Let’s collectively join in longing for this day

Monday was a holiday in the U.S. I know that this is a global community. I simply share that it was Memorial Day to give you context about my thinking process.

It’s a day when people who died in combat are remembered. I drove through a local military cemetery as a way to make all of the deaths real. To see actual gravesites.

And I thought of you.

I thought of the country you’re from and all of the people who have died throughout the ages in conflict.

I thought of the country you’re living in now and have grown to love and all the people who have died in wars or combat or tribal clashes.

This isn’t a post for or against war. As I drove around the cemetery I wasn’t thinking about “just war” and the need sometimes to defend what you love.

What I thought about were the people. The people who have died and how their friends and family were never the same.

And I thought about how one day there will be no more wars, death will die, and peace will reign. Theologians like to talk about the “already/not yet” of the Kingdom of God here on earth; until there are no conflicts, attacks, or clashes, we are still in the not yet.

But friends, today in this space, let’s pause and collectively remind ourselves that war will not always be our story. That someday, the lamb will lie down with the lion.

Amen and amen.


Photo by Diane Picchiottino on Unsplash

What I Learned After Visiting Scotland

My last name may not scream an ethnicity to you. Unless you are Chinese, and then when you see my pale face, sturdy bones, and slightly curly hair, the response comes from an ancient script passed down from generation to generation. Eyes widen, “You are not Chinese.”

Yes, I know that.

Growing up I latched on to the “Scotch” part of my “Scotch-Irish” heritage. I don’t know why I wanted to be Scottish so much more than Irish, but I did. Fostering this lovefest was the bag my great-grandmother brought through Ellis Island in New York. As a child it all seemed so exotic and exciting.

One of my dearest friends in college moved to Scotland after graduation and served three years as a cross-cultural worker in a small church. My first visit to Scotland was one year into her term.

I was going to walk the land of my ancestors! I was going to get in touch with my Scottish roots! I was going to find where a distant relative was buried! I was going home!

Except it turns out, that “Young” is an Irish name. My enthusiasm was met with blank stares. Even in the tourist stores where I was desperate to buy anything with the “Young Tartan” on it, there was a nary a thread to be found.

{Side note: A couple of years ago, when I visited Scottish friends I made on that first trip, “Young” has either been discovered in the Clan Annals OR the wise merchants wanted in on the action. Either way, I bought “Young Clan” coasters for the whole family.)

While I had a wonderful trip and fell in love with Scotland, I left with a profound sense that no matter how much I wanted to be Scottish, no matter how much I loved Scotland, no matter how many scones I ate or cups of tea I drank, I was an American.

It seems to be in vogue these days to either cling to a country or reject identifying with it outright. Are those the two options God gives us? As I considered what it is that God says about citizenship in the Bible, I noticed the following.

1. God has a soft spot for the alien; however, God’s soft spot for the alien seems more related to power than to citizenship. One of the few passages that directly relates to citizenship is the well-known “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and is related to taxes. Other passages talk about our citizenship being in heaven and are almost all in Paul’s letter. Keeping in mind he was writing to people in the Roman Empire, they too were trying to figure out the boundaries of loyalty. This post is too short to go into the context of each letter, but if we had more time, I would love to explore what Paul (and a messenger for God) was saying. In short, the bottom line is not that citizenship and loyalty to a place are bad or to be denied, but they must not be supreme.

2. God gives a face to those who are rooted to a place. In the Bible God weaves the stories of the foreigners in with those who stay, those who are known in and for a place. God also lists other nations throughout the scripture. Outside of a few specific times the Israelites were told to destroy a people group or city, God preserves the different nationalities.

Those associated with a place (or at least not known for being a foreigner) who also modeled the tension of holding God above nationality:

Jesse
Mordecai
Rahab
Jesse
Shunammite Woman
Elizabeth and Zechariah
Isaiah
Phoebe

When we compare the lists of those who were known for the foreignness in the Bible and this list, I love the Bible all the more. God includes both, inviting us to keep interacting with this tension.

3. This two-sided coin points to a bigger story. We see in both the Old and New Testament that variety, differences, and uniqueness will exist in heaven.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Amen and Amen!

I had coffee with a friend who recently returned to the US after 18 months in a poor area in India. She’s transitioning to another assignment. After explaining to her mom the analogy that many cross-cultural workers are from Circle cultures who live in Square cultures and in the process become Triangles. Her mom asked her to please be a Circle person again. She wondered if it was possible to return to being a Circle.

