There is a question that persistently invades my mind. Since I have been back home for four months, failing to achieve anything significant at age 32, I have wondered if leaving my job at Compassion and going to the Bible College was a mistake.
In my head, I know it is not a mistake. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. My worldview has been widened. My understanding of God has been deepened. I have witnessed firsthand how a church should function, and how I can be a part of such church. To top it all off, I met the man of my dreams and got married at one of the most enchanted and magical places in the world. It was never a mistake. I left New Zealand on such a high note, with the idea of being the best person I could be in order to change the world. The applause, the flashing of camera, the speech, the glamorous dress and the certificate were the signs of success that I was proud of.
Yet in my heart, I doubted, because four months later, I found myself weeping on a faded couch in my stripey tank top and grey shorts with Joel sitting quietly, trying to comprehend what was wrong with his wife. The thing is – the strain of the effort to make a living and the arduous waiting period for my visa have got a better hold of me. Since I came back, I have been hopping between jobs as a freelancer trying to earn bits of money here and there, but it was not enough to cover two people’s expenses. Joel and I had to sacrifice in our own ways – him leaving the secure job in Australia to be with me while I had to put myself out there and find a way to earn this elusive income.
At the end of April, we had to make another momentous decision. As we were running out of money we had saved, Joel needed to get back to Australia to start work in order to support me and prepare for my arrival later on. Being separated this time is much harder because we have no idea how long we are going to have to wait. Joel, being the positive-minded person, always said, “You could hear from them tomorrow!” to which I scoffed, “Or perhaps in three months or more.” Our hope has been like mist, it hovers heavily on our mind but then it lifts and disappears. Day in. Day out.
Now I feel lost. I feel like I have been stranded in this place without a clear direction. My husband and I are apart. I have no full-time job. And I am waiting as I have always been since August 1, 2015, when I submitted my partner visa application. I have begun to lose my self confidence and self respect as I am sitting around the house, doing a bit of work here and there while the rest of my family is chasing their dreams and climbing towards their goals. This waiting around makes it difficult to put my feet in the ground and say, “I am here to stay. Bring it on,” because deep down in my heart I know that I will leave again.
Someone recently asked me, “What do you see yourself doing in terms of a ministry in the future?” All I could really come up with was, “My grandest plan right now is to be settled in a home, in a community, where I can interact with people and take roots there.” Since the beginning of my Christian journey, I have always wanted to be a missionary. My idea of mission work has developed over years but one thing that remains the same is that it has to be lifelong. I want to get to know the people living next door to me. I want to invite them over for dinner and hear their stories. I want to introduce them to God. And I want to raise my children up to be the followers of Jesus.
So there is a dilemma for me – to pursue my worldly goals or God’s goal? Last Sunday, while reading the story of Jonah, Jonah 1:13 caught my attention. It was when Jonah told the men to cast him off the boat because he was the cause of the storm, but they refused. Instead, they were trying to row back to land with their own strength, yet they could not because the sea was getting wilder. Finally, they had to submit and throw Jonah into the sea as God wanted them to.
In a way, I have tried to steer my own little boat with my own strength. My eyes are trained on the worldly prize, and I measure my success based on what everyone else thinks. But it is not fair. Sure, going to the bible college meant putting my life on hold. I was advancing in my career but I decided to advance in the knowledge of God. And, boy, did I strive and learn! It is definitely not wrong to doubt about my decision but the experiences are incomparable. What I did at work with Compassion and what I had learned at the Bible College have shaped my belief and passion in ministry – justice and mercy administered in daily life.
So to answer the initial question – no, going to the bible college was and is NEVER a mistake. It was a rich experience that challenged and nurtured my faith through hard work and loving support. It is just this period of waiting in quietness that tests my faith and trust in Him. It is definitely easy to take the self-pity road because that is what I have been doing.But a friend of mine sent me a message, encouraging me to look for ways to hear God even in the storm. She reminded me of Elijah’s story – how he searched for God in the earthquake and in the storm. Yet, to his surprise, it was in the “still small voice” that he found Him.
So I press on in trying to see where God is leading me and what He wants me to do. I do not want to waste away my precious time here in Thailand with pitiful thoughts. I want to rise up and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
I may be on a desert road. I may have been forced to walk in loneliness and silence. Yet I am not alone. There is a place of rest and reward at the end. I must keep walking, and not giving up on hope.