25 February 2011

Is the Glass Half Full?

Today is *roughly* the halfway point of my time here in Virginia. February 24th marks one month since I left Florida, and about a month until I return.  It’s hard to believe we only have a few weeks of training left, but at the same time, it has been a loooong month.  Many here have compared it to drinking out of a fire hose, which is a good analogy, if a bit prosaic.  I prefer to think of it as trying to sip out of Niagra falls with a crazy straw: you’re a lot closer to drowning than you are to getting a refreshing drink.

crazy straws = crazy awesome
We have sessions on all sorts of interesting topics taught by experts in their fields, but each one could probably be a semester-long class. We, however, get the information in somewhere between 2 hours and 2 days, depending on the topic.  I really wish I could retain more of what I’m learning because so much of it is valuable. But instead, I usually end up just feeling overwhelmed and mentally fatigued. 

The days seem to pass in one long continuous blur. Right now we begin at 8am with a morning study and worship time with the people in our small groups.  9am our sessions begin and run until noon. We eat lunch in the cafeteria and are back in sessions at 1pm. Depending on the day and topic and what else is on the schedule we finish between 3 and 5pm.  We have quite a bit of “free” time in the evenings, but you can imagine that is often a misnomer. There are a million details of travel arrangements, paperwork, reading assignments, and the like to occupy any time that isn’t pre-scheduled.

Now before you think that we’re enduring some horrible form of mental waterboarding, let me assure you that we do have fun, too.  Some people started a volleyball league, when it’s nice out we can get a game of Ultimate Frisbee going, and there are always people around if you are bored and want to get a game or conversation going.  Getting to know the others and hear their stories and learn about their areas of service is one of my favorite things. I especially love the people in my small group who will all be serving in South America.  I’m not a morning person but getting to start my day out spending time with them makes me not dread getting up so early. (They also have some pretty awesome kids who provide us with a lot of entertainment.)

I make occasional field trips into the local town for necessary errands, but also to grab a Starbucks or something other than cafeteria food for a treat.  They feed us well here, but the buffet style lends itself to overeating and the cooking staff is very um… creative? yes, creative is a good word… at reusing whatever doesn’t get finished off. Plus, they serve dinner at 5pm and my body is not accustomed to the early bird special, so sometimes you just need to escape!

The half way point means that most of the novelty and initial excitement has worn off for many people.  Reality is beginning to hit home, and doubts and questions that were easily brushed off before are now creeping back in, especially with our recent focus on security and persecution.  There are certainly days when I’ve sat there wondering why the organization picked me.  When you stand in the shadow of giants of the faith, hearing of their sacrifices and the great things God accomplished through them, it is easy to feel out of place. Surely I don’t belong here. I’ve done so many things that didn’t honor God. I still have so far to go and so much to learn. There must be someone else who is bolder, holier, more compassionate?

Yet, here I am.

And I know it isn’t a mistake. When I am tempted to question this decision, I remember the faithfulness of the One who brought me here. I look back and see His fingerprints on the circumstances and opportunities that led to this place.  He has led me faithfully and He asks that I follow Him in the same way.

We are tired, stressed, and overwhelmed at the magnitude of the undertaking before us, so it would be easy to get discouraged at this stage.  But when I read Psalm 46:10 the other day I read it from a new perspective. “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” I had always focused on the first part. We hear it quoted all the time and it’s wonderful. The second portion is often overlooked, but I love what it says! “I WILL be exalted among the nations. I WILL be exalted in the earth.” There is no question there. It’s a fact. God said it, so you can consider that signed, sealed, and delivered. He’s not waiting on us to get there. He allows us the privilege of being part of His work, but His glory isn’t dependent on my working and striving. One way or another God will be glorified and exalted among the nations. Isn’t that an awesome promise? We can be still and rest in that assurance, in that peace that comes from confidence in God. 
We may be halfway, but the glass is clearly more than half full. 

My metaphorical glass is filled with real sugar Dr. Pepper.

*And in case you’ve had a long week too and need a pick-me-up, check out this awesome story about a high school football game in Texas. You can't watch it and not smile!

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