dancing into the new year

Working from your heart is a beautiful thing.  It can also be gut-wrenching or tedious or sometimes even a bit stinky.  As in most worthwhile things, getting paid to try to change the world is a complex dynamic. Lately I have been wondering if it is worth all the fuss.

Because it’s awfully hard.  At a normal job, you show up, do your thing and close the door at 5.  In ministry, you bind your hearts to the people you work along side.  You pray together.  You dream together.  You trust together.  You purposely place yourself at risk in a world of poverty–and trust me, poverty truly takes many forms.  You cajole friends and family to get involved in this wonderful work and you try to meet everyone’s expectations on a shoestring budget. It’s so much more than a job and it can easily become a burden.

And that is where I have been over the past few months.  After much prayer, meeting, planning and my share of tears, I knew that my time at AOET was complete.  There are lots of reasons why, but they don’t matter as much as my knowing it was time.  Yet, even with a deep confidence in the decision, it has been dreadful to say goodbye because the truth is, working from your heart is both beautiful–and dreadful at moments.  You place your thumping and vulnerable heart out there and it will get banged up.  You unintentionally can hurt the people you love.  You may see dreams fade away.  Worst of all, you may have to let go of your heartfelt hopes and just trust in a God that works through all things.

Sometimes this can happen because of a new amazing opportunity. Sometimes it happens because you lost sight of God and his calling on your life.  Sometimes it happens because we live in a broken world and things go wrong.  Sometimes your work is just done and it’s time to move on.  No matter the reason, leaving heart work is hard.

And as I have been saying goodbye to AOET this season, my heart has been heavy and I’ve wondered, “Should I do this any more?”  A “regular” day job has looked so appealing.  Good pay and benefits!  Structure and safety! And failing at my job won’t impact whether someone else can eat that night or go to school next term. It’s tempting.

Then I watch this video of Daniel, one of my favorite kids in the world.

Daniel is a kid that has been mistreated his whole life and yet he moves forward.  Over the year we became friends and he knows that I am always in his corner.  That doesn’t mean much practically. I’m not rich and I can’t solve any of his financial problems. I can’t adopt him and become the mother he desperately needs.  But I do pray for him. I do believe in him.  I regularly try to encourage him and I deeply love him.  Somehow I think this odd momentary sign of confidence and fancy footwork was a gift from him to me, a moment of sharing in his joy.  Being in Uganda, with all of it’s ups and downs, allowed me to share in what God is doing inside him.

Moments like that wipe away all my doubts and I realize that I will never break free from God’s work in the world, whether I get paid or not.  It’s easy to forget that the gospel is about reconciled hearts.  Jesus came to draw our wayward spirits back to God and then he sent us out to help him in his work of healing.  Jesus’ heart got beat up an awful lot but he always saw the end game–a world whole and true, like God always meant it to be.  A world where Daniel dances every day to glorify his God.

The thing about doing whatever mission God has for you, in whatever season you’re in, is that he lets you join the party. He allows us, in our own poverty, to be reminders of who he is to one another–a perfect father.  He lets you watch him take shards of broken pots and create something new, something perfect and something lasting. Over the last 3 1/2 years, I have given my heart, creativity, and even some sanity to the orphans and vulnerable children of Uganda and Kenya.  The journey has been eventful and I pray some day God allows me to return to Uganda to see what he will do next, but until then, I will just watch this video again and wonder at the beauty of the dance.

Isaiah 63: 1-3

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

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