I laughed.

Her mom was asking the wrong question. Maybe we are too. There is nothing wrong with asking “Where do you feel like an alien?” or “How has your notion of citizenship changed?” In fact, these are good questions. But let’s use them to propel us deeper into the mystery and beauty of a faith that points to the Already/Not Yet of belonging in and to the Triune God,

You will not clear them away all at once

Deuteronomy has a good word for missionaries. You’re familiar with the setting, the Israelites were finally getting ready to enter the Promised Land after 40 long years.

In part, God said:

“No, do not be afraid of those nations, for the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you. But the Lord your God will hand them over to you. He will throw them into complete confusion until they are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 7:21-23

The wilderness was an in-between place for the Israelites. No longer in Egypt, God used their time in the desert to prepare them for what’s next. While you might not be in an in-between place right now, this passage contains reminders that are good to revisit.

1. Do not be afraid for the Lord your God is among you. 

God doesn’t start with the details, instead he starts at the deep heart level: do not be afraid. Why does he say not to fear? Not because what you’re facing isn’t scary, it may be very scary! You don’t need to fear because God offers the gift of his presence. You will not be alone.

2. The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you. 

When you’re in an in-between place and getting ready for a new or next stage, it’s good to be reminded that you don’t have to do anything at first. Too often I think I have to go first and then God will come along once he sees that I’m “willing to do my part.” This is backwards.

3. Little by little. 

What? Little by little? What happened to great and awesome? But little by little rings true to my life and ministry. Far more true than the Hollywood version of change where there is one big, life changing moment and then the credits roll. Even for situations that seem more clear cut—I now pronounce you husband and wife, It’s a boy!, Welcome to your new cubicle—they do not, in fact come all at once. Instead they are little by little until deep roots are extended and the change has taken place.

When you enter the new phase, remember that at first, it all may feel overwhelming, unfamiliar, and even slow. But something is happening, little by little.

4. You will not clear them away all at once. 

Isn’t this phrase a relief? When we face an old temptation or think we “should” be further along than we are, God holds the long view in mind.

Why not move faster? (I’m a “faster is better person.”) Otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you. Who knows what wild animals God is protecting you from I admit that I can grow weary of a slow process, but when I think of the wild animals I am clueless about, I can lean into the slow pace with more gratitude.

This passage ends with two sentences using the word will. It will happen. You will enter a promised land. What is not promised is the how or the timing

If you’re in an in between phase, may these four reminders prepare you for the time after the in-between:

—God will be with you in the new unknown.
—God will go before you.
—The process in the new phase most likely will be little by little.
—The process may be slower than you would like.

What other scripture passages have helped prepare for what’s next when you are in a waiting phase?

A Leap Year Book Review

I was excited when I saw that you and I get to chat on this rare February 29th. A day that feels like a gift as the calendar catches up with the small moments of the last four years.

What, I wondered, would be an appropriate way for us to let the moments of the past catch up with us? How could be slow down enough to notice where we are?

And then it hit me, share with the book I’m currently in the middle of listening to. A week or so ago a friend texted me that she was listening to Karen Swallow Prior’s The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis and wondered if I’d read it.

I hadn’t, and promptly looked to see if it was available on the Hoopla app. It was, both in ebook and audio format.

The Evangelical Imagination seems the perfect Leap Year book recommendation for three reasons:

1.  Whether you are an Evangelical or hate (hate, hate) the term, you’ll find yourself going, “I didn’t know that!” So much of what we see in religious experience and expression have roots in the Victorian age. I vacillate between being encouraged that our time is not that different than the past and saddened that our time is … not that different than the past. But through this book I am more aware of where Evangelicalism has come from and how it got to where we it is.

2. History is so interesting! If you’ve ever wondered how Christian bookstores and some of the art came to be, you’re gonna be surprised.

3. The breadth of topics covered that make up, in this case, Evangelicalism is a bit jarring. Currently, what is the main area that Evangelicalism is associated with? I don’t even have to answer because I can hear the choral response of everyone reading this: politics. Having listened to this book, I feel broader, more holistic as a person.

Since most reading this are Christians, you’ll understand yourself and either why you do or view things as you practice your faith. Or understand why you did not do something. The chapter on the history (and evolution) of the “testimony” was one where I realized why, personally, I have always been out of step with the Evangelical way of “give a testimony.” But before this book, I couldn’t have put words to it. Now I can.

