Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Year of Rest

"And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation."
Genesis 2:2-3

"My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

A little while ago I wrote a post called A year of hell. You can read it here. But I cannot leave it there. This past year has, at the same time, been a year filled with rest. 

Years ago, a few weeks before I left my last job for Kenya, a friend pulled me aside and said some words that have never left me. He said, "Ray, you look like peace". It is one of the nicest compliments that anyone has ever given me. And I felt it too. Every part of me felt peaceful. 7 months before I had made the decision to quit my job of almost 10 years to pursue a life in Kitale, Kenya. While leaving friends and family was difficult the decision itself was one of the easiest I've ever made because of how much peace I had.

Shortly after that comment, I was in Kenya. It started as a 3 month trip that turned into 4 by the time I bought a flight. By month one or two, it turned into a 6 month trip. All the while, I felt that same peace. I don't mean to say that there were no difficult times. There were. I experienced many things that greatly challenged me.  There was extreme poverty. There were death threats. There were times I saw some of the worst in humanity - watching a mother punch her baby in the face several times. Seeing parents put their kids to work on the streets. Yet, through it all there was peace. 

I came home from that 6 months and began raising full time support to go back for a few years. I allowed myself 5 or 6 days a week to have a part time job and hold meetings or plan fundraisers. And I was very protective of that seventh day - my sabbath. I didn't hold meetings. I didn't fundraise. I rested. I read books. I walked. I sat for hours sipping coffee and just being. Through it all, I knew who I was and I took joy in that. 

Eventually, towards the end of my time in Kenya something changed. I stopped taking a sabbath every week. I stopped having my personal quiet time. I took on the identity of "missionary" and yet I wasn't finding joy in the work. I felt only the pressure. I was so busy working for God that I forgot how to live for him. In simple words, I was burned out. That' when the most amazing gift was given to me: I was kicked out of the country. It took me a while to see that as the gift that it was. I came back home and started the journey through one of the hardest years in a long time. In January of last year, I made that painful decision to stop pursuing reentry to Kenya. I sat down with some of the pastors at church and told them I wanted a year of being home. No, I needed a year of being home. I don't know where the wisdom in that came from because it sure wasn't mine! I said that I needed a year to find myself again. A year to not have any big decisions to make. A year of blending into the crowd again. I wanted a year out of the spotlight. To not sit down at a coffee shop and be recognized by anyone as "the Kenya guy". I wanted a year to myself. Not up front anymore. Not leading anything. 

It felt so selfish at first. I mean, I had some good mentors over the years and such an incredible experience and I'm taking a year to basically be alone. Now that that year is down to just a month and a half left, let me tell you something. It was the best decision i made in a long time! And it was far from selfish. I tried to be involved in a ministry this past spring and quickly realized I wasn't ready. I had nothing to offer. I was so broken that I couldn't possibly help others. 

This past year of rest has been hard. Very hard. I've doubted. I've been angry. I've been hurt. And I have allowed all of those feelings, and many others. I haven't ignored them. And in them, I have found that rest again. I am beginning to have that itch to be involved again. I don't plan on moving away, but I plan on being actively involved again. I gave myself until January before fully committing to anything. And I know that when I do, I'll be ready and able to commit myself. This year of rest has been so beautiful. 

Last weekend I was exchanging a phone case at Best Buy when this older man got in line behind me. Right away he started to complain that "the line was too long". I found myself not even caring. I was in no rush. And to be honest, I hadn't even noticed that the line was long. I ended up walking aimlessly around the store for about an hour after. Then, I ended up in another store doing the same thing. That's when it hit me: I've found that peace again. I am far from living it out perfectly. But I can taste it again. And it's oh so sweet a taste. 

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