Acceptance and then achievement
My feet feel like someone is pushing knives through them as I try to stumble up the stairs in my half-asleep state to comfort my daughter in the middle of the night. As I climb back into bed my feet are still aching and I know it will be a long while before I can fall asleep again.
I’ve been struggling with pain in my feet and hands for months now and I’m waiting for our next furlough to be able to have more tests done. Some days my capacity to continue work and ministry and activity outside our home is very decreased. Trips to the supermarket or mall are often a nightmare as I hobble along on painful feet. Opening a jar to cook dinner leaves me in tears as my hands scream in pain.
At times the pain and fatigue have left me frustrated and feeling angry and depressed. It leaves we wondering what the point of living cross culturally is when I can’t do my ministry? Why am I here in Central Asia when I’m not making a difference in peoples’ lives the way I want to? Some days I can’t treat the kids in our disability project or roll around on the floor with kids at our school anymore (I literally do a lot of rolling and jumping and crawling because kids always try harder when they’ve watched me do something first!).
Some days I feel defeated and deflated. The worst part is having to say no to things I really enjoy doing because my body just can’t do it anymore.
With the helplessness has come the realisation that I’ve been depending on my works a lot. It’s great to have tear-jerking stories of all the families our disability project is helping for our newsletters. I like feeling worthwhile because of the difference I am making in somebody’s life. What I do outside of our home has given me worth and significance.
But I’m realising that this isn’t God’s plan for me.
Through my sickness God has stripped away my abilities and achievements and left me weak before Him.
During a recent retreat we were taught about the cycle of grace (Rest and Acceptance> sustainability> significance > achievement > back to acceptance). The cycle starts at a place of rest where we know we are accepted not because of what we do, but because of who we are – people created and loved by God. Then the cycle continues into sustainability, significance and then achievement. The cycle of grace says that we can achieve things because we start from a place of acceptance and rest.
If we go the other way around in the cycle (achievement> significance> sustainability> rest and acceptance >) i.e. if we start with our achievements which give us significance and then sustainability and then we feel acceptance, we’re in the cycle of grief. Strong words, but so true.
Psalm 23 is a wonderful illustration of God leading us from a place of rest and acceptance because we are His. It says: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (ESV)
Despite my sickness, God has confirmed to our family in countless small (and large) ways that Central Asia is where He continues to call us and keep us. This is where He wants me to continue to serve and be a blessing. My acceptance by God comes from who I am, not from what I do or even where I live. Through suffering with my painful joints God is teaching me to depend and rely on Him for everything – even just getting out of bed some mornings. I still want to be productive – although some days that looks like sitting in front of my computer more than being active with kids. My significance, however, needs to come from a place of acceptance of who I am as God’s child, loved and cherished by Him, and not from what I’ve achieved at the end of the day.
It’s a lesson He continues to teach me.