Leap year is a slightly unexpected invitation to stop, and pay attention to the waters we’re all swimming, allowing for little bits of culture to catch up to our conscious awareness.

If you’ve always been a church history fan, you’re going to love this book.

If you’ve thrown your hands up whenever you hear the word, “evangelical”, you’re going to be surprised by this book.

If you’re looking for a fellow traveler who looks back to help us all move forward, this book is for you.

Get The Evangelical Imagination by Karen Swallow Prior.

Could this cost me my “job?”

Friends, I (Amy) have been asked to present a workshop in late February called “Issues missionaries are dealing with that you’re not talking about.” In my description for the workshop I said, “Let’s talk about the things we normally avoid: sex, politics, and changing culture.” 

I could guess at some of this, but I wanted to ask you so that I can say, “Hey, here are real answers from real people.” I also like compiled results because it gives us a broader perspective than the little patch of grass that we each are standing on.

So far 170 people have taken the survey and themes are emerging, but I won’t dig into deeper analysis until the survey is closed.

Sometimes the way we tend our soul is by naming out loud what we fear or wonder about. These are not the type of topics that probably you can (or should) share publicly, but they do need to be given voice. Several people have commented that simply being asked these questions and given space to reflect on them has been helpful. That is my hope for you too.

This survey is 100% anonymous and open for a few more days; we will close it at the end of January. Thank you for sharing what you’re dealing with that maybe you haven’t been able to talk about out of fear for what might happen. I will share the findings with you and hopefully we can all learn from each other. Thank you, thank you. 

You can take the survey here.

Behold the Beautiful Tension at the End of a Year

Hello friend,

The end of a year can hold a beautiful tension, if we let it. Coming off of Advent and the annual reorienting to and celebration of Jesus’s birth, we enter muddied water. I call it muddied because of the minor clash of calendars: New Year (based on the Gregorian calendar) and Christmas Time (until January 6th and Epiphany based on the liturgical calendar).

Five years ago, I created a year-end reflecting packet for cross-cultural workers. (You can see it here.)

It has become a holy exercise for me (and others, but I am speaking for myself). I wish I had started doing it years ago because of the depth and space it creates in my soul. It turns out this annual practice mirrors that tension that we see reflected in the Bible: reflecting and preparing. 

How often is the phrase “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” used? Or the call to remember? It’s as if God knows that left on our own, many of us would never look back. Likewise, how often does God reference the future generations, pointing to what’s coming next? God models how we can lean into the tension that reflecting and preparing offers us.

Though we live in this tension of the past and the future all the time, this is the time of year we are acutely aware of it. This holy invitation of reflecting has given me three gifts:

1. The ability to see themes and patterns in a year. Often in a day, week, or month, I might miss the bigger story. But when I step back, I can see things I forgot or hadn’t put together. Often, I realize that a little course correction in my thinking needs to occur. Perhaps the year wasn’t as bad, boring, or hard as I’d been thinking.. I notice God’s hand in meaningful ways.

2. The relationship between naming and honoring. Making a list or answering a few questions doesn’t seem that it would do that much. But for me, as I reflect on the year and answer questions about it, I picture myself like Adam and God in naming the animals. God and I name the good, bad, and ugly of the year. When someone says, “Hey, you” versus “Hey, Amy,” and smiles, it’s a small thing, that conveys honor. By naming my year, I’m honoring what happened (or didn’t happen) and the way God has used it to form me.

3. Processing, annoyingly, is important. I’m the kind of person that would rather not process because I don’t like to be slowed down from my doing. I love doing 😊. But here’s the paradox, processing is like preparing a field. If I just run around tossing seeds, the chances of a crop coming to life is slim. However, if I take time to pull out the dead plants, till up the earth a bit, and plant the seeds, guess what? More are likely to grow. So, for those of you who find reflecting and processing “not your thing” – tie them to what is your thing. Since I love doing, processing helps me actually do more of what’s important to me.

Herb Lamp said, “Without reflection, we lose the ability to see God at work in our lives. Without reflection, we lose perspective in regard to our lives and ministries. Without reflection, we lose the awareness that God is with us and not against us. Without reflection, we lose the sense of joyful delight that each day should bring.” 

(Journey with Me: Spiritual Formation for Global Workers, 57)

I titled this Behold the Beautiful Tension at the End of a Year because whether the Liturgical or Gregorian calendar, the beautiful tension is an invitation to reflect and prepare. If you’re interested in the Global Trellis packet, you can find it here. You don’t have to use year end packet prepared by Global Trellis, but I do hope you have a way to reflect this time of year.

