I’m mulling over some conversations I had with friends last night at our team meeting. These team meetings are weekly gatherings with a group of people we have agreed to share our life with, our ups and downs, our victories and testimonies, and our struggles. And as we discussed afterwards the feelings of being overwhelmed, I all too easily identified. Sometimes it’s hard for me when friends here assume that after eight years, it’s a cakewalk for me and my emotions. But it’s not, it’s never been, and I don’t expect it ever will be. See, not only is that the pattern of life, it’s especially the pattern of life in overseas ministry. One minute you feel elated that you had an intelligent conversation with someone in another language where you were really able to get your ideas across. And the next minute you’re humiliated because you not only sounded like a three year old, you also offended the person because of the way your phrased things in your limited vocabulary. One month you feel so encouraged by the growth and maturity you see in some of the people you’ve sacrificed so much time and energy for, and the next month some of them are leaving the church or refusing to talk to others in the church or work out their issues. I just went to America for a couple months and was really just responsible for my own family and no one else. The burden seemed manageable. Of course I was still battling to get the children to do any schoolwork on their summer break or breaking up fights that involved multiple children, head wounds, and lots of screaming in our confined quarters. But compared to the weightiness of juggling people’s spiritual development, reaching out to the bazillion people I pass in my everyday life who don’t know Jesus, and trying to make any step, no matter how minimal, forward in my language development, it felt like a breeze. What’s for dinner? How about this lovely pre-cooked, pre-seasoned roasted chicken with this bag of prewashed, prepared vegetables that only has to be warmed up? I’ll take it. Want an iced-coffee for 99 cents? How about driving your car through Dunkin Donuts’ drive through and ordering it, all while your children stay buckled in their car seats and the air conditioner continues to blow? Hand it right out that window to me!
But here I am, back in Turkey. Back in the world where I spend at least an hour of my day chopping vegetables. Here where you take your life in your hands each time you go out on the road, only being able to arrive at your destination while still being a Christian if you spent 15 minutes before you left praying for patience and humility. Here where no one actually tells you what they mean, unless it involves the extra weight you’ve gained while away or the lack of skills you have in housekeeping. Here where a man on the metro grabs your friend’s butt so as to get her off her guard long enough for him to take the desired spot under the vent. So how do I settle back into this world? How do I muster up my forces of motivation? How do I put on a happy face when everyone asks if I’m glad to be back? How do I encourage my teammates who are newer here and have all this to look forward to?
I have been reminded by the Lord of the phrase, “count the cost”. When the rich young man came to Jesus, he was unable to do what Jesus asked. He counted the cost and realized that he didn’t actually want eternal life badly enough. He wanted to enjoy his current way of life too much to follow Jesus. And on later discussion with the disciples, the ones who had left everything to follow him, he told them that they would receive it back a hundred times over. Do I believe this? Do I expect this? Am I so busy looking at what I left behind to see what that hundredfold is referring to right now? Some of it may be tangible, some may be intangible, and some may be eternal. But His promises are true. In fact, I spent all of my Sunday school lesson with the kids reviewing all the promises God made to his children throughout the Old Testament and how they were all fulfilled. We discussed how this is one of the main reasons we know He is faithful. He has always kept his promises, no matter how long it took.
So am I willing to keep counting the cost, even when it looks different than my friend’s cost? I may wish I could just go back to learning Turkish, and she may wish she had been here long enough to know as much as I do. But we each have a cost to pay for obedience. It’s an obedience to the call God has given each one of us individually. What cost am I struggling to pay right now? Will I believe that His rewards are coming? We don’t obey just for a reward, but in His goodness, He has promised them anyway. Just like parents know the struggle our kids have to be disciplined and do things they don’t feel like doing. It’s in our power to force them into obedience, but instead we offer them rewards and encouragement and ice cream to help get them going. He loves us so much, that even though He’s given us a task that’s beneficial to us and will be valuable in and of itself to accomplish because of the changes it will bring in us, he offers abundant rewards for our obedience. … Hand me the cutting board. I’ll disguise my tears behind the onions and surrender. Today. Tomorrow. Whatever the cost.