Missionary Rehab

I sat alone in our new-to-us car and I banged my hands on the steering wheel and yelled at God that I was angry that this was happening. That I didn’t want this car or these plans or these good-byes.  I let Him know straight up that it was unfair because we had planned our life there in the Amazon. We sold all of our stuff four years ago, REMEMBER?! That was because the jungle was supposed to be our new forever home. Tears flowed to the point that my heart physically ached in my chest and my breath caught in my throat.
It was an ugly cry, y’all. I’m glad no one else was there because you can’t unsee that.
And I want to tell you that after that I was better. I really want to say that one good cry and BAM! the Holy Spirit washed me with a renewed confidence in His goodness and sovereignty and that I was suddenly a well-adapted protégé of our missionary forefathers, full of faith and trust in an all knowing, all sufficient God. {Insert Sunday morning fake smile here.}
Instead I’m in counseling because some days I. just. can’t.
It’s missionary rehab, if you will.
I sat in the parking lot before my first session and almost had a straight up panic attack. I was sniffing essential oils like an addict and texting Richard so that I didn’t talk myself out of it. “What kind of missionary needs counseling?” Right?
My first session was an hour and a half long. About an hour in, I paused after spilling the overview of our life for the last four years all over her in addition to filling a few tissues with snot and tears. I just sort of stared at her.
She calmly listened, handing me a new kleenex as needed. Bless her soul. She’s a good one.
Her words: “I think if I got down one of my books on traumatic life events from my shelf, you would be able to check nearly all of them off the list and then some. It’s a miracle of God that you and your family survived many of those situations independently, much less all of them. Rest in that truth that it’s ok to be in this place of fear, anxiety, and confusion. It’s not the end.”
My instinct was, “Don’t patronize me. You don’t know my life.”
But then I realized she wasn’t. (And I had in fact just shared with her much of my life… soooo she kinda did know my life…) The reason I was sitting in her office was because we’d gone through some legitimately traumatizing things and that was ok. There was healing and hope still.  Breath of fresh air.
I went back the following week and then the following three weeks and it’s been both painful and healing. Because something happens when we are honest about our pain and we talk through the trauma in light of Hope.
After the difficulties of our adoption and the isolation we experienced those first two years among other things, I developed an anxiety disorder that’s only increased in intensity since being Stateside. After all, you don’t get to leave the country for four years and maintain relationships the way they used to be, especially in a region with internet access comprable to that of 1999. Even more so relationships that were severed due to others’ lack of understanding of life there and differences in preference. Now I find myself in the city where I was born and raised with no close friendships.
It’s a very strange place to be.
The abrupt (to us) ending of our time overseas makes me feel much like Moses on the mountain staring at the Promised Land but not actually getting to enter it. We walked some deep, dark valleys and only in the last six months of our time there did we finally begin to see buds of fruit. A community of Believers uniting for the cause of Christ. Incredible, unexplicable things happening. Beautiful.
And then God said, “Move. You can’t stay here.”
And my heart feels the heaviness of leaving all that we have known and loved and pursued and sacrificed for, only to return to a wilderness of reverse culture shock and loneliness and not knowing even where to begin to share the incredible things that God has done and is doing there.
I went a solid two months without makeup because why? Tears are no respecters of mascara.
But there in that small room with the counselor who is an MK (missionary kid) herself, I can work through these emotions and she gives me perspective and hope.
My day to day is still very much a roller coaster of fear and anxiety. A simple decision at the grocery store can send me straight to the Cliff of Internal Meltdown (WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OPTIONS OF KETCHUP?!). Running into someone I knew in what feels like a previous life can make my heart pound so loud I can hear it louder than our conversation (WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT?!).
This is all new to me. But turns out that actually, it’s pretty standard if we read—truly read—through Scripture and even biographies of modern missions. Life is a series of planning our ways in faith and then holding them loosely. It’s a story of being human with all its inconsistencies and fears and doubts and short-sightedness and yet still trusting through it. And slowly but surely through each season that ultimately leads to surrender to Him in His perfect ways, we find ourselves more and more in His image. Our faith grows. Our trust in Him grows. We lose more of ourselves.
Elisabeth Elliot put it this way:
“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. It is easy to make a mistake here, “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory.”
So I figure if Elisabeth Elliot can say that, and she walked through some high flames, I can buckle down and trust that He really is that good and He is sovereign and I can throw to the wind like chaff from the wheat what others think and what fears may linger in my heart and I can lean hard into Him and trust that He’s never let us down and He sure isn’t going to start now. That His ways are truly higher than ours and I can not only rest in that but rejoice in that wholeheartedly as I look over the last four years and how it’s been proven true time and time again.

This process of letting go is so hard, but it’s also so. incredibly. beautiful.

5 thoughts on “Missionary Rehab

  1. I don't even know what to write. I don't know you at all, but you know when you see a persons smile or you read something that person wrote, and you just feel connected? I somehow feel connected with your recent/present struggles. Just wanted to let you know that your posts make a difference! May God give you peace and joy.


  2. Thanks for being real and not pasting on the Sunday smile. Love you (which seems a little weird since I've only met you in person once). I will be praying more specifically for you. Please do not adjust to Western culture but teach us how to adjust to letting go of all we have and trusting God.Kandi


  3. I have never met you and don't even remember how I came across your blog. But I have enjoyed reading these glimpses of your life. I read this post and wanted to let you know that it resonated with me. 8 years ago I was in the US for 17 months trying to recover from burnout/depression. During that time I so identified with your feeling of being where I had grown up and having no close friends. That is painful! Two years later I moved back to the US after 18 years overseas. I remember meeting a couple who had been back for about 7 years after 20 years overseas. When I told them that I'd been back about 6 weeks, they gave me a knowing look and said, \”Oh, you are experiencing all kinds of things.\” He went on to tell me that about 2 years after their return to the US someone told him that it takes 3 years to adjust, \”and it is better to know that up front.\” I made it through those 3 years, with the first two being the most difficult. Also, if there is an Aldi where you live, they have only one brand of ketchup and everything else.


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