With blessing,

Amy

It’s okay to be happy this Advent

I listened to the audio version of The Preacher’s Wife by Kate Bowler. While the book focuses on America and the “Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities,” I was struck by the pendulum swings of what worked in one era, sounded tone deaf in another.

In acknowledgement of our own pendulum swings, I find that currently most online spaces for cross-cultural workers emphasize the hard parts of being a cross-cultural worker. Which, I know, is in response to those hard parts not being given any space. This swing was a needed course correction. But as with many a course correction, the hyper focus on the hard parts of life on the field may not leave enough space for another story to coexist.

As I thought about my post this month, the book of Psalms came to mind. I love the richness of life represented by the different types of psalms and the variety of lengths.

So, in the spirit of Psalm 117, the shortest psalm, I remind us of this truth: life on the field can be confusing, disappointing, and hard. 

It is also true that on the field is interesting, exciting, and easy.

Part of happiness is comes from building pauses to that give space to notice. Here are a few options for cross-cultural workers to pause in Advent this year.

You do not have to hide your happiness. It is okay to be happy on the field.

Saints Amongst Us

pexels-photo-38186

Tomorrow is All Saints Day. I love All Saints Day for the way it anchors me in the past and points to the future. Hebrews 11 and 12 is one of the best known remembrances for the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us. 

While I know that not all who serve on the field come from a rich faith heritage, when people start to share their story there is often at least someone in their family’s past who wasn’t a stranger to Truth.

Who are some of the saints in your family? Whose faithful shoulders are you standing on?

In my family it is my Grandma Young. Even as I type this memories of her come racing back though she has been gone from this world for more than 30 years. A strong memory that captures my grandma’s two great loves of Jesus and her family involves a weekend that our parents left my sisters and me at our grandparents.  

Grandma faithfully played the piano at her church.  We were too young to sit in church alone while she played, requiring our grandpa to attend with us. Grandma wore hearing aids to help her hear, but for some reason on that day the three of us belted out the hymns so loudly she probably didn’t need them! Grandpa was a sport to stand there, towering over the three of us when he probably wanted to shrink away from the smiling stares.

I wasn’t aware of Grandpa’s strong discomfort of everyone looking at us at the time. What I remember is watching my grandma play with gusto and joy as she beamed at the three of us joining her in singing to God. I have no doubt that I was in China as a result of her prayers and faithful life.

As the generational mantle is now being passed on in our family and I see the potential in my nieces, I wonder the ways in which they will join the cloud of witnesses. But on this day, instead of looking to the future, join with the author of Hebrews and as we fix our eyes on Jesus, be reminded of the ways he has worked in your life and family.

Who are the saints in your family?

Changing the Rules of the Game

The organization I used to be with had a “Career Program,” and anyone could apply after one year on the field.

Even though I’d been on the field for several years, it wasn’t until I was 30 that I attended a Career Conference as a one-time guest to check it out. The main question asked in the application (at least in my mind) was, “Are you open to making a ten-year commitment?”

Single 30-year-old Amy played chicken with Future 40-year-old AmyLet’s see, I’m single and 30 and if I do this for ten more years I’ll be single and 40. Blink, blink, blink! I couldn’t run fast enough from that conference, and I NEVER looked back. I was comfortable taking it year-by-year, and if it ended up I was 40 and single, I was cool with that. I just wasn’t cool committing to being single.

The aforementioned organization has a fairly large batch of new people joining each year with a good-sized portion being young single people. We also have a good-sized number stick around, find love, and get married. So, during the pre-field orientation there is a buzz of the potential from the newbies. Will this be my story? Will God honor my faithfulness by bringing me a mate? 

And then I (or any other number of singles stand up) and are active in their training and preparation. I joking tell them I’m there as a cautionary tale. Of course, you might fall in love and get married. Or, you might not. Either way, you can have a rich and invested life.

Talking about “singleness” is a bit like talking about the ocean. It’s vast. Parts are tingling with life and parts are dark and cold. There are schools of fish and loners. There are happy fish and those who want OUT OF THIS WATER right now. Over the next weeks and months and years we will swim around in the waters and hopefully you’ll see yourself reflected.

But when it comes to singleness, I can say this for sure: Jesus is into being a game changer.

