There is one thing I rarely hear talked about in missionary circles, yet I know it exists. I see it. Real struggles. But we whisper if we do talk about it.
Where do we go when we hurt? When we need help? How do we deal with our struggles honestly?
I am not talking about the "acceptable list". There are some struggles that we are allowed to have. Everyone expects them. Struggles with homesickness, struggles with loneliness, with adapting, with impatience, with feelings of inadequacies, doubts, etc. Struggles after trauma. These are acceptable struggles. We are allowed them.
But what about the other ones? Where do we go when we are in real pain? When our lives are falling down around our ears? When we struggle with things we fear that if we talk about our struggles, people will yank us off the field in shame and disgrace? What then? Do we talk or do we try to ignore it and struggle on on our own trying to "get better" so we can "do"?
Is this a position unique to missionaries? I know that all people struggle with things, with talking openly about issues, with transparency. But how about us? If we talk, we risk so much. If we don't, we also risk. And who do we talk to? Our coworkers who we have to see every day? Our field leaders who have so much to do and may not see the situation the way we see it? Our church who think we are better than we are and also are our source of financial support that we worked so hard to raise? Who do you talk to? What has worked? What hasn't?
It is hard when you live a life with eyes always on you to deal with your struggles honestly. Today, I hurt. But today, I have to.... So do I go on stuffing the pain and the struggles under my shirt, put my smile on, and go on doing? Or do I say, "I hurt here"? And what are the consequences of that?
I'm leaning towards the "it's time to talk" side. But to who? And what will be the result? I don't know. I'm leaving that in God's hands - or I'm trying to. I keep coming back to Him, grabbing it out of His hands and saying, "hey, have You thought about this? What if....?" Then I have to realize again that I can not live my life by the "what ifs". I have to leave those to God.
Funny how we can trust Him to move us across the world, care for details, open doors, reach out to the lost through us (that takes some faith at times!), protect us from harm, but we have a hard time trusting Him to deal with our own hearts.
I'm struggling today. Hurt by some things. And I wonder... how do we talk? Are we honest with each other?
I began to talk to two people, sharing what is going on. I half expected scoldings. But I got tears. One is struggling with that, too. Perhaps further ahead than I am, but still hurting. We can at least hug each other now, pray for each other. The other one struggled with it years ago, but not so many years that the tears did not come for them too. They know it hurts. But they have walked through it and out the other side. They could give me hope.
It does not fix my situation. But today I have someone who I can talk to. I still do not know what God will do in this situation. But I am not alone. I still feel alone at times, but I am not. Working with, fellowshipping with, being with the same people can at times be too close for comfort, too close to share all problems, but I have two people who can look me in the eyes when they pass me in the halls, and I know they are praying.... not just that we will be safe, effective, used, blessed, but for this, for my struggles today.
I still have to decide what is the next step. I haven't done that yet. But I am beginning. I'm hoping, like sky-diving, that it is the first step that is the hardest, and the rest just sort of happens after that. I doubt it, but it would sure be nice!