her back me up in my position and then share what made her mad that day.  It was easy to hide what I didn't want to see.

Here, it seems what's inside is just gonna come out.  No way around it, it's coming out.  I remember reading a warning to that effect on some missionary-prep website way back when, and thinking how tough that would be for "certain other people" I know and happen to live with.  I was still living in Delusional World and sure that I was the person I had convinced everyone I was.

And for a long time on the field, I blamed my impatience in traffic or my frustration with my husband or my overwhelming urge to scream at those guys who insist on washing my windshield at stoplights and casing the contents of my front seat as they do, on being stressed to the breaking point.  I was sure that the offender just happened to be the straw that broke this camel's back.  Okay, maybe there is a bit of truth to that sometimes, but I'm coming to realize that I'm just not as adept at hiding.  The world is simpler here on the other side of the border.  So simple that what you see is what you get, without the candy-coating.  And I don't always like what I see.

I'm learning, still, that instead of taking my burdens to whomever might listen, I have to take them to the One who should have been my first choice all along.  That makes it sweeter to deal with the lack of an intimate friend or relative here.  

I'm learning, still, that instead of hiding behind my to-do list and accomplishments as the self-appointed Sister Do-It-All, I have to take a genuine look at my motivations and reactions.  That makes it a bit easier to swallow not having a church community that feels more like family here.

I'm learning, still, that instead of running for food or shopping or a movie or whatever my latest cure-all is, I have to dig in and let God refresh me, let Him inspire me, let Him heal me.  I'd like to tell you that makes it easier to live without Goodwill or Krispy Kreme, but I'm not there yet.

I do at least have a clearer picture of who I really am and who God really is, and I guess that's a start.

Do you know yourself better as a result of being a missionary?  Have you found that the ugly things you recognize within you are products of this lifestyle, or were they there all along and are only easier to see now?   Do you whine?
photo credit: mr.donb

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