“I feel like I’m drowning,” I say to him as I choke back the tears that inevitably come. All this rain, physical and emotional and spiritual, it’s wearing me down. Because the truth is, this is all a lot harder than I could have imagined. I just want to phone up my friends and cry with them and have them tell me I can do it and that it’s worth it. I want to fall into the arms of sister, mother, and have tender fingers comb through my hair.
The jungle rain, it falls often. It wets the ground, clean clothes on the line, me. It takes some getting used to. In my weakness I’m vulnerable. I am tempted to give in to my fears. Fears of loneliness, isolation, that I’m not good enough.
It is late as I sit with Kevin and cry. Exhausted, I re-read an e-mail from one of my dearest friends which I have not yet had time to respond to. In her letter, she shares with me an excerpt from an essay she’d read recently. The writer, Anne, struggled all her life with an unruly head of hair. Weather was a source of stress. She comes to the following epiphany, though, which I’ll share with you now:
“Can you imagine the hopelessness of trying to live a spiritual life when you’re secretly looking up at the skies not for illumination or direction but to gauge, miserably, the odds of rain? Can you imagine how discouraging it was for me to live in fear of weather, of drizzle, or downpour? Because Christianity is about water: “Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” It’s about baptism, for God’s sake. It’s about full immersion, about falling into something elemental and wet. Most of what we do in worldly life is geared toward our staying dry, looking good, not going under. But in baptism, in lakes and rain and tanks and fonts, you agree to do something that’s a little sloppy because at the same time it’s holy, and absurd. It’s about surrender, giving in to all those things we can’t control; it’s a willingness to let go of balance and decorum and get drenched.” ~Anne Lamott
And all of the sudden, I am illuminated. Not drowning, but baptism. The precious flow of living waters, running down the crown of my head, over my sun burned shoulders, and down to my dirt-stained feet. Because this missionary life is not about what I have given up, but rather the gift I have been given: to know Jesus more and to become more like Him. As Paul writes, the rest is rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ.
Baptism is about change. You go in as one person and come out another. I am being transformed, here and now. In all the wetness, He is making me new.
So on the mornings when I literally yell out loud, “JESUS! I NEED YOU TO SHOW UP TODAY!” though desperate, perhaps broach on holiness. For we did not come to this jungle to translate the Bible, though our work will be such; no, we came here to know Jesus deeper and to become more like Him. Ministry always flows out of the place of intimacy with God.
So when I ask Him to show up, He will, and sometimes it’ll get wet. And I must learn to embrace that. For He promises to be with me when I pass through the waters and His promise is that the floods won’t overwhelm me.
Lord Jesus, I run again to the waters. And when I come up again, I’ll be changed.