As I sit bundled up in seat 63A of SAA flight 208 on its way to Dakar, Senegal, I cannot help but reflect on my last two weeks. I’ve spent them in South Africa and Eswatini (or more commonly know as the Kingdom of Swaziland) working with the Swaziland Partnership, a nonprofit based in eastern NC working to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Swaziland. In my spare time, I produce their media, manage their website and publications, and assist wherever I can to support the ministry and its work for the Swazi people. I am exhausted, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually spent. I am empty. And in my opinion, that’s exactly how it should be.
If I wasn’t totally empty, that would mean I didn’t leave it all out on the field. That I had kept a small part for myself, or for something or someone else, and that’s not why I go to Swaziland. I go to empty myself — to give all that I have to these people I have come to hold so dearly in my heart. If I didn’t give everything to them, then I did it wrong. So, as exhausted as I am, I feel the Lord’s presence in our work and in our time in Swaziland. And I am empty. Exactly as it should be.
And thought I am empty, I will write out these thoughts. I believe time can be such a gift; it can help us to reflect, and honestly, I will probably again reflect on this trip after some distance from it. But I believe it would be unwise to lose the initial thoughts and emotions as I fly back home. So I write them down and package them up with a photo and post them to my blog for posterity’s sake or mainly more for mine so that I will not forget these key details and thoughts that have shaped me. So here’s what I feel I’ve learned or seen so far:
- I’ve learned that I need to get my life together if I’m serious about these dreams that I have and that I believe are God-given. God doesn’t need my help, but He also doesn’t want me to sit around either. Prepare myself for the dreams that lie ahead.
- I learned that I try too hard to plan out my own future. I want the reins to manipulate the future to suit my needs and intentions.
- I learned that I rely on the affirmations of others far too much. I want to be told that I’m acceptable and good and perfect but in that I do not believe the promises of God about who I am in Christ.
- I learned that my spiritual health cannot hinge upon these trips to Swaziland. My community at home cannot support that weight either. I put far too much weight on these trips and so they can never meet my expectations, because the expectations they are trying to meet are meant to be put on the Lord.
- I learned that if God wants me to be in Swaziland, then it will be in His will and His timing. I cannot make it happen, and He will open doors to get me where I need to be. He already is opening doors and flinging open windows for me to explore.
- I learned that I need to trust God in all things. I need to rely on Him in all circumstances.
And so the question immediately becomes: what do I do? Where do I go from here? I’ve of course had a mountaintop experience, one full of so much love and joy for these people and this place called Swaziland. But mountaintops don’t matter if they don’t carry into the walking in between them. The Lord has revealed Himself in unique and marvelous ways on this trip, and I am flying home more prepared to engage with God in America than ever before. Those learning experiences above aren’t easy topics to dive into, they are hard and deeply embedded sins in my life that only God himself is going to overcome. But I am trusting him to move. I am trusting God to change me; He is the potter and I am the clay and He will mold me and shape me into the woman I am meant to be. So I will engage with the Lord. I will pursue Him with my whole heart and being. I will seek community that will sharpen me, as iron sharpens iron. I will hold onto this mountaintop, but I will bring it with me into the walking in between. I will learn to walk with God in all circumstances. Let the process of trust begin.