Hours of my childhood was spent playing Old Maid, eating cheese puffs, and drinking milk with my two sisters and Grandma Young. The goal of the game is to gather pairs of delightful cards like Arnie Angler, Freddie Falloff, or Careless Carrie and not be stuck with the Old Maid card.

For some reason my sisters and I fell in love with the old maid card and changed the rules of the game to whoever had the old maid was the winner. Oh we worked so hard to hide her in our hands and protect her. She was the prize. She ended up being bent and worn from all the love.

old maid

My mom recalls cringing every time Grandma would say, “No, no! You don’t want to be an old maid!” Oh but we did! We did!

Grandma was one of the most faithful pray-ers in our family, and I have no doubt my many years in China are a direct answer to her faithful prayers. Looking back, I see five of us in that room eating cheese puffs, drinking milk, and playing. Jesus is there, smiling and nodding, knowing that one of us would indeed grow up and become an old maid, a spinster missionary, the most prized card in the deck.  That’s right my child, value will be placed firmly on her. And you. And all who define value by me and not some outside imposed rules.

I don’t know your story.  But I know that you have been fought over and bought with a price, and you are the most valued card in the hand Jesus is playing.

 

A version of this first appeared on Velvet Ashes.

Old maid photo credit: Amy emailed the etsy store owner and received written permission and a thank you for asking.

Empty Nesting When You Have No Nest

Help me out. We need a new term, and we missionary folks love discovering or creating words.

You knew exactly what I meant when I used the phrase “empty nest.” The chicks have launched and are on their own. “Empty nesters” are their parents.

Before I had nieces, I used to roll my eyes at aunts and uncles who went on and on about their nieces and nephews. Quietly I judged them as being pathetic and wanna-be parents. (I’m shooting straight with you, I’m not proud of the recesses of my heart and mind.)

And then my oldest niece was born. It took less than one day to turn me into the largest hypocrite on the planet. If Paul was the greatest sinner? I was the greatest eater-of-my-words. AND I DID NOT CARE. (Have I told you her latest antic? Would you like to see a photo? Can you even . . . can you?! She’s amazing.)

The time zones between us didn’t matter. The long plane rides when I could leave the field didn’t matter. Here’s what I learned—when love enters the picture, you don’t care what others think.

TCKs are the same. When you love them, really love them, they enter a category all their own in your heart.

This post and question isn’t just for singles. It’s for any adult. What I’m trying to put words to is about loving a kiddo who is not your child and who will one day grow up and move on to the next chapter in their lives.

The term “empty nester” rightly refers to the parents.

What word or phrase could we use for those of us who have a young person who’s been a part of our daily life and now they will not be? We will love them fiercely, cheer them on loudly, pray for them faithfully, and miss them dearly.

Whatever it is, that’s what I am. And I know I’m not alone.

When family members are draining

Because it’s summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve gotten to see or interact with a number of missionaries who are “back home” visiting family, friends, and supporters.

What got me reflecting on today’s topic is that three of them have family members who are difficult. Very difficult. While I could offer an arm chair diagnosis of personality disorders and mental health issues, that’s not really the point.

Whether a label exits or not, being around parents and having precious time in person off the field “stolen” because of behavior that is seriously manipulative or disrespectful to any personal boundaries is hard.

This is not a post with three simple steps, though I do have a few tips.

First of all, I’m sorry. If you have difficult family members, so much is out of your control. Good friends and other family will see how you try to honor them, love them, and not have your buttons pushed by them. Years ago I picked up a book because of the title.

Working With You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster Kathi Elster.

Isn’t that the best title?! Working With You is Killing Me.

Exactly.

But as a follower of Christ, what can I do . . . to NOT have it kill me?!

If you’ve got a difficult family member, this might be a good book to get and read. The fact that it’s actually a “business” book is helpful because it provides you with more ability to reflect on your own situation with a bit of detached distance.

In essence, the authors present a four step process when you are “hooked” by a comment or interaction:

1—Unhook physically

2—Unhook mentally

3—Unhook verbally

4—Unhook with a business tool

The first two steps, unhooking physically and mentally, help you release negative emotions and calm down your system. They create the space for you to hear the Holy Spirit. Of course God is always with us, but sometimes we are so hooked, we can’t sense God’s presence. Thus, the need to unhook. The second two steps, unhooking verbally and with a business tool, involve taking actions to change your experience.

