There’s a first time for everything, they say.
On a trip last summer I experienced a first. I do a lot of traveling being a missionary — checking into flights, dealing with ticket agents, going through security screenings, answering customs questions, etc. It is all very normal and causes very little anxiety nowadays. However, I had a not-so-civil experience in mid 2017. The incident led to a break down in a bathroom stall where I could not stop crying.
The tears had started as I made my way through US Customs. Thankfully, the gracious US customs agent, must have seen the tears welling in my eyes as it became increasingly difficult for me to answer her simple questions. She let me through with no issues. The tears were probably a combination of several things. Earlier, I had had a very distressing encounter with a United Airlines ticket agent and was given news that my sister, brother and dad would not be meeting me at the airport to say goodbye. I’d anticipated their arrival, but they tragically were delayed because — of all insane things — a bear jumped in front of their car on the way to the airport. The accident ruined the front end of the car, cracking the windshield and setting off the airbags. Before I got the phone call about the bear incident, I had gotten one hour of restless car sleep in a sketchy parking lot — my first shut eye in almost 24 hours. Emotions were also high because I had just come straight from my dear friend’s beautiful wedding and I was on my way to officially moving to Montana after 18 months of, essentially, couch surfing and living out of a suitcase.
“…the tears came from the realization that following Jesus can be really, really tough sometimes.”
I’ve had long nights before. But this time was different. I was a basket case of emotions and wept more than I have probably in about nine years. What had kept the tears flowing in that bathroom stall was not the stress of the awful ticket agent, the missed goodbye with my family, or finally moving to Montana after months of waiting. Instead, the tears came from the realization that following Jesus can be really, really tough sometimes.
Later that year, I led a Biblical teaching team to Taiwan. Though the ministry was rewarding, to see so many familiar faces I had met and ministered to in 2016, as well as build relationships with new people and ministries. Personally though, the outreach really stretched me. There were some things that happened with my family and friends at home that made me feel helpless, lonely and isolated. There was nobody to talk to, or so I felt. I have a poor tendency to believe that nobody wants to listen to me when I struggle, so rather than impose my sore heart on someone else, I choose independence. The isolation made leading a team difficult and near the end of my time in Taiwan, I felt done. One night, I stood on the edge of the ocean watching the waves of the Pacific crash against the shore. I whispered to the heavens similarly painful words to those I had offered in the airport earlier that year, “Jesus, I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to be done. I’m so tired of feeling this way. Can you send me someone? Can you never bring me back here?”
Again, I let tears slowly trickle down my cheek. As I let myself go, I let the pressure to be perfect slip away. When the tears subsided, I heard the gentle voice of Jesus telling me that I wasn’t done. He told me it was okay to feel sad. And He told me He was not sending someone else to do what He’d called me to do. I took a deep breath and let a few more tears fall.
Often where our tragedy and our surrender meet is where we encounter hope
Often where our tragedy and our surrender meet is where we encounter hope. As we push open the stall door, tear stained face and all, we realize that we can’t stay broken. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, and those living a life faithful to Him. He is the epitome of provision and hope. So go ahead — break down. Jesus is just waiting to show you His hope and give you the strength to make it to tomorrow.
Maybe you are hesitant to believe this right now. But…there’s a first time for everything, right? Why not make this your first for today?