I was sipping my coffee this morning when a realization struck me: all of the unknowns from this past year became known this week. Once we got to China everything felt a bit out of control. So, I quickly set to work, without even a pause, at taking control. It's what I'm best at doing. Control. I made lists (and sub-lists). I scrubbed floors. I stocked pantries. I took everything uncomfortable and molded, forced, and dissected it until the unfamiliar became the familiar and comfortable new norm. On one hand, this is good: I was settling in to begin life here in China. I was creating a restful space for Nick and I in the midst of an entire city of chaotic newness. Yet, where was God? I was busy taking control; I controlled him right out of the room. All the things that grew and stretched me this past year--all the unknowns, the sacrifices, the stresses, and the struggles that brought us to our knees in prayer--I was eliminating them one by one. I took the unknowns and made lists out of them. I began recreating and replacing the material sacrifices we had made. The stresses were being swept into check, and the struggles dealt with in an orderly fashion. After all the growing and trusting I had been forced to do this past year, I went right back to old Rachel: take control, power through, finish, accomplish, and perfect. The battle cry of my humanity. The very cry that deafens my ears to the sweet voice of the spirit. The cry that thunders through people and leaves them wondering what just happened.
I felt I had changed so much, but I'm still the same. I thought I was going to be different when I got to China. I thought I was going to see the fruit of all this growth and change. I held this assumption, one I didn't even realize I had until now, that I would see the result of all of my hard work and struggle when I got to China. No matter what culture I wrap myself in my heart and will are still
the same. I'm still the same sinful and somewhat controlling human I
have always struggled against. The only thing that has changed is my increased awareness of my own sin and struggle. I'm quicker to realize my weakness. Perhaps that is the change. This realization that I jumped out of the refining fire too quickly, thinking that I was done, but I'm still too rare to be of any good. This is the root of a growing humility. I have to hit the hard ground and recognize that, yet again, I need to turn around and get back into the fires of change. The very idea, no matter how hot the fire burns, I still come out unrefined, rough gold. Am I so dirty that it takes a lifetime of fires to see any beauty? Yes. And I'm learning to thank God for it. I don't want to be beautiful if all people will see is me. But, when I'm in the fire people are looking at what the creator is creating. This draws attention to the kindness, love, and forgiveness of the maker. The creator is far better than I. So this is what I'm learning, nothing showy or flashy, just the simple and painful recognition that I have a lot of growing and changing ahead of me on this earth. I would rather be constantly forged and grown and give glory to the one who made me than to be beautiful, finished, and empty.