The other day, our impact group decided to run over to the grocery store together, and being resourceful, one of the guys thought he'd try to ride one of the project bikes. The bike looked fine as far as we noticed. However, only a few moments after he started pedaling, the bike chain came completely off of the bike. It just fell off. It looked like it was in fine condition, when really the problem had been there for a while. Now, what can you do with a broken bike? Not much. You can't ride it anymore. It's unusable. Instead of carrying someone, it has to be carried.
The point of that illustration is just to say that these last two weeks, I've felt just like that bicycle.
Last week was the first week of leading the Bible study and discipleship with the girls and the first week of working at Wal-mart. I honestly didn't think I felt terribly anxious about it. Crunched for time, yes, but I thought I was keeping my stress under control. Then I started experiencing the same abdominal pain and discomfort that I had my senior year of high school when I experienced problems with anxiety. It continued to escalate throughout the week, making every day a struggle.
My job is also entirely physical work; lifting crates containing four gallons of milk, boxes of juice, etc. from stacks higher than my head. With the cramped conditions in the freezer, twisting and straining is a given. I was exhausted after only two days.
On top of the physical misery, I felt completely emotionally drained. I knew, intellectually, that I was just a messenger, that my responsibility was to convey truth and encouragement, and only God could use it in their hearts. At the same time, I felt guilty for being exhausted every day after work when I had to do discipleship. I often felt like I wasn't doing enough. Discipleship lasts for an hour, and sharing is usually another half hour. There were several days when I could only do discipleship, and encourage them to go sharing another time, or I felt so ill that I had to cut discipleship time shorter than it would normally be.
I also felt frustrated. When I would get to call Brian at night, I was always tired, and so was he, which led to a lot of misunderstandings. After I confronted one of my girls about something during discipleship and she took it badly, and I wanted to be there for friends back home going through tough times, I felt like emotionally I had nothing left to give.
I was stretched, and then I broke. And that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I realized how self-sufficient I was trying to be. I realized how I was trying to look like a "good discipler" by pretending I had it all together, and that I could do it all. I realized that I still need the gospel! Here I am telling it to others, but I needed to realize it's implications for my own life.
One, I don't have it all together; I'm human and therefore, sinful. Trying to appear otherwise was pride on my part, and thus, sin.
Two, I can't do it on my own. Just like I couldn't save myself, I can't live the Christian life through my own strength. I don't have enough wisdom, enough love, and enough compassion to give all of my Bible Study girls.
But, just as it's only through Christ that we come to God, it's also only through Christ that I can lead them. I MUST depend on Him for all that I need, and leave the results in his hands. I am just the vessel for his wisdom, love, and compassion to flow through to the girls. I feel like I don't even have the strength to get up in the morning and endure another day of work, much less go sharing, do discipleship, and the other project activities on top of that. It has to be all Christ. Like the bicycle, I need to be carried.
I think once I realized this, nothing really changed, but it just became better. It was and is still a struggle to find physical strength to get through every day, but I know that Christ is my strength, and I just need to keep leaning on him and having the faith that he will provide for me. It's hard on me emotionally still, but in my emptiness, Christ can fill me with his love and peace. In my brokeness, I've found that God can use me in ways that he couldn't before. It sounds weird, but I really do find joy in it! The pain and difficulties are still there, but the pressure isn't. It's been humbling, and I know now like I never did before just how much I NEED Christ, and the gospel. It's so ironic, I've been reading through Hebrews in my devotions, and when I read Hebrews 12:5-12, it didn't even connect with me until now. "Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons."
Sunrise on my last day of Summer Project
It hasn't all been rough though! Discipleship has been awesome. All of the girls are so teachable, even though they might not be receptive at first, the truth of God's word changes hearts. It's amazing to see! I'm so excited for every discipleship session and every Bible study. I learn so much from preparing the lesson, and then I learn even more when discussing it with the girls. They bring such unique perspectives and insights that I never would have seen on my own. Such surprising things happen too; I'll say something and then wonder, "Where did that come from?" And it's always much better than I could have come up with on my own. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work!
We've seen phenomenal results from sharing these last few weeks too! God is at work among the vacationers and the few high schoolers still here. People are motivated to continue evangelizing even though staff is gone.
We saw an amazing answer to prayer last week when one of our project leaders had to leave because her mother was undergoing surgery. They didn't think she'd survive, so she had to leave project for the rest of the summer to say goodbye to her mom and be with her family. God answered our prayers, and her mom came through the surgery just fine! As a result of her leaving, new leaders have been chosen to fill her spot, and the spot left by the person who filled her spot. Kali, my roommate, was chosen to fill the spot as one of the leaders of the outreach team!
Me and Kali with Cracker Jacks
Please be in prayer for us as we make this transition in leadership as a project, and for Stephanie and her family. Please pray for our physical health here too, because fevers are going around, and one of the girls next door has pneumonia. We Bible study leaders are really feeling the strain of trying to fit in work with all of our responsibilities, so pray for us that we can manage our time well.
As always, I would love to hear back from you all! (I almost typed y'all...just shows how the southern accent is starting to affect me!) It's so encouraging to me to hear your feed back and updates on how things are back home in Iowa. Thanks for your prayers! They make such a difference!
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9