You might wonder what a business tool is. Since the context is work, it might be sending a follow-up email. So, with a family member, it could be an email or a text to all of your siblings and copying your mom. In the email you share what you talked about with your mom, so your mom knows that she can’t use the conversation to pit you against a sibling with her version.

The book goes into so much more detail and unpacks these four steps in such a way that you think, “It’s won’t be perfect, but it sure can be better for me than it currently is.”

As many of my friends will board planes and fly back to places that feel more familiar and comfortable than being with certain family members, I’m thinking of others, like you, who are in similar situations. It’s hard to have these conversations in public spaces like this. But know that you are not alone. And that God sees and is proud of you for all the times you restrained yourself.

Using the language of the book, it’s as we unhook from family or situations and hook ourselves more and more to Jesus that true freedom and growth arises.

It’s not easy. But it is possible.

Putting one foot in front of the other

Years ago in a training session in Beijing, my colleague Joann encouraged us with what has become for me an iconic phrase from 2 Samuel 18: “Come what may, I will run.”

I’ll tell you more about the Biblical context in a moment, but first I don’t recall the details of what was going on in Asia. No doubt there was something unusual about the season . . . because, let’s face it, life on the field is often more unusual than usual. So when Joann quoted Ahimaaz saying, “Come what may, I will run,” the phrase and the heart of completing a task resonated with me.

In 2 Samuel, Ahimaaz, son of Zadok the priest, was stationed near the battlefield, waiting to run news of the battle back to the king. The battle was between David’s rebel son Absalom and the Israelites. When news came of the victory Ahimaaz said to Joab, the field commander, “Let me run and carry news to the king” (2 Samuel 18:19 ESV).

But Joab replied, “You are not to carry news today. You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king’s son is dead.” (v. 20)

Ahimaaz’s request—and assumed job—was denied and Joab asked a Cushite to run instead. Have you ever been confused when what you thought was “your job” was given to someone else? 

While many would understandably give up in frustration, disappointment, and hurt, that’s not what Ahimaaz did. 

“Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite.” 

And Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?” 

 “Come what may,” he said, “I will run.” 

So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.” (verses 22-23).

His response, “Come what may, I will run,” has been running through my head and heart in this season. What does it look like to run when . . . 

—When you may not be in a location you want to be?

— When you may not have been able to leave the field for a break or to attend a conference because once you leave you might not get back in? 

—When schooling is different . . . and hard . . . and beautiful? 

—When visas are slow or nonexistent?

—When you are studying a language that is not spoken by anyone for miles and miles and maybe an ocean away?

—When your kids are unsettled by all of the unknown and loss?

I don’t have specific answers. But when I think of Ahimaaz, what did it look like to run? 

It looked like putting one foot in front of the other. He did not seem as focused on what happened after he ran, or that he didn’t have all of the information. Looking at the text, when Ahimaaz arrived, he told the king of the victory, but couldn’t answer David’s question about his son Absolom. Just think, Ahimaaz ran that hard without all of the information! He ran it knowing that he would inform a king and a father of a battle between them without a key piece of information. 

He stood there panting, waiting for the Cushite to arrive with the news that Absalom was dead. And as his breathing returned to normal and his heart rate slowed, he bore witness to the king saying, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (vs 33)

Being called or compelled to run as Ahimaaz was doesn’t guarantee that the Red Seas of life will part and everything is going to work out. Maybe you will run and bear witness to death . . . of a dream, an opportunity, an open door. But when you run, you can still experience FLOW. In Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram, FLOW is described as:

Free — able to let go of the false self reactions

Loving 

Open to your head, heart, and gut

With God and reality as it is

This is what I like about the idea of FLOW when it intersects with “Come what may, I will run”: that you don’t have to like reality. You can live in the messy middle of the unknowns and loss that this season may hold. Who wants to be “working remotely” in a basement in Houston instead of walking the streets of Mozambique? Absolutely no one! Or trying to do the work of three people because you are the only one in country? Again, no one!

But FLOW means that you can run without all of the information, without knowing the destination, without running where you want to be running . . . and still run. You can experience freedom, love, an open head, heart, and gut, and be with God and reality. It might not look like you want, it might not be where you want, but you can still put one foot in front of the other and say, “Come what may, I will run.”

P.S. Running requires resting. Here is a free workshop on the 7 Types of Rest Every Cross-Cultural Worker Needs. It’s free through the end of July 2023. Get the workshop here.

This article first appeared here.