Monday, August 13, 2012

A Fine Line

Friday morning I realized that we had no water in our kitchen. I assumed that there was a notice at the bottom of my building warning me of this inconvenience, but they tend to post them above my hobbit eye level, so I didn't see it. And also, they're in Chinese so I can only read a fraction of them. Regardless, it was frustrating for the next 24 hours until they turned it back on.

Recently a friend of mine took an online stress test, and part of it required her to answer questions about this kind of thing. It gave a list of potential stressors from living cross-culturally, and asked her, "On a scale of 'not at all' to 'crazy', how much does this affect you?" (ok, maybe I took some liberty with the scale, but you get the idea). It was things that seem simple like, "I can't get X product here" or "I have to deal with government red tape" or "my water or electricity is unreliable." My friend realized that while few of them affected her greatly, the fact that most of the affected her in small ways added up to a lot.

So what do we do with these things? I've been wondering about this lately. And not just the inconveniences, but the other things we've given up living here. I don't often dwell on them, but we have missed a lot being here - birthdays, holidays, experiences.

We're told to look on the bright side, count our blessings, not complain, say "oh but it could be so much worse," compare our lot with others less fortunate and then close the box on the hard things.

I feel like I'm realizing that there's a fine line in dealing with these things. True, it's important to be thankful and full of faith, to realize that in spite of loss there has been great gain, that the difficulties have proven fodder for growth. All true.

But what about acknowledging what these things are doing to our hearts? Where is the place for saying, "This is really hard. It wears on me. I miss this. I long for that." Where is the place for our hearts to express the pain, the drain? Not so that we wallow and have little pity parties, but that we are honest and honor what we feel. To give ourselves the space to feel the reality and let God meet us there.

I think about Jesus in the garden. His was an honest, raw heart that said, "I'd really rather not." Was he complaining? No. He was just being real. He gave Himself the space to acknowledge his true feelings. And then he went and did what was needed.

So I guess my challenge is to be like Jesus - to go before God with my whole heart, not one that is ignorant or blind to the difficulties of life. I can lay all my heart before Him and know that in Him I can find comfort, peace, and strength.

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